Erin Burnett Hosts Liberal Gripe Session on Obama, GOP Congress

CNN's Erin Burnett hosted a liberal roundtable on her Wednesday show to gripe about President Obama's shortcomings and whack Republican members of Congress for obstructing his agenda.

How often would CNN host a conservative roundtable to complain about the Republican leadership? Regardless, liberal comedian Dean Obeidallah warned that Obama could become a "lame duck president" while lefty radio host Stephanie Miller and Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen largely focused more blame on Republican obstructionists. [Video coming soon. Audio here.]

"I think President Obama is in danger of being a lame duck president, to be quite honest with you. No more legislative accomplishments, other than ObamaCare," lamented Obeidallah. "This Congress – these Republicans, Erin, are provably and historically obstructionist," Miller asserted.

Even Burnett joined in on the Obama criticism, goading the President to get more done. "You're President of the United States. You are the President. You have a lot of powers, you have executive powers," she said.

"To kind of be the 'woe is me,' 'you guys are hosing me,' people eventually don't want to hear it, whether they think it's true or not. They don't want to hear it. They're looking to you to do something, to stand above it." Burnett did wish for the President to take at least one conservative course, noting "here's what he could do in a second term. Do what Bill Clinton did. Balance the budget." Of course, Clinton balanced the budget at the behest of the Republican House and Senate.

At the beginning of the segment, Burnett had quoted liberal columnists Maureen Dowd of the New York Times and Dana Milbank of the Washington Post wishing Obama to more aggressively pursue his liberal plans, in what she termed as "liberals turning on President Obama." It was enough to merit one of the five main stories on her show OutFront.

Below is a transcript of the segment, which aired on May 1 on Erin Burnett OutFront at 7:49 p.m. EDT:

[7:49]

ERIN BURNETT: Fifth story OutFront now, liberals turning on President Obama. Columnist Maureen Dowd in a New York Times op-ed today hammered the President for blaming Congress for not getting more things accomplished. Dowd writes, quote, "Actually, it is his job to get them to behave. The job of the former community organizer and self-styled uniter is to somehow get this dunderheaded Congress, which is mind-bendingly awful, to do the stuff he wants them to do. It's called leadership."

Dana Milbank in The Washington Post piled on, writing, quote, "It's the President's job to lead and to bang heads if necessary regardless of any, quote-unquote, 'permission structure.' Obama seemed oddly like a spectator as if he had resigned himself to a reactive presidency." These are harsh words and, no, they are not coming from members of the right.

OutFront tonight, CNN contributor and Democratic strategist Hillary Rosen, radio show host Stephanie Miller and political comedian Dean Obeidallah. These are – you would read this and read a quote from this and you would think that it came from someone else. But it didn't.

DEAN OBEIDALLAH, political comedian: No.

BURNETT: These are people who have supported the President and these are harsh words.

OBEIDALLAH: They are harsh words and to be honest with you, I'm on the progressive side. I think President Obama is in danger of being a lame duck president, to be quite honest with you. No more legislative accomplishments, other than ObamaCare. We might – that's all we might see. And we saw it with the extended background checks for guns. He couldn't get that through. In fact, he lost four Democratic votes in the Senate from his own party. That's what he's up against. It's not Republican-Democrat. It's Congress, and President Obama can't change them. But it's his legacy that's at risk.

BURNETT: And yet, Stephanie, we keep hearing the President talk about Congress and he was frustrated with Congress. Obviously, everyone gets that. I don't – no one in those articles and no one in this country is going to defend Congress. We know their approval rating is way worse than his. But what about this point? Ultimately, the buck stops with you, dude.

STEPHANIE MILLER, radio host: You know, I got to say, Erin, even Senator Pat Toomey said today, the Republican who was behind the background check bill, he said people voted against it because they did not want to be seen as helping the President. This Congress – these Republicans, Erin, are provably and historically obstructionist. They just are. And I'm sorry, whatever Maureen Dowd wrote, I love Maureen Dowd, but guess what? We don't live in a Aaron Sorkin liberal fantasy where Aaron Sorkin gets to write everybody's lines, including the Republicans.

BURNETT: Hillary, is there a point here, though? Because I'm starting to wonder, look, you can blame him or not blame him, it kind of doesn't matter, but to Dean's point, if he can't get anything done, what's the point of a second term?

HILARY ROSEN, CNN contributor: Well, first of all, there is a lot that he has gotten done. And I think will still get done. And -- but there's one thing he cannot fundamentally change, and that is that the very most important job for every member of Congress, as they see it, is to get themselves re-elected. That's not going to change. And so when you have situations in the Senate where you have moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats kind of being given a pass by their leadership or by their constituents or by their campaign managers, that – like, that's not going to change. And President Obama can't do that.

The one thing that I think Maureen makes a good point about, though, and it's worth the White House paying attention to this, is that the President should never say I've done everything I can do. Because nobody ever has, right? There's always more to do, there's always more to try and you can never be seen as kind of throwing up your hands and saying, well, it's all on them. And I'm done.

And I think that that's kind of the – the one sort of maybe even stylistic mistake that the president made in the press conference or he's making now, is that – he needs to give people more that they can do, and he needs to keep doing more himself, and the Republicans, and Stephanie is absolutely right, Mitch McConnell bears more of this blame than the President does, but we ought to just keep talking about it. We ought to just keep pushing at it. And I think the President can never say it's – you know, it's up to you guys now. He always has to have some new activity that he and other people can do to keep trying.

BURNETT: Right, Dean, because what about this point. You're President of the United States. You are the President. You have a lot of powers, you have executive powers.

OBEIDALLAH: Yes, you can always do that. And that's one thing the President can do –

BURNETT: To kind of be the woe is me, you guys are hosing me, people eventually don't want to hear it, whether they think it's true or not. They don't want to hear it. They're looking to you to do something, to stand above it.

OBEIDALLAH: We want to see results. Left and the right want to see it. And Hillary said Republicans want to be re-elected. So do Democrats. That's why four Democrats voted against the extended background check. He only has a 47 percent approval rating, President Obama. He can't even use the bully pulpit like in the past. What he can do, he can raise money, go after the Republicans in the House --

BURNETT: Oh, no, so now you're saying the only reason they got a second term is to run for re-election for the next party? That is sick.

OBEIDALLAH: It's either complain about Congress or change Congress. And if you can't change it by making friends and building alliances, you know what? You raise money, you get 17 seats and you have control of the House. That's how you do it.

BURNETT: Stephanie?

MILLER: Erin, can I just say? I am so tired of this. Why doesn't he just knock heads like LBJ did? My dad ran against LBJ. He was Barry Goldwater's running mate. Obama does not have LBJ majorities. He does not – you know, as we have just sort of alluded to. And I don't hold Democrats blameless. He sometimes can't get Democrats to come along. He does not have the kind of you know, liberal majorities that LBJ did.

BURNETT: But to Dean's point, he doesn't even – some of the Democrats don't go along with him. He doesn't like the wining and dining although he has been trying it more recently with Republicans, which is fair enough.

ROSEN: We shouldn't underestimate how important over the years using the budget has been as a tool for presidents, you know, giving stuff away and things like that. And this President doesn't have that kind of pork to give away that previous presidents have had either. And that's an important issue that nobody really talks about.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thanks to all of you. And you know what she raises, here's what he could do in a second term. Do what Bill Clinton did. Balance the budget.
 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014