'What the Hell, People?' CNN's Dem Panel Blasts Debate Attacks on Obama

August 2nd, 2019 10:25 AM

The morning after the second Democratic debate the cast of CNN's New Day was joined by three former Democratic spokespeople and consultants to discuss the previous night’s proceedings and they were not happy with their candidates. Like their MSNBC counterparts, they blasted the candidates for going after former President Obama than current President Trump.

Former State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki criticized the candidates for condemning Obama rather than build on his legacy. She found it odd that Democrats focused so much of their fire on someone who "is at 95% approval rating among Democrats." Psaki lamented the "missed opportunity" of "the last two nights."



Co-host John Berman then turned Democratic strategist Paul Begala and declared that, "I get the sense there are some cranky Democratic debate watchers this morning." Begala agreed, "I'm one of them." Begala was visibly frustrated that, "my party attacked the Democratic President Barack Obama's policies more than they attacked Donald Trump's. Like, what the hell people?"  Begala declared that last night did nothing to help Democrats win in 2020, "when I step back after two days of this, do I feel it's more likely we beat Donald Trump? No, I don't, no I don’t" and accused  "almost all of them" of running to the "fringe." Begala and Psaki then listed some of what they consider to be Obama's achievements, before Begala again asked, "What the hell, people?"

Former Hillary Clinton campaign spokeswoman Karen Finney tried to be more measured than Begala, saying that Obama does have a "mixed record," but it was a mistake for Democrats to focus on him, "But I agree with Paul, though. Let's talk about the future."

Wednesday night must have been a bad night for Democrats if even the news media and Democratic commentators have no desire to spin for their party's debaters.

Here is a transcript for the August 1 show:

8:31 AM ET


CNN Newsroom

ALISYN CAMEROTA: I guess I'll start with you, Jen. Too much Obama talk for you last night? 

JEN PSAKI: Was there too much? 


PSAKI: There was too little I think. 

CAMEROTA: But too much negative talk about Obama policy. 

PSAKI: You know, I think what they miss an opportunity to do is  to build on Obama's legacy. I mean, every election is about moving forward and I don't think we saw enough of that from any candidate who was on the debate stage last night or in the last two nights, but Barack Obama is at 95% approval rating among Democrats and not just Democrats, independents love him, women in suburbs love him. He is still a beloved figure, and never mind his wife, we don’t have to talk about that, so that's a missed opportunity and I think if Barack Obama, when people did bring him up, they were criticizing him to your point. If that was the right strategy to make sure Donald Trump wasn't in the White House, he would be leading the charge to say “Attack me, I want one of you to be in the White House.” It's not. And hopefully they would have learned the lesson that they can build on, they can give a forward looking vision but they can also talk about the successes that they should move forward from. And I think that was a really missed opportunity the last two nights. 

JOHN BERMAN: I have to say and we've got on TV for 14 hours, a long time this morning, and we've talked to a lot of Democrats and I get the sense there are some cranky Democratic debate watchers this morning. 

PAUL BEGALA: I'm one of them. 


BEGALA: Well first, for the reason first up Jen pointed out, my party attacked the Democratic President Barack Obama's policies more than they attacked Donald Trump's. Like, what the hell people? I can do the commercial for Obama. I thought Cory Booker did a great job just now really defending and explaining why that legacy was great, but I don't feel like strategically when I step back after two days of this, do I feel it's more likely we beat Donald Trump? No, I don't, no I don’t, because I think many of them, almost all of them are chasing a fringe of the Democratic Party, not the center of the Democratic Party and last night they seemed to be running away from a successful two-term president who all he did was save Detroit, save the auto industry, helped save the whole American economy, expand health care more--

PSAKI: Cover pre-existing conditions which nobody talked about either-- 

BEGALA: More health care for more than 50 years, two outstanding women on the Supreme Court, the Paris climate accord. What the hell people? 

CAMEROTA: Um, Karen, what the hell? What's the answer to that? What were they doing? 

KAREN FINNEY: Well, first of all everyone’s  trying to get on the stage in September. Let’s take a step back, remember that these first two debates, a lot of this I think a lot of this was trying to get your punches in and I know it makes Paul cranky, I just like to tell him how it is anyway. But also, look, I love President Obama, but the truth is there is a mixed record. They did call him in the deporter-in-chief, whether or not you want to hear that on the debate stage or not and you know when it comes to a debate with Elizabeth Warren we’re going to hear we didn't go far enough on the banks. If you're going to talk about Obama, which I thought was proud of Joe Biden, he did talk about stimulus in Detroit and Michigan and saving the auto industry, which I thought was smart. And he did try to talk about the things we were able to do under President Obama and I was proud he took some credit where credit was due obviously, but I agree with Paul, though. Let's talk about the future. There were so many moments where I just felt like I just -- I'll tell you the person I felt the best, Michael Bennett who Paul and I were just talking about, a former school chancellor in Colorado. When he went from why are we talking about 50 years ago when schools are still segregated today and the direct line from slavery to red lining to what we see happening, and what are we doing about it now when we've got the most racist in the white house? That was probably the best answer and best example of what I think we've all been talking about which is it's got to be about beating Donald Trump.