Tonight, President Obama will accept the Democratic Party's nomination. But Democrats hit a snag on the floor yesterday. They amended their party platform, re-inserting language on "God" and Israel that was in the 2008 platform, but missing this year. They had to vote three times by voice, with many delegates yelling "no" with teach attempt.
This morning on "Starting Point," DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) explains to Soledad O’Brien what happened that led to a change in the party platform language.
“When President Obama realized that an important issue like Jerusalem, which he believes is and should remain the capital of Israel, when he realized that that omission was there, unlike Mitt Romney, who says that he opposes his party’s platform on human life, and that he wants an exception for rape, incest and the life of the mother, never insisted, never did anything about it, didn’t even try to change it, President Obama, when he realized there was this omission, said this platform should reflect my personal view and now it does,” she says.
O'Brien countered, saying it appears to be a pretty big issue to mess up on. "I mean of all the issues, of all of the things that you could have a mistake on, this particular one seems like a really big one to be like ‘Oh, technical issue.’ That’s why I think people are a little cynical about that,” O'Brien says.
Newsweek/Daily Beast columnist and CNN contributor David Frum jumps into the conversation, claiming that the explanation for the omission wasn't good enough.
"The reason what you’re saying is so non-credible is because we all know that President Obama does not feel strongly about Jerusalem. He walked back his APAC speech in 2008. In his Middle - big Middle East final status speech. He made a commitment on borders. He did not make a commitment on Jerusalem. We all know he doesn't feel stronger about it, that’s why this is explosive," he argues.
“I strongly - strongly object and disagree with you,” Wasserman Schultz responds. “President Obama as Defense Minister Ehud Barak has said has been a strong friend of Israel.”
See an extended clip of the interview segment in the video below. See the full transcript after the jump.
FULL TRANSCRIPT (rushed):
SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: Joining us this morning, Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, from Florida. She heads the Democratic National Committee. What happened? Explain that whole thing to me. That was a bit of a mess yesterday. The platform in 2008 had "God" and had Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. It was out in 2012. Why?
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, (D) FLORIDA: Well, here's what happened. On Tuesday, we adopted a 100 percent strongly pro-Israel platform that I was so proud to support. Does, Soledad, I’m the first Jewish woman to represent Israel in congress. I was proud of our platform already. It has stronger language than the Republican platform in supporting a nuclear free Iran. And the president said my personal view is that Jerusalem is and always will remain the capital of Israel. And that was the language we had in 2008. And he felt that the platform should reflect his personal view.
O’BRIEN: Why was it out? There was a change from 2008 to 2012 where the word "God" was missing and the capital of Jerusalem was missing.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Essentially with Jerusalem, it was a technical omission and nothing more than that. There was not any - through the drafting process and the platform committee process, there was never any discussion or debate or commentary over adding or subtracting it. President Obama, when he realized that the language was not in there and it wasn't there from the 2008 platform -
O’BRIEN: And that came after there was criticism of the platform. He didn't wake up one morning and doesn't it wasn't there.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Let's not make more of this than it is. There was not any discussion about the -
O’BRIEN: You mean on TV, right?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: No, no, no. I'm saying there wasn't any discussion beforehand or even since the commentary afterwards. This was President Obama's belief. See, the difference between our platform and the Republican platform is that president Obama knows that this is his platform. And he wants it to reflect his personal view. And Mitt Romney -
O’BRIEN: I hear you. I get it. We're not talking about the Republican platform for a moment.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: There's a big difference.
O’BRIEN: There is a big difference, but I want to focus on the Democratic platform. So when there was a sort of backlash about these words not being in it, the president then said, this is my vision and added it back in.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: No, you can't make the "if-then" statement. What I’m telling you is this was a technical omission. The adding of "Jerusalem" into the platform was making sure that the platform reflected more clarity on what was already a strongly pro-Israel platform.
O’BRIEN: But it was added back in because you were getting backlash about it.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: No, it was not. It was added back in because President Obama personally believes that Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel and felt that the platform needed to reflect his personal view as well as the language from the 2008 platform.
O’BRIEN: When you listened to that voice vote, part of the chaos was that - and when I spoke to the mayor, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, I said, you seemed surprised. And he said, no. But he seemed surprised that the ayes were as strong as the nos. It is.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I've been a legislator for 20 years now. And I can probably count on one hand the number of times that a unanimous vote was held. So, you know, we have 6,000 delegates. You know, for there to have -
O’BRIEN: It was half and half. It sounded almost three times very, very close. And then at the end, he said well, two-thirds majority.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Soledad, I’ll go back to the fact that Tuesday, we adopted a strongly pro-Israel platform that was even - had even stronger language on Israel than the Republican platform does. And then we added for the purposes of making sure President Obama's personal view on Jerusalem being the capital of Israel always and should remain. Now we have even more clarity in our platform.
