Stephanie Cutter Abruptly Bails on Ed Schultz, But He's Not Bitter

Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter succeeding in getting under Ed Schultz's skin by canceling her appearance on his radio show Friday with only 15 minutes' notice. (audio clips after page break)

Schultz tried to hide his irritation but it was a losing battle (audio) --

I don't mean to mislead the audience , but I guess I just got word, well I did get word, that Stephanie Cutter will not be on the Ed Schultz radio show today. (pause) Well, whatever. Fifteen minutes to airtime, uh! Can't make it! That's fine. I don't care. I mean, I do care but that's just sometimes how it goes. ... I think we're going to have Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on. Sometimes I think I'm just a little too aggressive for these people. I just might prod them to say something that just might get them in trouble because I might say, gosh, how come the president doesn't say what you say? Why doesn't President Obama come out and question whether Mitt Romney committed a felony or not? Why not?! Come on! They don't want that interview.

This was right at the end of the first hour of Schultz three-hour weekday radio show, after he'd mentioned several times that Cutter would be a guest. At the start of the second hour, Schultz was still peeved (audio) --

I don't know why Stephanie Cutter can't make it. I was just told 15 minutes ago she couldn't be on the program after promoting that she is. That's all I'm saying. Chill out, Rita. (presumably a listener who responded to Schultz's earlier comments about Cutter). ... Look, it's a known fact. And, you know, look, I'm not being a crybaby, OK? I'm not! I'm going to be just fine. Axelrod doesn't do anything with me. Gibbs doesn't do anything with me. Stephanie Cutter doesn't do anything on the show with me. And that's fine, that's OK. I'm probably too much of a live wire for 'em. Because they know I'm going to support President Obama anyway so why do they need to talk to me?

How about that, Schultz and I have something in common, at least when it comes to Cutter -- she did much the same to me almost 10 years ago when I was political reporter at the Cape Cod Times and she was a top aide to Sen. Ted Kennedy. I'd been assigned to line up an interview with Kennedy at his office in Washington to get his views on Cape Wind, a 130-turbine wind farm proposed for Nantucket Sound that would be visible from the Kennedy compound.

Kennedy agreed to the interview and I was given a time and date, a weekday in March 2003 at 3:30 p.m., and I'd get a half hour. I was struck by the fact that it was scheduled on the half-hour, not the hour, and I dutifully wrote this down in my Day-Timer and proceeded to make flight and hotel arrangements.

On the day of the interview, I arrived 10 minutes early and waited in Kennedy's outer office. Cutter came out and said, where've you been?! You were supposed to be here at 3. No, I responded, I was supposed to be here at 3:30 -- and I'm early. No, she answered imperiously, the interview was scheduled for 3 and you are 20 minutes late. How about I speak with Kennedy now, I suggested, seeing how you carved out a half hour anyway. No, Cutter replied, so sorry. Tell you what, she offered, we could do it over the phone next week if that's OK. Followed by me leaving Kennedy's office shortly thereafter and making a seriously excruciating phone call to my editor.

Which of us was wrong? Of that I have little doubt -- her. I'm the type who doesn't just write to-do lists in my Day-Timer (though a different system now), I'd highlight them as each task was completed. What actually happened was that something else came up for The Senator, as Cutter unfailingly referred to the man, and since I was with the Cape Cod Times and not the New York or Los Angeles Times, something's gotta give and it's not The Senator's whim on this given day.

It's worth noting that Cutter and I had met before, a year earlier, when I was assigned to shadow Kennedy for a day in Washington for a profile on his upcoming 70th birthday. On that day, which ended up spilling into the next morning with an interview in Kennedy's hideaway office in the Capitol, Cutter was with me nearly every moment I was in Kennedy's presence, except for several minutes when my photographer misplaced a piece of equipment and Cutter had to accompany him when he retrieved it. (This was six months after 9/11, when Washington bristled with more security than usual).

As for that phone interview with Kennedy suggested by Cutter a year later, she did arrange that. When it came time to speak with The Senator, he was on a speaker phone in Washington while I was on Cape Cod and just about every time I asked Kennedy a question, his response was preceded by what sounded like whispering around him. Almost as if Cutter and her colleagues were telling The Senator what to say.

Suffice it to say my memories of Cutter are not fond ones, but she did leave me with something I savor. It was a few months before that cross-signaled day in Washington when, in a moment of unguarded exasperation toward The Senator, she blurted out these memorable words -- I have to work with what I have.

Hey Ed, maybe Cutter will reschedule, like she did with me. Just be sure to call back repeatedly to confirm.

Jack Coleman
Jack Coleman
Liberated ex-liberal from the People's Republic of Massachusetts