Interview with DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Interview with DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz

By The Situation Room - January 26, 2012

BLITZER: We're here on the campus of the University of North Florida in Jacksonville where less than three hours from now I'll be moderating the last Republican presidential debate before Florida's critical primary on Tuesday. The candidates won't only be swinging hard at each other, you can certainly be assured they will be swinging at President Obama.

Let's discuss what's going on with the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, the congresswoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. She is joining us from Florida. We're North Florida --


BLITZER: You're from South Florida. A little bit different, but a lovely campus here. People are very friendly.

SCHULTZ: It is. My niece went to University of North Florida.

BLITZER: Oh, so you know this campus?

SCHULTZ: Go ospreys!

BLITZER: All right --


BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about what some of the Republican candidates are saying about the man you want to see re- elected, the president of the United States. Mitt Romney reacting to the president's "State of the Union" address. I know you were there Tuesday. Listen to this.


MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He said he was the candidate of change, but you still have 25 million people out of work. You still have almost 10 percent unemployment here in Florida. You still have home values down and continuing to go down. You still have record number of foreclosures in Florida.


BLITZER: A huge percentage of all of the foreclosures in the United States right here in Florida. And he's appealing to folks who are upset and nervous and concerned.

SCHULTZ: Mitt Romney has a lot of nerve talking about foreclosures when he said a few months ago that we should do nothing to help people stay in their homes and let the foreclosure crisis hit bottom, and have investors come in and scoop up the properties and turn them around to make a profit. He's proposed absolutely nothing in his entire economic plan to do anything on housing.

President Obama has been in there swinging, fighting for the middle class, has proposed in his State of the Union to make sure that we could actually push the banks to ensure that we could work out those mortgages and help people stay in their homes. Mitt Romney continues to have a lot of nerve saying one thing and living by another set of rules.

BLITZER: But what he said is mild compared to what Newt Gingrich, the other presidential front-runner, said today here in Florida out there on the campaign trail. I'll play this clip.


NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you're for paychecks, you're with us. If you're for food stamps, you're with Barack Obama.

If you are for American exceptionalism, you're us. If you're for European socialism and Saul Alinsky radicalism, you're with Barack Obama.

If you are in fact in favor of a strong America in a dangerous world, you're with us. If you're for a weak America that tries to appease its enemies, you're with Obama.


BLITZER: A weak America? That's what the president of the United States wants, one that appeases a U.S. enemy? You heard what he said.

SCHULTZ: Wow. Well, what Newt Gingrich continues to say is just one more example of just how extreme the Republicans field is. I mean, President Obama has taken us from an economy that was bleeding 750,000 jobs a month when he took office thanks to the failed Republican policies of the past. Now, after three years, we've had 22 straight months of private sector job growth.

He has focused on making sure that we can get our economy turned around, and an economy that's built to last, that will work for the middle class and working families, while folks like Newt Gingrich have insisted that we should return to the days when tax policy helped only millionaires and billionaires, and to heck with people who are already --

BLITZER: Well, he said appeasing America's enemies. So that's the -- you remember the appeasement of Neville Chamberlain and all of that in the days leading up to World War II.

SCHULTZ: Yes. Just ask Osama bin Laden whether or not they think President Obama is appeasing America's enemies. President Obama has gone after terrorists with a vengeance and actually killed or brought to justice more terrorists in his term than in all of President Bush's time in office since 9/11 combined.

BLITZER: Whoever the Republican nominee is, there will be three presidential debates in the fall against the president of the United States. So listen to what Gingrich said today. Listen to this.


GINGRICH: I don't believe it is very likely that Governor Romney could last in a debate with Barack Obama, and I think we ought to be honest about this. We need a solid conservative who can stand there and look straight in the eye of the president and say, "Mr. President, you are wrong and your policies have failed."


BLITZER: Who's the better debater -- who would you be more -- you're the chair of the DNC of the Democratic Party. Who are you more fearful of in a debate against President Obama? Would it be Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich?

SCHULTZ: I'm confident that President Obama, no matter which one of the candidates he's up against, is going to be able to lay out his vision and draw the dramatic contrast that exists between anyone they nominate. And his vision, to make sure that we can continue to move this country in a direction that ensures that everyone, Wolf, in America has an opportunity to be successful. Not just millionaires and billionaire billionaires, that everyone has an opportunity to see an economy that's built to last, unlike the Republicans, who want to drag us back to the place where we were at the precipice of economic disaster, unlike Mitt Romney, who now we come to find has totally opaque financial reporting, didn't even report a Swiss bank account and other offshore accounts.

BLITZER: He's going to correct that. SCHULTZ: Well, good for him, but I filed financial disclosures for 19 years as an elected official here in Florida. I would never have assumed it was OK to leave a Swiss bank account off of my financial disclosure.

BLITZER: But it was a blind trust, if you will.

SCHULTZ: What is he trying to hide? There is a reason that that was left off. There is a reason he won't release the returns from when he was CEO of Bain Capital.

He's building his entire candidacy around his record as the CEO of Bain. We deserve to see his tax returns from when he was CEO, because he needs to come clean about his record. That's what he's holding up is his record and his predicate for his candidacy. We need to see what his fiscal choices were when he was CEO.

BLITZER: You know, we're only a couple hours away from the debate. I'm going to be moderating the debate.

What do you want to see? What are you going to be looking for?

SCHULTZ: Well, I think we'll see more extremism, more adhering to the values and strictures of the Tea Party, that they've been busy trying to out-right-wing each other. And so I don't expect much more than that.

It would be nice if we actually heard what they would do to for the middle class and working families. It would be nice if they didn't try to appeal to the base instincts of the right wing. And it would really be nice, as someone who represents a significant Hispanic population, that they would not try to really give such awful rhetoric when it comes to the immigrant community in this country.

BLITZER: The Hispanic Leadership Network in Miami, some members are going to be able to ask some questions as well.

SCHULTZ: Good, I'm glad to see that. Hold their feet to the fire.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much.

SCHULTZ: Thanks.

BLITZER: Debbie Wasserman Schultz is the chair of the DNC, the United States congresswoman from Florida.

I believe Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale, around that area?

SCHULTZ: All of it, yes. Absolutely.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. 

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