CBS’s Rodriguez to Ann Coulter: Shouldn’t Republicans Move to the Middle?

Maggie Rodriguez and Ann Coulter, CBS While discussing Rush Limbaugh’s opposition to the Obama administration’s massive spending bill on Thursday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez asked author Ann Coulter: "But don't you think that right now is not -- it behooves the Republicans to be a little bit more in the middle? I mean, what are -- they're not -- their voices aren't going to be heard anyway, as we saw with this economic stimulus plan...So doesn't it behoove them to be more bipartisan and meet in the middle?" Coulter did not feel "behooved": "I think it's just the reverse. I mean, we just ran John McCain, we are so sick of being in the middle."

The segment actually began with co-host Harry Smith trying to offer a fair assessment of Limbaugh’s comments about wanting President Obama to "fail": "I think if you listen to what Rush Limbaugh has said, 'I want him to fail,' he wants big government to fail...He wants certain things that are especially involved in this stimulus package to fail. I don't think he's sitting there saying 'as an American citizen, I want the presidency and the country to fail.’" Coulter agreed: "That's exactly right. In fact, I put it sort of the reverse way. I said, yes, of course, I want him to succeed, but that means he'll govern as a conservative...I sort of admire Rush's verve for switching it around that way." However, co-host Julie Chen wondered: "Oh, you admire that he put it that way? Don't you think it's a little bit irresponsible for him to put it that way?"

Later, Smith’s sense of fairness disappeared: "How interesting is it, though, that there's a guy on the radio who has an audience of some millions of people, you have one Republican congressman who said 'well, it's easy for Sean Hannity, it's easy for Rush Limbaugh, to throw stones. It's harder if you're in the Congress.' He goes back on his hands and knees and apologizes a day later, 'Rush, please forgive me! I knew not what I was doing!' This is crazy. I mean, that's the voice, that's the fringes. Right?"

Rodriguez went on to challenge Coulter’s opposition to the Democrats’ so-called "stimulus" plan: "Let me ask you something, if this economic stimulus plan works like Nancy Pelosi and President Obama think it will, will you eat humble pie? Will you say ‘I was wrong and they were right?’"Coulter replied: "No, I would, but it's – it never works, it's not going to work this time." Rodriguez concluded: "But you said you would if it does?"

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:00AM TEASE:

HARRY SMITH: Lots to talk about this morning, including the war of words that seems to be erupting between the White House and Rush Limbaugh. We will look into that in just a little bit.

7:13AM TEASE:

SMITH: Also ahead, President Obama versus Rush Limbaugh. We'll see what conservative author Ann Coulter thinks about the brewing battle.

7:30AM TEASE:

HARRY SMITH: So if you're the President of the United States, should you say, 'don't listen to Rush Limbaugh, go ahead and help me pass my-'

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: That sounds more like Rush Limbaugh than the president, that impersonation.

SMITH: 'Don't listen to him because I'm trying to pass my economic stimulus plan.' And if you're Rush Limbaugh and this mood in the country where things are so difficult, should you go ahead and say 'I'm not sure I want the president to succeed, I want to see him-'

JULIE CHEN: No, he said he wants to see him fail.

SMITH: Well, it's more nuanced than that. And speaking of nuance, who better than -- to help us delve into the world of nuance -- than Ann Coulter. And she is here and we're going to have that conversation here in just a couple of seconds.

7:31AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: While President Obama and Republicans in Congress are trying to be gracious toward each other, an ideological battle has broken out between the president and conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh. Democrats have launched an online petition in response to Rush Limbaugh's comments that he hopes Obama will fail in his presidency.

RUSH LIMBAUGH: We want to promote failure. We want to promote incompetence. We want to stand by and not object to what he's doing simply because the color of his skin? Sorry. I got past the historical nature of this months ago.

SMITH: President Obama told congressional leaders at the White House on Friday that, quote, 'you can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done.' After a glib comment by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, Limbaugh suggested that Mr. Obama is more frightened of him than he is of Republican leaders. Saying, quote, 'which doesn't say much about our party.'

LIMBAUGH: What is unfair about my saying I hope liberalism fails? Liberalism is our problem. Liberalism is what's gotten us dangerously close to the precipice here. Why do I want more of it?

SMITH: And we are joined by conservative columnist Ann Coulter, author of 'Guilty: Liberal Victims and Their Assault on America.' So this conversation is going on, it's very interesting, because if you take things out of context, I think if you listen to what Rush Limbaugh has said, 'I want him to fail,' he wants big government to fail.

ANN COULTER: Right.

SMITH: He wants certain things that are especially involved in this stimulus package to fail. I don't think he's sitting there saying 'as an American citizen, I want the presidency and the country to fail.'

COULTER: Right.

SMITH: He wants these things to fail. Do I have that right?

