CNN's Carol Costello borrowed from the Democrats on Monday's American Morning and demanded that conservative Grover Norquist explain why he wasn't "exactly what a lot of voters hate" about America's political system.
From the start of her interview with Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, Costello bludgeoned him with Democratic talking points. Democrats had attacked Norquist and his "taxpayer protection pledge," in which political signers promise not to vote to raise taxes, for holding up the negotiations on the super committee and causing its failure.
"You're not an elected official, yet you're sort of controlling the agenda of the super committee. Aren't you exactly what a lot of voters hate about our system?" Costello scolded Norquist
The liberal CNN anchor seemed to buy into the Democrats' reasoning as she opened the interview with a clip of Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) hitting Norquist as a wealthy lobbyist, and then pressed him point-blank, "are you to blame for the super committee's failure?" Later she questioned him how a Republican signer of the pledge could "possibly effectively negotiate?"
And it wouldn't have been an American Morning segment on the debt without the CNN line that tax revenues need to be increased. "I think most economists say that to solve our country's debt crisis, there needs to be revenue and there also needs to be cuts, and there needs to be a smart way to include both things," Costello lectured her conservative guest.
A transcript of the segment, which aired on November 21 at 8:04 a.m. EST, is as follows:
COSTELLO: The so-called "super committee" appears ready to throw in the towel this morning. Members charged with cutting $1.2 trillion from the budget have all but failed in their mission. Sources telling CNN the only talks happening now are on how to announce that the super committee failed.
Some Democrats are putting the blame squarely on the shoulders of one man, the lobbyist who got all Republican members of the committee to sign this pledge, this pledge right here. It's called the "Taxpayer Protection Pledge" saying they swear never to raise taxes. Grover Norquist is the man behind that pledge. He's the president of Americans for Tax Reform. He joins us live from Washington this morning. Good morning, Mr. Norquist.
GROVER NORQUIST, president, Americans for Tax Reform: Good morning.
COSTELLO: So, Democrats are pointing the finger of blame directly at you. Listen to Senator Patty Murray, the Democratic co-chair of the super committee, on the State of the Union.
Sen. PATTY MURRAY (D-Wash.): – has been a pledge that too many Republicans took to a Republican wealthy lobbyist by the name of Grover Norquist, whose name has come up in meetings time and time again. And as long as we have some Republican lawmakers who feel more enthralled with a pledge they took to a Republican lobbyist than they do to a pledge to the country to solve the problems, this is going to be hard to do.
(End Video Clip)
COSTELLO: So, Grover Norquist, are you to blame for the super committee's failure?
NORQUIST: No. Unfortunately, the senator is not telling the truth. She has never signed the taxpayer protection pledge. As a liberal Democrat, she's voted for every tax increase she ever had the opportunity to vote for. But for those congressmen and senators who signed the taxpayer protection pledge, they know, and the American people know that the pledge is from them to the voters of their district and their state.
I know the Democrats don't want to stand up and say we want to raise taxes. The Republicans are fighting us. Please help us raise taxes – because that's not a very good campaign slogan. So, they've tried to say that I'm the reason Republicans won't raise taxes. That's nonsense.
COSTELLO: But if you're on a – if you're on a committee and you want to negotiate with the other side and you have signed this pledge – and keep in mind that, like we have 23 polls showing that most Americans want taxes raised on the wealthiest Americans. So, these pledges are only covering a small portion of the electorate. So, you sign this pledge as a Republican member of the super committee and you're supposed to negotiate with the other side (audio break) taxes. How can you possibly effectively negotiate?
COSTELLO: I think most economists say that to solve our country's debt crisis, there needs to be revenue and there also needs to be cuts, and there needs to be a smart way to include both things. The thing is though, I think –
NORQUIST: Wait a second.
COSTELLO: When most voters –
COSTELLO: – listen to you. You're not an elected official, yet you're sort of controlling the agenda of the super committee. Aren't you exactly what a lot of voters hate about our system?
NORQUIST: Hey, you may have been missing the first part of our conversation. The pledge that congressmen and senators make is not to me, despite what Reid and some of the Democrats like to pretend. Okay? When they say that, let's use the kind word. It's not true. It's a lie.
The pledge is – and you can go to website, ATR.org, see the actual wording of the pledge, not some Democrat's fiction, and the list of people who made that commitment to their voters. When people get elected, they should keep their word.
COSTELLO: But you go after these elected officials with all the money because there's a lot of very powerful people who donate to your cause, you go after these elected officials and you make sure they're not elected again. You do.