HuffPost’s Rosen Brushes Off Palin on CNN as Unqualified, Not Like Hillary

[Update, 8:25 pm ET: Audio link added below.]

CNN frequent contributor and Huffington Post's political director Hilary Rosen slammed John McCain's vice-presidential pick Sarah Palin as being unqualified on Friday's Newsroom program and accused the Republicans pandering to women, especially Hillary Clinton supporters: "Senator McCain obviously thinks this is going to go a long way to help those women who are attracted to Hillary Clinton. I think if you were attracted to Hillary Clinton, in many ways, it was because she's a qualified woman" (Rosen put emphasis on "qualified" by practically yelling the word). She later accused the GOP of trying to "change skirts and put it on another woman, and have it be an acceptable thing" (audio available here).

Anchor John Roberts asked Rosen just before noon, minutes before McCain made his official announcement of his pick in Ohio, about what "folks in the Obama campaign" were saying about Palin. She stated that the Democratic campaign was taking an "on the record" stance of being "cautiously optimistic," but added that they were "pretty thrilled" off the record. She added that she was "intrigued with a politician who will do something that's out-of-the-box." Rosen then described how, in her view, it wasn't "smart" of the McCain campaign to not warn their women surrogates, since she noted that Kay Bailey Hutchison apparently "couldn't find anything to talk about on CNN" about Palin. She then made her first dig at Palin as not being a "qualified woman."

Just over an hour later, at the beginning of the 1 pm Eastern hour of Newsroom, Roberts again asked Rosen about the Obama campaign's take on Palin, and used Rosen's "out-of-the-box" term. The Huffington Post political director thought that the GOP "might still be captive to the social conservatives and couldn't pick a V.P. nominee that was outside of that box." Rosen then claimed that the U.S. has moved on from issues important to social conservatives such as "only abortion and gay rights."

Seconds later, she made her second attack on Palin's apparent lack of experience, in comparison to Hillary Clinton: "She [Palin] directly invited a comparison with Hillary Clinton. I think that's a mistake. The reason women liked Hillary Clinton was because they sort of got the first qualified woman ever to be a presidential candidate. I don't think you can just, you know, change skirts and put it on another woman, and have it be an acceptable thing." After Roberts and correspondent John King laughed at this remark, she added, "I think in some respects, it's almost dismissive of women to suggest that it's just about gender, and she's going to have to answer that, and she's invited that comparison herself."

The transcripts of Rosen's first remark on Palin just before noon on Friday's Newsroom, and her subsequent comments at the beginning of the 1 pm Eastern hour:

-11:59 pm EDT

JOHN ROBERTS: Well, let's see what it's like -- what it's like on the Democratic side of things. Hilary Rosen from Huffington Post is with us. You've been talking to folks in the Obama campaign. What do they say?

HILARY ROSEN: Well, the Obama campaign is cautiously optimistic, I would say, on the record. I think off the record, most of them are pretty thrilled on, on -- for a couple of reasons. First, I have to say, I'm always intrigued with a politician who will do something that's out-of-the-box. You know, we just might have some surprises from Governor Palin that the country doesn't know. The fact that Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson, one of the most respected Republican women in the country, said this morning, I just don't know anything about her. She couldn't find anything to talk about on CNN -- I thought was probably not a good sign, and clearly, not smart on the McCain campaign to not warn their key women surrogates. The women are the undecided vote in this election. There's no question about it -- undecided older women and undecided suburban marrieds. And, you know, the McCain -- Senator McCain obviously thinks this is going to go a long way to help those women who are attracted to Hillary Clinton. I think if you were attracted to Hillary Clinton, in many ways, it was because she's a qualified woman.

-1:05 pm EDT

JOHN ROBERTS: Hilary Rosen, how is the Obama campaign looking at this? Are they saying, you know, 'We thought that he was going to pick either Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty. They were known quantities. This is a real out-of-the-box pick. This could change the dynamic'?

HILARY ROSEN: Well, I think the Republican Party might still be captive to the social conservatives and couldn't pick a V.P. nominee that was outside of that box. But most of the country has moved past the issues of only abortion and gay rights, and sort of want a president that's thinking about bigger picture. I think John McCain probably shook up the race a lot today -- only I think the way he shook it up is he almost made Joe Biden and Barack Obama a safer pick, you know, a more known pick. And that's not what he intended to do, but I think it is what they ended up doing today. The -- look at the speeches. She directly invited a comparison with Hillary Clinton. I think that's a mistake. The reason women liked Hillary Clinton was because they sort of got the first qualified woman ever to be a presidential candidate. I don't think you can just, you know, change skirts and put it on another woman, and have it be an acceptable thing.

(Roberts and correspondent John King laugh.)

ROSEN: So -- I should say pant suits. But the -- so, you know, I think in some respects, it's almost dismissive of women to suggest that it's just about gender, and she's going to have to answer that, and she's invited that comparison herself.

ROBERTS: Yeah, but there's still -- all right, I mean you can't get around the fact that there are a substantial number of disaffected Hillary Clinton voters. Our CNN polling that was out earlier this week suggested that 27 percent of them will vote for John McCain, rather than vote for Barack Obama. That's an increase of 11 points in just a couple of months. Does this now -- if those people were thinking about voting for John McCain, if they get a woman, in addition to Senator McCain, does that lock up that segment of the vote?

ROSEN: I don't think so. I think it keeps them in play for a while. But those are traditionally, the people who decide the last in an election in the last two weeks. So clearly, that's going to be the target for the next couple of weeks. But I don't think he's given very much energy to that today. You know, I heard two things. She's a mom, and she's for oil and gas, and my guess is over the next several weeks, they're going to try and avoid this foreign policy debate, which they clearly cannot win with her. They're going to try and avoid the risk issues, and they're going to try to hammer on those two issues: she can do energy and she's a mom like you. I'm just not sure that's going to be enough.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center