COULTER: That's exactly right. In fact, I put it sort of the reverse way. I said, yes, of course, I want him to succeed, but that means he'll govern as a conservative.'

JULIE CHEN: So what do you think of him-

COULTER: I sort of admire Rush's verve for switching it around that way.

CHEN: Oh, you admire that he put it that way? Don't you think it's a little bit irresponsible for him to put it that way? I mean, the way you put it, seems much-

COULTER: It's basically the same thing. His makes me laugh more.

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: So you like that one? But don't you think that right now is not -- it behooves the Republicans to be a little bit more in the middle? I mean, what are -- they're not -- their voices aren't going to be heard anyway, as we saw with this economic stimulus plan. Even if they want something, if the Democrats want something else, that's what's going to happen. So doesn't it behoove them to be more bipartisan and meet in the middle?

COULTER: I think it's just the reverse. I mean, we just ran John McCain, we are so sick of being in the middle. And the other thing is, when you govern, you do have to -- Republicans had to accede to demands of their president, George Bush, like the huge prescription drug program, they weren't very happy with the amnesty bill. So, you know, we've already -- or they, as politicians, have had to compromise and engage in horse trading. Now we can be principled.

RODRIGUEZ: But how are they going to have a voice in this administration?

COULTER: Well, I think they will have a voice. I mean, they already got, it's a tiny little piece of the bill, but they did get the birth control or the family planning -- I bet you the STD programs are going to be cut soon, too. And the main thing is that we go back to being the party of ideas, and we stand for something, and people, you know, we can make the principled arguments. Now I say 'we,' I'm not a politician, but I feel sorry for Republican politicians having to be compromising for the past eight years.

SMITH: How interesting is it, though, that there's a guy on the radio who has an audience of some millions of people, you have one Republican congressman who said 'well, it's easy for Sean Hannity, it's easy for Rush Limbaugh, to throw stones. It's harder if you're in the Congress.' He goes back on his hands and knees and apologizes a day later, 'Rush, please forgive me! I knew not what I was doing!' This is crazy. I mean, that's the voice, that's the fringes. Right?

RODRIGUEZ: That's the power.

COULTER: Well, I think -- I mean, we do have different roles, conservative spokes people and politicians. Like I say, politicians, you know, they do have to be diplomatic. I wouldn't want to be a politician. Rush Limbaugh wouldn't want to be a politician.

CHEN: Well, that's my question to you. If you feel so passionately about your beliefs and you make good money through books, why don't you run for office and try and spark change that way?

COULTER: It's a very different job, and I wouldn't like it and don't think I'd be good at it. I mean, just to take two examples from President Bush, immediately after the attack of 9/11, Bush is all over saying, 'Islam is a religion of peace.' He's inviting all these Muslims over for Ramadan. It's all -- he's attending, you know, Mosques. I didn't have to do that. When they have the unveiling of the Clinton presidential portrait, Bush has to say nice things about Bill Clinton. I didn't have to do that.

RODRIGUEZ: You couldn't do that.

COULTER: I couldn't do that. But I understand why a president has to and you -- that is what a politician does. So we do have different roles. And actually, I think it was kind of dopey for the Congressman not to realize that and to bother making that point. But the strangest thing is having the president attack Rush Limbaugh.

SMITH: Here's-

RODRIGUEZ: Let me ask you something, if this economic stimulus plan works like Nancy Pelosi and President Obama think it will, will you eat humble pie? Will you say 'I was wrong and they were right?'

COULTER: Well, there's no way-

SMITH: Probably not.

COULTER: -it can work. No, I would, but it's-

SMITH: Here's my question, though, is it-

COULTER: -it never works, it's not going to work this time.

SMITH: Might this-

RODRIGUEZ: But you said you would if it does?

COULTER: Sure, well, we're going to be out of the recession by the end of the year if the government does nothing. I think this is going to delay -- it's a little hard to prove that, but big government, it doesn't work in Cuba. It hasn't worked anyplace. It's not going to work.

SMITH: Here's my contention. I think that maybe Republicans by -- they're being put in -- they, by their own ax and by what's happened in the election, their -- this is their time in the wilderness, and perhaps this is where they actually find out who they are as opposed to what they've been over the last ten years or so.

COULTER: Yeah, I mean, I think we have a pretty good idea of what that is, but like I say, now you don't have to make compromises. Now you don't have to build majorities. You can go back to first principles. I mean, as Reagan showed, that is popular with Americans.

CHEN: If the final seconds, what is your role, then? You say we all have roles. What's your role?

COULTER: Gin up the troops, prepare the troops for battle.

RODRIGUEZ: And gear up for President Palin, right, in your ideal world?

COULTER: Perhaps.

RODRIGUEZ: Alright.

SMITH: Ann Coulter, thanks for stopping by.

COULTER: Thank you.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC