CBS’s Rodriguez: ‘What Good’ Is GOP Criticism of Obama?

Maggie Rodriguez and Richard Shelby, CBS On Wednesday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez discussed President Obama’s Tuesday night press conference with Republican Senator Richard Shelby and asked: "The President will head to Capitol Hill today to sell his budget and last night he wondered why Republicans who have been critical of it haven't come up with an alternative budget. What's the answer?"

After Shelby explained that Republicans have serious concerns about the President’s budget, Rodriguez quickly ran to Obama’s defense: "Senator, the President said that even if he takes out all this spending from the budget, he'll still have a deficit, as evidenced by the $1.3 trillion deficit that he inherited from the Republicans." Shelby responded by declaring: "...we had a deficit, but nothing like this...This is scary. I believe we've reached the tipping point now, the tipping point, and if we tip over, it's a point of no return. We're looking at inflation and financial and economic destruction. We cannot go down this road."

Perhaps not fully listening to what Shelby was saying, Rodriguez exclaimed: "But it looks like we are, and what good does it do the American people to -- to point that out? Why not work with the President to try to reach a compromise?" Shelby replied: "Well, I don't think we should compromise destruction of our economic system. And this is where we're going here."

In her final question to Shelby, Rodriguez tried to get him to reverse his past criticism of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner: "Senator, last time we spoke, you were very critical of Timothy Geithner's handling, specifically, of the AIG fiasco. Now that he's come up with this toxic asset plan and the stock market seems to have rallied, do you think he's doing a better job?"

Following Rodriguez’s interview with Senator Shelby, a report by correspondent John Blackstone highlighted a CBS focus group that rated Obama’s performance: "By turning a dial, viewers give continuous feedback. The white line goes up when they like something and down when they don't...There was more approval when he was asked about helping homeless children...Another spike up when he said what counts is his performance, not his race." After the report, co-host Harry Smith remarked: "Really interesting stuff."

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:00AM TEASE:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Battle over the budget, President Obama goes prime time to convince Americans his budget won't leave runaway debt for generations to come.

BARACK OBAMA: I suspect that some of those Republican critics have a short memory. Because, as I recall, I'm inheriting a $1.3 trillion deficit -- annual deficit from them.

7:01AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: First though, let's get to the news of the day, and that is that second press conference held by President Obama last night. He's also going to make another trip to Capitol Hill this morning to push his budget. CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante joins us now with more on that. Good morning, Bill.

BILL PLANTE: Good morning, Harry. And that budget was exactly what the President was pushing last night. Taking his case directly to the people. Asking for patience, and trying to reassure the nation that he's got the financial crisis under control.

BARACK OBAMA: Please have a seat. Good evening. Before I take questions from the correspondents, I want to give everyone who's watching tonight an update on the steps we're taking to move this economy from recession...tax cut to 95% of all working families and every American should know that up to 40% of all mortgages are now eligible for refinancing this is the equivalent of another tax cut. We'll recover from this recession, but it will take time, it will take patience, and it will take an understanding that when we all work together, when each of us looks beyond our own short-term interests to the wider set of obligations, we-

SMITH: Alright, Bill. And so the President is heading to Capitol Hill today?

PLANTE: Well, that's right, Harry. He's going to talk to the Democrats. He's got a problem on his hands. The Democrats, looking to cut the budget because of the deficits being so high, are trying to take his health care reform program out. So he's going up there to talk to them, to try and get them to leave it in. It's all about money, of course. And on Friday, he's getting some of the nation's biggest bankers down here to the White House to talk to them about continuing to work with the administration in the programs that they've developed to take some of that toxic assets and loans away from the banks.

SMITH: Alright, Bill, thanks so much. We're going to take a look at what the President actually had to say last night. Take a look and listen.

OBAMA: Towards the future with a renewed sense of common purpose, a renewed determination, and most importantly, a renewed confidence that a better day will come.

PLANTE: The President again insisted that his budget address health care reform, clean energy, and education, and laughed off the fact that Senate Democrats are not exactly following his lead.

OBAMA: Now we never expected when we printed out our budget that they would simply xerox it and vote on it.

PLANTE: As for Republican charges that the budget, with its huge projected deficits, is too big.

OBAMA: I suspect that some of those Republican critics have a short memory. Because as I recall, I'm inheriting a $1.3 trillion deficit -- annual deficit, from them.

PLANTE: Mr. Obama said he was as angry as anybody over the payment of bonuses to AIG executives. But he defended the fact that he said nothing until several days after he learned of the bonuses.

