CNN's O'Brien Gushes Over Raddatz, Defends Boorish VP Biden

On this morning’s edition of CNN’s Starting Point, host Soledad O’ Brien praised vice presidential debate moderator Martha Raddatz for her “commanding” performance last night.  A performance that demonstrated that she too is in the running for the Vice Presidency of the United States. It took O’Brien less than five minutes to compliment Raddatz’s “ perfect pitch,” despite Vice President Biden’s pervasive interrupting, which muddied the debate and prevented a clear and cogent dissemination of the Ryan’s views.  Furthermore, CNN correspondent Dana Bash trivialized the vice president petulance by saying that is “who he is.”

When O’Brien interviewed Rep. Chris Van Hollen, she also asked him how he thought Raddatz did in the debate.  He’s a Democrat from Maryland, Soledad – and he’s the ranking member on the House Budget Committee.  Of course, he’s going to say she did a good job.  Lastly, O’Brien failed to press Van Hollen over Biden’s patently false statements about Libya and his shameless defense of those remarks that defy fact.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: So much to talk about out of this debate. Martha Raddatz, I thought she was terrific.

DANA BASH: Absolutely. If there was a winner because it was a draw between the two candidates, Martha Raddatz. She was commanding. She followed up when she need to. She pressed them on specifics.

O'BRIEN: She also let them go a little bit and had some arguing.

BASH: Perfect pitch.

O'BRIEN: I completely agree with that. You know, if you went on Twitter, as I did, after and said that I thought it was a draw, people on both sides completely hammered me because there was a sense Joe Biden's people thought Joe Biden won. Paul Ryan's people thought Paul Ryan definitively won. Really, at the end of the day they're appealing to the middle.

BASH: There's so few undecideds at this point that that is a big reason, we're told, why Joe Biden did what he did, because the Democratic base was really deflated, demoralized, after the President didn't deliver from their perspective. That's why he was frankly in many ways over the top. In some ways that's who he is, but it's why he did what he did. If you talk about what happened in the spin room afterwards, that was the big debate -- was he disrespectful for Joe being Joe?


O'BRIEN: What do you think of the job Martha Raddatz did?

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: I think she did a very good job. She never made herself the center of the debate.

O'BRIEN: She started off very strong with Benghazi. Want to play a little bit about what the Vice President said about security in Benghazi.


BIDEN: Well, we weren't told we want more security. We did not know they wanted more security.


O'BRIEN: Explain that to me. A lot of the testimony was, in fact, the, the, the government did know, that the State Department was well aware that there were requests for security. Doesn't that completely contradict exactly what we just saw in I think it was Wednesday's testimony?

VAN HOLLEN: What the Vice President is saying is that he and the President didn't know. This information had been communicated, at least according to the hearings, to the diplomatic security folks at the state department, and some others. But it wasn't communicated to the President. What the Vice President said here was number one we're going to get all the facts. Let's not jump to conclusions. Let's not shoot from the lip as Mitt Romney did by making a statement right after some of the chaos broke out. It was sort of universally agreed was that the wrong thing to do. And we're going to make sure we hunt down and find the killers just like they did Osama bin Laden. So I think the Vice President was very strong and clear on that.

O'BRIEN: Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Democrat from Maryland, thank you for talking with us.

First, the Vice President lied on air last night.  According to Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy magazine:

In fact, two security officials who worked for the State Department in Libya at the time testified Thursday that they repeatedly requested more security and two State Department officials admitted they had denied those requests.'

All of us at post were in sync that we wanted these resources,' the top regional security officer in Libya over the summer, Eric Nordstrom, testified. "In those conversations, I was specifically told [by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Charlene Lamb] ‘You cannot request an SST extension.' I determined I was told that because there would be too much political cost. We went ahead and requested it anyway.'

Nordstrom was so critical of the State Department's reluctance to respond to his calls for more security that he said, 'For me, the Taliban is on the inside of the building.'

Second, Hollen has the audacity to say “let’s not shoot from the lip as Mitt Romney did?”   That’s funny since after the new developments about the terrorist attack broke.  It appeared it was Obama, not Romney, who shot first and asked questions later – a point of contention that was pressed by ABC News’ Jake Tapper.

Furthermore, with foreign affairs being a large part of the president’s job description, does anyone think that maybe President Obama skipping almost half of his intelligence briefings could have attributed to the lack of communication?  Furthermore, what president doesn’t communicate with their State Department?