O’BRIEN: But last night you said, and Anderson took you to task for this, he wasn't interviewing you but you were on the floor and you said there wasn't any discord. Clearly, there was discord. People were saying "no" and standing. We have video of people being angry.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Among 6,000 delegates, 6,000 delegates to have a small amount of objection in any essentially legislative process is sort of par for the course. And that's all that was.
O’BRIEN: You were there. Did it sound like a small amount of objection?
DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No. It was - it was - there was some discord there. I mean, it was kind of hard to tell what they were - what they were mad about, whether it was God or whether it was the Jerusalem thing. But we did see some delegates there (inaudible). My question is, yes, I think it’s - it’s fair to say that there was strong pro-Israel language in the platform.
But you know so well, maybe more than most, that the issue of Jerusalem being a capital is so politically sensitive. Was it just - how did it happen that that wasn’t in there, given the fact that it was such a big deal that it was added four years ago for the Obama campaign to have the olive branch to the Jewish community?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Like I said, our - our platform already reflected President Obama’s incredible record in support of Israel. Reflected that President Obama has always had Israel’s back and will continue, as well as the Democratic Party and he believed, because this was omitted, he believed that it needed to reflect his view on Jerusalem remaining the capital of Israel. And so for purposes of clarity, he felt that it was important to add it in.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Did you?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Did I -
YELLIN: Feel it was important to add it back in?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Absolutely, yes.
O’BRIEN: So David is shaking is kind of shaking his head, no, no, no.
DAVID FRUM, FORMER BUSH SPEECHWRITER: I wasn’t at the platform meeting. And it’s possible you’ve done your platform differently from every incumbent president in the history of modern platform writing. But the way it normally works is the President has somebody there. And on any issue the President cares about, the President indicates to the platform writers what the President would like to see.
And on foreign policy issues -
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Like the Republican platform with the - with the human life amendment and Mitt Romney?
FRUM: No. The Republicans don’t have a President right now.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Yes I agree, you’re right.
FRUM: The Republicans don’t have a President right now.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: A candidate or the President -
FRUM: But presidents have a lot of sway. And on foreign policy - because they have patronage powers. And Mitt Romney has much less control over his party than a President Romney would do.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Oh come on.
FRUM: But the President didn’t - ok. The question is did the President not have somebody there? And if the President felt so overwhelmingly passionately strongly about Jerusalem, notwithstanding the fact that he didn’t talk about it either in his big Middle East final status speech, if he felt, why didn’t he just indicate, people do me a favor, include the language I want? He had a bad representative there?
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD), MARYLAND: I’ve been listening to what Debbie has been saying and apparently you’re not listening. What she says is this is an election between Mitt Romney and President Obama. And we wanted to make sure that the platform reflected the President’s position on this issue.
FRUM: So they just forgot?
VAN HOLLEN: In your platform - but in your platform, you have Mitt Romney running away from your platform on some issues. So we wanted to make sure that the President was in sync with the platform and that’s why they made sure that his position was in there.
O'BRIEN: But it seems like an important issue to have a mess-up, right? I mean of all the issues, of all of the things that you could have a mistake on, this particular one seems like a really big one to be like, oh, it was a technical issue.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Let’s be clear. Let’s be clear.
O’BRIEN: I think that’s why people are a little - are little cynical about that.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Clarity here is important.
O’BRIEN: I agree.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: When - when President Obama realized that an important issue like Jerusalem, which he believes is and should remain the capital of Israel, when he realized that that omission was there, unlike Mitt Romney, who says that he opposes his party’s platform on human life and that he wants an exception for rape, incest, and the life of the mother, never insisted, never did anything about it, didn’t even try to change it. President Obama when he realized there was this omission said this platform should reflect my personal view.
FRUM: The reason what you’re saying is so non-credible is because we all know that President Obama does not feel strongly about Jerusalem. He walked back his APAC speech in 2008. In his Middle - big Middle East final status speech.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Excuse me.
FRUM: He made a commitment on borders. He did not make a commitment on Jerusalem. We all know he doesn’t feel stronger about it, that’s why this is explosive.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I strongly - strongly object and disagree with you. President Obama as Defense Minister Ehud Barak has said has been a strong friend of Israel.
FRUM: That’s true but that’s not what I was saying.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: In fact he could - well, no.
FRUM: We were talking about how does he feel about Jerusalem and we know.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: We have - we have - we have a president who strongly supports Israel and who strongly supports - so strongly that he realized when - when our platform did not include language that he personally feels strongly about, he insisted that we put it back in.
And let’s compare that to the previous administration, who also had a president that said Jerusalem is and should remain the capital of Israel, and that he would move the embassy and didn’t. I mean words matter. But deeds matter more. And President Obama has consistently had a record standing by Israel, having Israel’s back and making sure, unlike Mitt Romney, that he wants his platform to reflect his convictions. There’s a clear choice and a clear difference.
O’BRIEN: Words clearly matter, that’s why we’re having this debate about what happened on the floor.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: And now the words are in our platform because President Obama’s personal belief was that they should be there.
O’BRIEN: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz it’s nice to have you with us.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thank you.