OBAMA: It took us a couple of days because I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak.

PLANTE: As his press secretary called last question, the President segued from foreign policy back to his main point. That the economic challenges maybe difficult, but that he would be persistent.

OBAMA: We are going to stay with it. Four years from now, I think, hopefully people will judge that body of work and say 'this is a big ocean liner, it's not a speed boat. It doesn't turn around immediately, but we're in a better -- better place because of the decisions that we make.'

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: That recap from Bill Plante. Joining us now from Washington, Republican Senator Richard Shelby, the ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee. Good morning, Senator.

RICHARD SHELBY: Good morning, Maggie.

RODRIGUEZ: The President will head to Capitol Hill today to sell his budget and last night he wondered why Republicans who have been critical of it haven't come up with an alternative budget. What's the answer?

SHELBY: Well, the answer is the President, it's incumbent upon him to make the proposal. All presidents have. We will be examining this budget very thoroughly. What we see is -- is scary. It projects huge deficits, and then ultimately debt. I see the -- in the budget, the road to financial destruction. China has already questioned our ability to pay back our money. Our European allies are saying 'don't print more money.' We better listen.

RODRIGUEZ: Senator, the President said that even if he takes out all this spending from the budget, he'll still have a deficit, as evidenced by the $1.3 trillion deficit that he inherited from the Republicans.

SHELBY: Well, that's true. You know, he will -- we had a deficit, but nothing like this. The projection of his years in office that -- by his own budget people, this will be larger deficits tied together, accumulated deficits, larger than all the presidents put together since George Washington. This is scary. I believe we've reached the tipping point now, the tipping point, and if we tip over, it's a point of no return. We're looking at inflation and financial and economic destruction. We cannot go down this road.

RODRIGUEZ: But it looks like we are, and what good does it do the American people to -- to point that out? Why not work with the President to try to reach a compromise?

SHELBY: Well, I don't think we should compromise destruction of our economic system. And this is where we're going here. We should work with the president when we think the president's right. But I believe he's totally going down the wrong road now.

RODRIGUEZ: Senator, last time we spoke, you were very critical of Timothy Geithner's handling, specifically, of the AIG fiasco. Now that he's come up with this toxic asset plan and the stock market seems to have rallied, do you think he's doing a better job?

SHELBY: Well, we'll have to wait and see, this looks like a plan similar to what Secretary Paulson originally proposed, and the so-called details -- the devil's always in the details, the pricing. We've got to see how this is priced and how it works, because if you price these assets too high, people will make a windfall, probably, off the taxpayer. If it's too low, the banks won't sell them.

RODRIGUEZ: Senator Richard Shelby, as always, thank you.

SHELBY: Thank you, Maggie.

RODRIGUEZ: Now here's Harry.

SMITH: Alright, thanks Maggie. We've heard from President Obama, gotten the Republican response. Now we want to hear what American people thought of last night's conference. CBS News correspondent John Blackstone has that story.

JOHN BLACKSTONE: The Las Vegas screening room is usually used to test audience reaction to new sitcoms. We used it to rate the President's news conference.

OBAMA: Good evening.

BLACKSTONE: By turning a dial, viewers give continuous feedback. The white line goes up when they like something and down when they don't. They liked it when Obama said this:

OBAMA: Folks are sacrificing left and right.

BLACKSTONE: But there was a decided dip when he mentioned his Treasury Secretary.

OBAMA: Yesterday Secretary Geithner announced a new plan.

BLACKSTONE: Most in the focus group listened intently. But not all.

[A WOMAN YAWNING]

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Same thing I've heard all the time. I mean, a bunch of promises.

BLACKSTONE: Republicans were generally negative, Democrats positive. But when the President was asked why he didn't immediately express outrage about the AIG bonuses:

OBAMA: It took us a couple of days, because I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak.

BLACKSTONE: That answer brought a big spike upward.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I loved that.

BLACKSTONE: There was more approval when he was asked about helping homeless children.

OBAMA: The most important thing that I can do on their behalf is to make sure their parents have a job.

BLACKSTONE: Another spike up when he said what counts is his performance, not his race.

OBAMA: The American people are judging me exactly the way I should be judged.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN B: He believes in sticking with it. That's what I think that came across more, that 'I'm not going to quit.'

BLACKSTONE: Focus groups are usually used to test shows for the regular schedule. But maybe that's what the President's going for, this is his second news conference in prime time. John Blackstone, CBS News, Los Angeles.

SMITH: Really interesting stuff.

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