O’Brien’s liberal apologist demeanor continued into her next segment with RedState’s Erick Erickson, where she didn’t see how Raddatz’s interrupting Paul Ryan, and only Paul Ryan, to move the debate along was irresponsible.   Furthermore, she thought Erickson had “lost his mind” when he tweeted that he thought Raddatz was an “atrocious” debate moderator.

O'BRIEN: I have to say, people who said they thought it was disrespectful. I didn't see disrespect in that. I do think, though, that you might be right about the parodying. One thing that his son, Beau Biden, said to me, clearly it's a Democratic talking point and Republicans on the other side as well, said listen if everybody who is a Republican is talking about the smiling, that is an indication he had a very strong debate, right, because if the big take away is that he smiled a lot, that's not so bad.

ERICKSON: No. No, you know what, they're going to say that. I realize it. But Joe Biden's mannerisms are -- if you listen to the panels, our panels on other networks last night, there were a lot of deep frustration, particularly among female undecided voters about Joe Biden's behavior last night. And I think Republicans want to reiterate that not because they want to distract from Paul Ryan's performance but because they want to highlight what Joe Biden did last night. A lot of people did view it as disrespectful.

I think it was Joe Biden being Joe Biden. He didn't swallow his foot but the line people are going to take away from this is that he really contradicted what we've learned so far on Libya, saying it was the intelligence community, but then said we could trust those same people on Iran. Seemed to be a big disconnect to me.

O'BRIEN: A big disconnect for others, on the other side of the aisle from you would be about Paul Ryan and taxes and trying to get some specifics about that. This is a conversation that's been going on for a long time, trying to pin him down to exactly what the tax plan would be. I'm going to run a little chunk for you on that.


REP. PAUL RYAN: What we're saying is deny those loopholes and deductions to higher income tax payers so that more of their income is taxed, which has a broader base of taxation.


RYAN: So we can lower tax rates across the board. Here is why I'm saying that.

BIDEN: I hope I'm getting time to respond to this.

RADDATZ: You'll get time.

RYAN: We want to work with Congress on how best to achieve this. That means successful.

BIDEN: No specifics again.

RYAN: Lower tax rates 20 percent, start with the wealthy, work with Congress to do it.

RADDATZ: You guarantee this math will add up?

RYAN: Absolutely.


O'BRIEN: I absolutely guarantee the math will add up. I don't have any specifics that I can give you. That's because it's going to be about growth. I think that's going to be a challenge for them. Don't you think?

ERICKSON: You know, honestly, at this point I don't know that it is. I did think it was interesting in how much Martha Raddatz pressured Paul Ryan on specific policies and specifics of his proposals, and she didn't do that so much with Joe Biden. It's striking that for all the lack of specifics she may be getting from the Romney campaign, you're not getting them any more from the Obama campaign for what they're going to do for the next four years.

O'BRIEN: You know, you tweeted that about Martha. You tweeted this. I'm sorry, but I think Martha did an atrocious job as a moderator, lost control of both sides repeatedly.

ERICKSON: I absolutely think she did.

O'BRIEN: I think you've lost your mind.

ERICKSON: I think you're a journalist and journalists are going to give her cover. I thought she was horrible.

O'BRIEN: I've never met her before today. She walked by. I said hi. In terms of information --

ERICKSON: Look, you've got to --

O'BRIEN: Let me just finish and I'll let you respond. Hang on a second.

ERICKSON: -- with Joe Biden and Paul Ryan.

O'BRIEN: Right. For me a moderator who let's them go at it each other a little bit so you can get the argument but then jumps in and moves it to the right direction that's very helpful as someone who was just watching. I got to watch it in the hall. Why do you disagree?

ERICKSON: Because I think she only interrupted to move the debate forward when Paul Ryan was speaking. She rarely did it with Joe Biden. She let Joe Biden do the interruption. Her wheel-house was foreign policy. Two-thirds of the debate was on foreign policy. And, you know, when you're debating foreign policy in a vice presidential debate, I guess that's all well and good but we have this unemployment number, jobs decline and I just think moderators shouldn't make the focus of the debate their wheel-house.

O'BRIEN: I'm going to disagree with you on that. I thought she did a terrific job, thought she was super strong. Did you think Jim Lehrer did a good job? We can disagree.

(MRC News Analysis Intern Ryan Robertson contributed to this post.)

2012 Presidential Debates CNN Starting Point Journalistic Issues Paul Ryan Erick Erickson Soledad O'Brien Chris Van Hollen Joe Biden

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