Jake Tapper Gets Chummy With Pelosi; Gets Her to Bash 'Unruly' Tea Party Republicans

Jake Tapper's Thursday interview with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi started off chummy and didn't really get tough until near the end.  Tapper teed her up to criticize Tea Party Republicans and critique John Boehner's Speakership on CNN's The Lead.

"Speaker Boehner has an unruly group of Tea Party Republicans," Tapper noted before serving his biggest softball. "How have you been able to control, cajole, convince, work with, the feistier progressives in your caucus both as Speaker and as Minority Leader in a way that he has not been able to do with Tea Party Republicans?"

Tapper also got Pelosi to rail against cuts to unemployment benefits: "You were very critical of the fact that unemployment insurance benefits were not extended for, I think it's 1.3 million Americans. You called it 'immoral'."

And the CNN host asked Pelosi to advise her political opponent Speaker Boehner: "What do you say to him when it comes to how he has led his Republicans this year, and Congress?" Once again, the Minority Leader ended up bashing Republicans.

"But now their party is dominated by people who do not believe in government, and they don't believe in government. They don't believe in science. And they don't believe in the presidency of Barack Obama," Pelosi lashed out.

Amidst the softballs and somewhat restrained questions, Tapper could have nailed Pelosi for the disastrous opening of the health care law that she pushed through Congress. He ignored security concerns over the website, delays of portions of the law, and fears that millions more persons could lose their insurance because of the law.

Tapper was a lot less harsher on the law than he could have been:

"It seemed as though Democrats were in a strong position right after the government shutdown, and then there were a couple months of bad stories about the Healthcare.gov website and the rollout, 'If you like your plan, you can keep your plan'. And according to polls, Democrats are not in as strong a position as they were right after the shutdown."

Then Tapper asked this question from a left-wing perspective:

"I've heard some progressive advocates say they're concerned about the ObamaCare rollout, not just the website but also things 'If you like your plan, you can keep your plan' not being true for people. Because it undermines the argument for progressive advocacy in government. That it says, sure Democrats can go out there and say these things, but if the actual implementation isn't what it was sold as, that could hurt liberal politics."

At the beginning of the interview, the two laughed over Pelosi's advice to her fellow Democrats on the budget deal, "embrace the suck." Not until the middle of the interview did Tapper press her over her party's performance in Congress. And the CNN host couched his question in terms of Congress' performance as a whole: "Let's talk about what they [Democrats] have been able to achieve this year, because I think just as a strict matter of math, it's one of the least productive congresses in American history."

Pelosi pivoted to slapping Republicans: "The Republicans have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity when it comes to creating jobs."

Below is a transcript of the segment, which aired on The Lead on December 12 at 4:03 p.m. EST:

JAKE TAPPER: So this morning you told your members "embrace the suck."

(Laughter)

TAPPER: That's a quote.

Rep. NANCY PELOSI (D-Calif.), House Minority Leader: Yes. That's a quote. Yes.

TAPPER: First of all, before I get to the substance of the bill, where did you get that from?

PELOSI: I think it really captured the moment, wouldn't you think?

TAPPER: Oh I'm not criticizing it. It seems to sum up what you think of this legislation.

(...)

TAPPER: You don't want to look right at the camera and say 'embrace the suck'?

(Laughter)

PELOSI: You'll be using it. I'm telling you, you'll be using it.

TAPPER: You were very critical of the fact that unemployment insurance benefits were not extended for, I think it's 1.3 million Americans. You called it 'immoral'.

PELOSI: It is immoral.

(...)

TAPPER: You said you haven't given up on that. But do you think Senate Democrats negotiated a bad deal? Or do you think this is just the best any Democrat could have gotten?

PELOSI: No, I think that they took it to a draw.

TAPPER: Other Democrats are opposed to this bill, even though you're going to vote for it and you said Democrats won't let it go down.

PELOSI: No. They won't let it go down. And again, how do you register your concern by voting for it, moving it along, clear the deck so we can have a straight-out discussion of our value system, whether it comes to raising the minimum wage, whether it comes to unemployment insurance, whether it comes to passing an immigration bill, passing background checks, the list goes on. And the list goes on.

TAPPER: And Democrats will not let it go down.

PELOSI: It won't go down.

TAPPER: Let's talk about what they've been able to achieve this year, because I think just as a strict matter of math, it's one of the least productive congresses in American history.

PELOSI: It is that. And that's unfortunate, because the American people have needs, we have responsibilities to them. So it's not only just the number of bills. It's the unattended-to of responsibilities that we have that are not being addressed. The Republicans have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity when it comes to creating jobs. Job creation is an answer to so many challenges our families face, our economy faces. And we really have to pass legislation that invests in growth and produces job. The immigration bill – on all of these things we have the votes. On all of these issues, we have strong bipartisan support. We just need the Speaker to give a signal to take it to the floor.

TAPPER: Speaker Boehner has an unruly group of Tea Party Republicans. How have you been able to control, cajole, convince, work with, the feistier progressives in your caucus both as Speaker and as Minority Leader in a way that he has not been able to do with Tea Party Republicans?

PELOSI: Well there's a very fundamental difference. First of all, we do not have the equivalence. There is nothing equivalent in the House Democratic Caucus to the Tea Party. For many reasons, most importantly they are here to undo government. President George Washington cautioned, when he left office, against political parties that are at war with their own government. So while we don't want any more government than we need, we need the government we need. And that's what they're here to undo.

TAPPER: One of the things that I have always found kind of charming about you and Speaker Boehner is you really do seem to have affection for one another.

PELOSI: We have a good rapport.

TAPPER: You like each other. What do you say to him when it comes to how he has led his Republicans this year, and Congress?

PELOSI: Well I think that we all have to make some very difficult decisions about how to bring bills to the floor that may not have a majority of the votes in our own caucus. I've had that experience myself. But I always say just let them vote their hearts out. Make sure they can vote for whatever it is they want to vote for, but make sure that they also can vote for or against whatever we need to do. And that's really what I have kind of tried to convey to him.

These are not ploys or interparty bickering or anything like that. These are philosophical differences. What is the role of government? What is a public-private partnership? You want to just have the private side without the public part of it. Those are the legitimate debates of the history of our country. But now their party is dominated by people who do not believe in government, and they don't believe in government. They don't believe in science. And they don't believe in the presidency of Barack Obama. So it's a trifecta. Those people have hijacked the name Republican, which has made such a valuable contribution to our country, the Republican Party, but they've taken it over the cliff.

TAPPER: The 2014 midterms right around the corner. It seemed as though Democrats were in a strong position right after the government shutdown, and then there were a couple months of bad stories about the Healthcare.gov website and the rollout, "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan." And according to polls, Democrats are not in as strong a position as they were right after the shutdown.

(...)

TAPPER: I've heard some progressive advocates say they're concerned about the ObamaCare rollout, not just the website but also things "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan" not being true for people. Because it undermines the argument for progressive advocacy in government. That it says, sure Democrats can go out there and say these things, but if the actual implementation isn't what it was sold as, that could hurt liberal politics.

PELOSI: Well, you know what? Don't spend a whole lot of time on that. Because the Affordable Care Act is going to be a giant plus over time. And what's important is not what it means politically, but what it means personally to the American people as a policy and as an improvement in their lives. And so while some may say that, and I don't disagree with any of it – we want government to work, and the government that we have to work the rollout was – I don't even know if "disappointing" even comes close to the word I would use. But the fact is, we're getting over that. It's transformative. It stands right there with Social Security, with Medicare, with affordable health care for all Americans as a right, not a privilege.

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