CNN's John King: Are Democrats Moving too Far Left?

On Tuesday's The Situation Room on CNN, substitute host John King asked a question rarely asked by other journalists as he inquired whether the Democratic presidential candidates are moving too far left as they appeal to the anti-war movement, which King tagged the "juice of the left." During a discussion of the candidates' participation in the liberal Take Back America Conference and in an event for the labor union AFSCME, the CNN host asked Democratic strategist Paul Begala whether the push to withdraw from Iraq could "come back to haunt the party in a general election." King: "Anti-war is the theme, the energy, the juice of the left right now. ...  Any concerns at all on your part that all of this, bring the troops home now, bring the troops home now, turn the page, close the door on Iraq, can come back to haunt the party in a general election?" (Transcript follows)

King introduced the segment with Begala and Human Events editor Terry Jeffrey: "A busy day for the Democratic presidential candidates in Washington here, gathering, on the one hand, to court major liberal activists, especially anti-war activists, also attending events sponsored by a major government workers union. But courting the left can be a tricky courtship for Democratic candidates."

After King described the anti-war theme of the Take Back America Conference as the "juice of the left," and showed a soundbite of Barack Obama calling for withdrawal from Iraq, the CNN host asked his first question to Begala. King: "'Time to turn the page,' Senator Barack Obama says. Paul, any concerns at all on your part that all of this, bring the troops home now, bring the troops home now, turn the page, close the door on Iraq, can come back to haunt the party in a general election?"

King asked Jeffrey whether it would be diffult for Republicans to "get back to the center," but then returned to the subject of Democrats moving to the left. King: "[Bill Clinton's] central theme was: Look, I like unions, I like liberals, but our party has drifted way too far to the left, and the only way to win is to get back to the middle. Have the Democrats essentially ripped up the Clinton playbook and said it's okay to go left again?"

Below is a transcript of the first few questions King asked to Begala and Jeffrey on the Tuesday June 19 The Situation Room on CNN:

JOHN KING: A busy day for the Democratic presidential candidates in Washington here, gathering, on the one hand, to court major liberal activists, especially anti-war activists, also attending events sponsored by a major government workers union. But courting the left can be a tricky courtship for Democratic candidates. Joining me for today's "Strategy Session," CNN political analyst and Democratic strategist Paul Begala, and Terry Jeffrey, the editor at large for the conservative Human Events. Gentlemen, thank you very much.

Let's start with the Take Back America Conference. This has been going on now for a few years now. And Hillary Clinton made a famous remark, or a soon-to-come-campaign-ad-near-you remark, probably, at last year's event. But let's focus on this year's event. Anti-war is the theme, the energy, the juice of the left right now. Let's listen to Senator Barack Obama.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): We will call them. We will knock on their doors. We will bring our troops home. It is time to bring this war to a close. It is time to recognize there's no military solution to the problems in Iraq. It is time to turn the page.

KING: "Time to turn the page," Senator Barack Obama says. Paul, any concerns at all on your part that all of this, bring the troops home now, bring the troops home now, turn the page, close the door on Iraq, can come back to haunt the party in a general election? [Paul Begala, Democratic strategist]

Do you agree with that? Harder for the Republicans to get back to the center, if you will, if anybody tries in the general election? [Terry Jeffrey, Human Events]

KING: Let's focus on the other conference in town. And, again, all of the Democratic candidates are trying to get there. This is hosted by AFSCME, which is one of the most politically active, if not the most politically active, union in the Democratic Party, a big source of financial support for the Democratic Party organization and its candidates. Let's listen to Senator John Edwards at that event.

Former Senator JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC): So your cause is my cause. Your cause is about strengthening America. And don't you think it's about time to have a President of the United States who will actually walk out on the White House lawn and explain to the American people why unions matter in America?

KING: You mentioned that guy you used to work for. Bill Clinton was the governor of Arkansas when he ran for President. He was also the chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council. And his central theme was: Look, I like unions, I like liberals, but our party has drifted way too far to the left, and the only way to win is to get back to the middle. Have the Democrats essentially ripped up the Clinton playbook and said it's okay to go left again?

[Begala]

Brad Wilmouth
Brad Wilmouth is a contributing blogger to NewsBusters