Deconstructing A “Devastating” Interview

So Republicans–even the normally clear-eyed David Frum–are gloating today over an Anderson Cooper interview of DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz that supposedly leaves her shivering in embarrassment and exposed as a liar. Cooper badgers Wasserman-Schultz endlessly for “misquoting” an L.A. Times story in order to suggest (wrongly, Cooper says) that Romney and his campaign control the Republican platform language on abortion. How could that be, asks Cooper? Isn’t this the same language the GOP platform has had for years? CNN had a reporter in the room, and he didn’t see no “control” of abortion language by Romney Folk! Ah, these lying politicians….

Man, if this is a “gotcha” moment, then the definition of “gotcha” has been debased to the vanishing point. As someone involved in Democratic conventions (including on two occasions the platform process) for a long time, I can confidently assert that it is a fact, of which the entire CNN staff appears ignorant, that not a sparrow falls to the ground in the drafting of a national party platform that is not approved by the nominee and his or her staff. That Team Mitt did not choose to publicly challenge the traditional “constitutional ban with no exceptions other than life of the mother” language does not absolve it of responsibility for it. Romney’s extraordinary “flexibility,” shall we say, on the abortion issue over the years is hardly news, but the basic point that Romney is indeed complicit in an extremist platform if he doesn’t bother to explicitly distance himself from it is sound, even if Anderson Cooper doesn’t “get it.”

All I’d fault Wasserman Schultz for is letting herself get dragged down in the minutiae of this silly argument passing for tough journalism. “Rape and incest” exceptions notwithstanding, her basic point, that there is a vast gulf between the views on the right to choose of the two major-party candidates, is incontrovertible. It holds true for roughly 99.99% of the legal abortions currently performed in the United States, which Romney, Ryan, and all but a small handful of GOP pols want to ban by any means that come to hand, from discouragement and harassment of providers right on up to the constitutional amendment the platform endorses and the appointment of Supreme Court Justices determined to abolish reproductive rights altogether.

You’d think in the course of spending all this time “Keeping Them Honest” by rooting around in the pine straw of this issue, Cooper might have looked for the trees if not the forest.

Anyway, here’s the video; you can judge for yourself if this is, as Frum suggests), a triumphal example of the potential power of cable TV journalism.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.