Interview with DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Interview with DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz

By State of the Union - April 8, 2012

CROWLEY: I'm Candy Crowley, and this is STATE OF THE UNION. In an election expected to center on the economy, both parties got something to chew on this week, 120,000 new jobs were added to the economy in March, but that was way off the 200,000 expected. Unemployment dropped a tenth of a percent, but economists say that's because some people quit looking for work.

Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney called the report weak and very troubling. The president said there's a lot more work to do. Joining me now from Miami, Florida, is the chair of the Democratic National Committee, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Thank you, Congresswoman, for joining us on this holiday weekend. I want to start out...

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You're welcome.

CROWLEY: ... with the jobs report. You heard Mitt Romney describe it as weak. We've heard various economists describe the recovery as sluggish. How would you describe this latest jobs report?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, because we've now had 25 straight months of private sector job growth, more than 4 million jobs created, and where actually at this point in our recovery, we've created seven times more jobs than at the same point in the recovery in 2001, I'd say we're making slow but steady progress.

And like the president said, we have got a ways to go, we need to keep pushing. But what's really bothersome to me, Candy, is that it almost seems like my Republican colleagues in Congress and Mitt Romney are rooting for economic failure.

I mean, they've been hyper-focused on one job, Barack Obama's, for really the last two years. And we all need to be pulling together to focus on moving the economy forward for the middle class and for working families.

And Mitt Romney's plans, the Republican budget that they just put out in the House, they're focused on making sure that millionaires and billionaires can continue to do even better. And that's a pretty huge contrast.

CROWLEY: Let me -- you know, Republicans would disagree that they're rooting for a bad economy, and in fact they go out of their way to say, listen, we welcome any progress, but this isn't fast enough.

I want to read you something that Reince Priebus, your counterpart at the Republican National Committee, said on Friday. "Over three years ago, President Obama projected that the unemployment rate would be below 6 percent by now thanks to his stimulus. But the stimulus failed and unemployment has been far above that level ever since."

Is that legitimate criticism because in fact that is what the president's economic folks projected with the stimulus that was passed? WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Again, that's another example of where the Republicans just refuse to acknowledge that we've made -- that we've made progress. We have made significant progress, even in manufacturing...

CROWLEY: But it was your benchmark -- it was the president's benchmark. And is holding him to that fair?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: That's -- what Reince Priebus and other Republicans are saying is -- ignores the fact that the president inherited the worst economy since the Great Depression and had a need to focus on making sure that we moved as far as we could as fast we could. The Recovery Act, as much as Republicans can repeat over and over that it failed, it didn't fail. It created and saved more than 3 million jobs. And now...

CROWLEY: But it failed to do what was promised. Isn't that...

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: No. No, no, no, I...

CROWLEY: I'm just trying to see if you think that is a legitimate criticism?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: No, I don't think it's a legitimate criticism. In fact, it succeed in jump-starting this economy, which the purpose of infusing that $787 billion. I mean, we needed to give the economy is shock to the heart.

We needed to make sure that we didn't lose millions of teachers' jobs and first responders like firefighters and police officers. We needed to invest in our infrastructure because we have got crumbling roads and bridges, and people just jam-packed on roads teeming with traffic.

That's what the Recovery Act did. And it helped jump-start us to the point where we've had 25 straight months of job growth in the private sector. Remember, we were losing 750,000 jobs a month, Candy, when the president took office thanks to the failed policies of the past that he inherited from the Bush administration. So...

CROWLEY: Let me ask you...

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: ... we've made a good amount of progress. We just know we've got a long way to go.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you about gas prices now, over $4 a gallon on average. We all know that when gas prices go up, consumers spend less, and companies tend to hire fewer people simply because their overhead has gone up. Do you worry that these gas prices, should they stay here will inflict some damage on what I think you still admit is a fairly weak recovery?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, as a representative of my constituents, I worry anytime there is an impact on their wallet and on their bottom line. And obviously higher gas prices does that. But that's why I'm really glad to see President Obama focused on an all of the above energy strategy.

Because, you know, previously under the Bush administration, and what the Republicans now under Mitt Romney want to continue, is a "drill, baby, drill" strategy, which is not a strategy, it's a bumper sticker.

And it's also sticking our heads in the sand that we're going to be able to continue to rely on our dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels for eternity when we know that those are finite.

And so we've got to -- while we have the most domestic production that we've had, you know, ever, we also need to focus on investing in biofuels and alternative energy sources like wind and solar so for my children and my constituents' children, we can have an abundant source of energy that's renewable for years to come.

CROWLEY: Let me turn you to...

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: And in fact, gas prices over the long term.

CROWLEY: Let me turn you to one of the Democrats' favorite subject these days, and that is what they call the Republican war on women. Again, from the Republican National Committee, a spokesman there said: "It is downright pathetic they," meaning Democrats, "would use a term like war when there are millions of Americans who actually have engaged in a real war. To use a term like that borders on unpatriotic."

The "war on women," I understand that you disagree with a lot of the policies that have come out either at the state level or things that have been said on the floor, but do you think "war on women" actually helps the dialogue? Is it a little overstretched?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, I think we need to look at what Republicans are saying about the policies towards women themselves. So look at what Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska just said in her state the other day where she said, if Republicans don't think that our policies are an attack on women, they need it on go home and talk to their wives and daughters.

Because the policies that have come out of the Republican Party, saying that we should have to have a debate again over contraception and whether we should have access to it and it should be affordable, saying that like Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin, you know, he tried to quietly repeal the equal pay act. Women aren't going to stand for that.

Governor Walker just signed a bill that repeals the equal pay law that they had in Wisconsin for years. You have Republicans that have engaged themselves for the entire Congress on trying to redefine rape as only being forcible rape, defunding Planned Parenthood and family planning programs.

I mean, the Lilly Ledbetter Act -- the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which put teeth behind the notion that women deserve equal pay for equal work, that was the first bill that President Obama signed in to law. The overwhelming majority of Republicans serving in Congress voted against it.

So the focus of the Republican Party on turning back the clock for women really is something that's unacceptable and shows how callous and insensitive they are towards women's priorities.

CROWLEY: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who, of course, heads the Democratic National Committee, it's always too short of time. Please come back. 

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