The mainstream media has largely deflected criticism from the President on a number of recent crises, but CNN’s Carol Costello hit Obama for his frequent fundraisers in a discussion about his ability to prioritize the immigration crisis, Ukraine, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Leading off the segment on the July 22 edition of CNN Newsroom, Costello questioned the White House’s logic that they can “walk and chew gum” at the same time: “But let's face it, he's got five, count them, five fundraisers in the next two days on the west coast. Wouldn't you agree at the very least this is an example of bad optics?” [MP3 audio here; video below]
Democratic strategist Donna Brazile defended the President, as expected, claiming that Obama has taken action on immigration, Russia and Gaza. She argued, “I think the President in the White House is showing leadership and they are in touch with reality.”
Costello seemed to backtrack for a minute, asking Republican strategist Kevin Madden if the President’s cancellation of an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel was a sign that “he’s aware of how this looks.” Madden disagreed, and suggested that it is not just Republicans who have directed criticism at the President, but those on the left as well: “If you remember when the President skipped going down to the border, some of the most vocal criticism came from within his own party. It came from border state Democrats who believe that the President had to prioritize the nation's response to that chaos. And that he didn't.”
Costello brought the discussion back to the humanitarian crisis at the border, still seeming to doubt Obama’s handling of the issue. She made the case that “Rick Perry is sending the National Guard to the border. And while the National Guard has no power to arrest anyone, at least it seems like Rick Perry is doing something. Rick Perry is looking better than the President in some people's eyes.”
Costello’s criticisms of the President are few and far between, but she deserves credit for questioning the wisdom of those who claim the White House is on top of the immigration crisis.
The relevant portion of the transcript is below.
July 22, 2014
9:39 a.m. Eastern
CAROL COSTELLO, host: Donna, first to you, during the debt ceiling standoff, the White House dismissed criticism of the President's fund-raiser saying he could, quote, walk and chew gum at the same time. But let's face it, he's got five, count them, five fund-raisers in the next two days on the west coast. Wouldn't you agree at the very least this is an example of bad optics?
DONNA BRAZILE: Carol, I don't subscribe to the notion that the President has to be inside the White House in order to give orders or direction when facing and confronting all of these crises. I am sure that the Republicans would like nothing more than us to just spend all of our time criticizing and critiquing the President. Likewise, I'm sure that when George Bush was in the White House, that is what you expected to hear from many of us in the Democratic Party, but I do believe that these are all serious crises and they require responses. And what the President is doing is showing leadership and sanction – sanctioning in Russia, hopefully the Europeans will follow us today. On immigration, giving Congress a bill that would hopefully alleviate the congestion and the problems that we face with the humanitarian crisis. And in Gaza, there's no question, Secretary Kerry is there, so in all of the situations, the President is in touch. Not out of touch. The question is, who is in touch with reality these days? And I think the President in the White House is showing leadership and they are in touch with reality.
COSTELLO: But wait a minute, Kevin, the President did cancel an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel, doesn’t that mean he is at least aware of how this looks?
KEVIN MADDEN, Republican strategist: Well look, I think so many Americans right now, they tune in their TV and they see chaos in Gaza in the Middle East, they see chaos over in Ukraine, and they don't look to this President as much as they look to the presidency. And I think right now the problem is that so many people are looking to the President and they are not seeing him prioritize these very difficult challenges around the globe. And remember, this is not partisan criticism. If you remember when the President skipped going down to the border, some of the most vocal criticism came from within his own party. It came from border state Democrats who believe that the President had to prioritize the nation's response to that chaos. And that he didn't. So I think that is one of the key things to look at as we judge whether or not this is going to impact his agenda going forward.
COSTELLO: So Newt, back to the issue of statesmenship and backdoor agreements, if we can't put our differences aside over civilian aircraft being shot down, I would say statesmanship is officially dead, would you agree?
NEWT GINGRICH, co-host of Crossfire: I would say it's gone to sleep, it’s not dead. Look, the big thing about Obama isn’t what he’s doing. He'll have had nine partisan fund-raisers in about a two-week period. The big thing is what he isn’t doing. There are no meeting with the House and senate Democrats or Republicans. There's no backdoor to have statesmanship in. There’s no outreach to create statesmanship. I think that even on the Iranian issue, which is a huge issue involving nuclear weapons, that's been totally smothered by the other crises. Apparently even the Democrats aren't getting briefed and Senator Feinstein, the Democratic chair of the Senate Intelligence committee said she's been virtually refused access to these kind of conversations. So you can't have backdoor statemanship if there's no back door. And you can't have bipartisanship if you are doing nine partisan fund-raisers in about a two and a half week period.
COSTELLO: Donna, let me put it this way, let’s go back to the border crisis for a second.
BRAZILE: And I'm happy with all the selected amnesia that the Republicans are showing at this point.
COSTELLO: Let me finish this. Rick Perry is sending the National Guard to the border. And while the National Guard has no power to arrest anyone, at least it seems like Rick Perry is doing something. Rick Perry is looking better than the President in some people's eyes.