CNN even noted it was an "election year" before giving Obama's Education Secretary a chance to share his "proudest" accomplishment from his time in office, no doubt bolstering the administration's re-election message.
Host Brooke Baldwin declined to ask any tough questions of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan during a lame Tuesday afternoon interview. Baldwin topped it all off with a soft parting question "on a more personal note." [Video below the break. Audio here.]
"I guess my final question, on a more personal note, Secretary Duncan, is we are in this election year. I want you to just think about this. Give me one achievement, within, obviously, your wheel house being education, that you feel, I don't know, proudest of from your three-plus years of office?" she teed up the secretary.
Duncan responded that there were "many things" he was proud of, but the singular accomplishment was getting $40 million for Pell Grants without costing taxpayers "a nickel."
A transcript of the segment, which aired on April 24 on Newsroom at 3:06 p.m. EDT, is as follows:
BROOKE BALDWIN: We showed you the President just last hour, President Obama, speaking in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on the issue of student loans. And as we told you, the current interest rate on the federally-backed student loans is scheduled to double. It's to double, actually, July 1, from the current rate of 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent unless Congress acts. Here is the President taking a dig at a Congressional Republican he doesn't name in the speech.
President BARACK OBAMA: He said she had very little tolerance for people who tell me they graduate with debt, because there's no reason for that.
I'm just quoting here. I'm just quoting. She said – she said students who rack up student loan debt are just sitting on their butts having opportunity dumped into your lap.
(End Video Clip)
BALDWIN: So, we are in an election year as you very well know, and the President's tweaking Republicans on an issue that is hugely important to millions of young voters. He needs their votes. But I want you to hear his likely opponent Mitt Romney speaking just yesterday.
MITT ROMNEY, Republican presidential candidate: I fully support the effort to extend the low interest rate on student loans. There was some concern that that would expire halfway through the year, and I support extending the temporary relief on interest rates for student –
(End Video Clip)
BALDWIN: So, Romney is with the President on this one, wants to prevent the rate on student loans from doubling come the first of July. And the office of House Speaker John Boehner says Boehner is trying to work something out as well. So got us thinking where exactly is the fight here. I want to bring in Arne Duncan, he is the President's Secretary of Education. He joins me live. Mr. Secretary, it's nice to have you back on the show.
ARNE DUNCAN, Ssecretary of Education: Hi, good afternoon, Brooke. Thanks for the opportunity.
BALDWIN: Thank you. I know a lot of – some folks are saying that there really is no fight here. The White House wants us to think there is one, simply because it's good for the President's election campaign. What do you say to that?
BALDWIN: Do you agree, though, that this really won't come down to a fight, and that some people are saying there really is no ruckus over this after all, that both sides are agreeing?
BALDWIN: Do you, as U.S. Education Secretary, feel comfortable being drawn into a political battle such as this one, especially as we point out, in an election year?
BALDWIN: Okay, so let's put politics aside. I guess my final question, on a more personal note, Secretary Duncan, is we are in this election year. I want you to just think about this. Give me one achievement, within, obviously, your wheel house being education, that you feel, I don't know, proudest of from your three-plus years of office? Just one achievement.
DUNCAN: Well there're many things we've worked extraordinarily hard on and I'm proud of.
BALDWIN: Give me one.
DUNCAN: At the top of that list. The top of that list would be getting an additional $40 billion for Pell grants, $40 billion for Pell grants, the biggest increase since the G.I. bill. We did that without going back to taxpayers for a nickel. We simply stopped subsidizing banks, didn't think they needed the money. Put all that money to the young people. That was very controversial here in Washington. Lots of folks fought that, we thought it was absolutely common sense. We got that done, and we have to keep fighting for that, because there are people in Congress today that want to scale back Pell grants, and I think anyone who thinks we need a less-educated workforce, we need folks to have less access to college – for me, as a country, that's cutting off our nose to spite our face.