CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer’s interview with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday's Situation Room drew some attention as she claimed President Bush was a "total failure." Blitzer’s questions were challenging – Pelosi’s lashing out at Bush came in response to a question about Congress having an approval rating of 14 percent in the latest Gallup tracking poll. But Blitzer aired three "CNN i-Reports" questions from the public, and all three came from citizens further left than Pelosi. One dismissed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as useless against the Republicans, one lamented the Democrats’ failure to achieve withdrawal from Iraq, and one complained about taking the impeachment of Bush "off the table."
In the 4 pm hour, Blitzer asked about criticism from Pelosi’s right, from President Bush and from House Minority Leader John Boehner (whose name seems to rarely come up on CNN). But the "public" was on the hard left:
BLITZER: Madam Speaker, we invited viewers to send in their questions for you via our CNN i-Reports. Jordan Klein of Los Angeles is a 16-year-old high school student, and has this question.
JORDAN KLEIN: Dear Madam Speaker, if you're wondering why Congress' approval ratings are at a record low, look no further than your counterpart, Harry Reid, in the Senate Democrats. While you and the House Democrats have worked endlessly to challenge the Republicans, the Senate has repeatedly caved in to them on the countless issues like the war and FISA. Reid claims that he needs 60 votes to get anything done, but that excuse isn't going to fly. My question to you is, how disappointed are you in Reid and the Senate, and what can we expect from them in the future? Thank you.
PELOSI: That's quite a question from a 16-year-old.
BLITZER: He's a smart kid.
PELOSI: He is indeed that.Well, the 60 vote is -- I agree with him in that frustration with the 60 vote. The public doesn't want to hear about our process and why we can't get something done. But it is a fact. And those 60 votes are hard to achieve, because the Republicans in the United States Senate are guarding the gate of the president of the United States. If they voted with us, and we put these issues on the president's desk, they would receive much more visibility the president's vetoes would be much more damaging to the Republican Party. So, that's a part of what's at work. Senator Reid is a staunch, committed Democrat working for working families in America.
She also tilted toward the questioner by concluding "But, in terms of the war, when people have spoken out so clearly in their opposition to it, it is a giant tragedy, because this is -- this war in Iraq is the worst national security blunder you could ever recognize in the history of our country."
Blitzer ran a second chunk of his interview with Speaker Pelosi in the 5 pm hour, and aired a second Pelosi critic – who wasn’t even in the United States.
BLITZER: Here's a question that was sent in by our I-Report from Ryan Petty in Canada.
RYAN PETTY: When you were voted into power, my understanding was the largest single issue at the time was the war in Iraq. You've been in power now for, I would say, about a year-and-a- half or two years, well, in the House, and nothing has been accomplished. So, can you comment on just the lack of your ability to get the job done?
PELOSI: Thank you, Ryan, for your question. Again, it's similar to the other question because the obstacle has been the 60 votes in the Senate....Am I disappointed? Thoroughly.
BLITZER: All right...
PELOSI: ...because we are losing lives. We're losing our reputation in the world. We're losing our capability to protect the American people, wherever they may be. And we're losing $3 trillion.
A bizarre exchange followed, in which Pelosi refused to grant any progress in Iraq whatsoever:
BLITZER: In February when we spoke, you said no gains had been achieved as a result of the military surge in Iraq. But now it seems like a lot of the indicators, the numbers are going down. The situation...
PELOSI: What numbers?
BLITZER: The situation seems to be improving on the ground. Do you acknowledge that?
PELOSI: What I said to you in February was that the security opportunity that the surge was supposed to provide, the purpose of that was to enable the government to make the political change for reconciliation in Iraq. It wasn't true then and it isn't true now. So when you say the numbers are going down, I don't know what numbers...
BLITZER: The number of Americans killed, for example.
PELOSI: Well, that's a very important number. But the purpose of the surge was to provide the window of opportunity for political reconciliation.
BLITZER: But hasn't there been some improvement between the Sunnis and the Shia?
PELOSI: A very little. Not enough to justify us going into the sixth year in this war. This is meager. The most promising thing that we've heard is that Al-Maliki wants us to leave. I think we should sit down with him and set a date for that. But we will always fight terrorism wherever it exists. And credit to George Bush, it now exists in Iraq and we have to fight it there. But it doesn't take 135,000 troops to do that.
Blitzer noted that answer in promoting his interview, that Pelosi was blaming Bush for bringing terrorists to Iraq. Then came the third "public" question from Pelosi’s left:
BLITZER: Kris Craig of Olympia, Washington sent this question in, which we got a lot of questions very similar to this one.
KRIS CRAIG: I'm Kris Craig from Olympia, Washington. Speaker Pelosi, in 2006, you asked us to vote your party into power so that you could hold this administration accountable. And yet a few moments after we did just that, you said that oh, by the way, impeachment, it's off the table.
BLITZER: I'm sure you're asked this question all the time.
BLITZER: Why did you immediately rule out impeachment? I guess that's the thrust of this question.
PELOSI: Well, I ruled it out before the election.
As a network anchorman, Blitzer surely knew that Pelosi made the no-impeachment pledge before the election, but he left it to the Speaker to do the fact-checking of the "i-Report" questioners.
Blitzer's note that CNN received a bunch of mail from impeachment advocates underlines that CNN would probably defend its exclusive use of hard-left questioners as a reflection of what it received. One i-Report claimed:
My unscientific tabulation of CNN's "Ask Nancy" shows over 95% of the ireporters, put it mildly, are unhappy with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Surprisingly, many of the hostile and passionate netizens seem to be on the far left of the political spectrum. The few Pelosi defenders responded weakly and meekly.
CNN might say that this shows the hard left has more energy and passion right now. But they ought to consider that maybe the hard left is their core audience, and that conservatives don't send in questions because they're not exactly being encouraged that their questions will make it to the airwaves.