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MSNBC Interview - Transcript


Location: Unknown

MS. MITCHELL: Joining me now, Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz from Florida, also, of course, a key Obama supporter.

We've been watching Barack Obama in Columbus, Ohio. There was a controversy, Congresswoman, in Florida in Monday when a local sheriff warmed up the crowd at a Sarah Palin event.

Let's listen.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: (From video.) My opponent's campaign announced last week that they plan to -- I'm quoting them now -- "turn the page on the discussion of our economy," so they can spend the final weeks of this election attacking me instead. (Boos.)

Senator McCain's campaign actually said, and I quote, "If we keep talking about the economic crisis, we are going to lose." (Cheers.) So in the last couple of days, we've seen a barrage of nasty insinuations and attacks. I'm sure we'll see a lot more of that over the next 25 days. We know what's coming. We know what they're going to do.

But here's the thing, Ohio. They can try to turn the page on talking about the economy. They can try to deny the record of the last eight years. They can run misleading ads. They can pursue the politics of anything goes, but it's not going to work. Not this time. The American people don't intend to be hoodwinked this time. (Cheers, applause.) I think folks are looking for something different.

MS. MITCHELL: Congressman Wasserman Schultz, we want you to listen to a little bit more about -- of Barack Obama there in Columbus, but let me show you that sheriff, as we were discussing --


MS. MITCHELL: -- the sheriff in Florida the other day who was warming up the crowd at a Sarah Palin event.

SHERIFF MIKE SCOTT: (From video.) Ladies and gentlemen, there's three types of people in our country today: There's people that make things happen, there's people that watch things happen and there are people that wonder what happened. On November 4th -- on November 4th, let's leave Barack Hussein Obama wondering what happened. (Cheers, applause.)

MS. MITCHELL: You know, the campaign later said that that was a mistake and that they don't condone that, that it -- they felt that it was not the kind of rhetoric that they would condone, but it happened twice last week alone. Is there something else going on there and does it affect your voters, particularly in Florida?

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: There is definitely something else going on here, but the McCain campaign has telegraphed what's going on here. They need to turn the page, as Senator Obama just said in his remarks. They cannot leave the focus on the economy, because as their own campaign leadership said, if they do, they're going to lose.

So, you know, it's very nice that they send out statements of apology and said that they don't condone using, you know -- using his middle name in a gratuitous way, but what needs to happen is that Senator McCain needs to issue a memo to his surrogates and to his entire campaign staff instructing them to keep the focus on the issues. I doubt that will happen and it's really unfortunate, because Senator McCain has reached a point in the campaign where his campaign is spiraling downward and he doesn't have anything else except negative attacks and distracting the voters because they're wrong on the issues and Barack Obama and Joe Biden want to move this country in a new direction on the issues that matter to working families.

MS. MITCHELL: Yet some would say that neither side has been specific enough. We did get new economic proposals from both sides in the last 48 hours. But in the debate there was a lot of criticism that neither candidate really stood up and addressed the size, the scale of what's going on out there and of people's anxieties.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, Barack Obama issued a small- business rescue package today that will allow the restarting of small- business lending programs that have been sidelined by the Bush administration for a number of years because he recognizes that we need to provide assistance to small businesses. Our rescue package last week included assistance to homeowners who are struggling to stay in their homes. Barack Obama in the last two years has --

MS. MITCHELL: How about suspending his tax increase -- the tax increase on plus 250,000 (dollars), which will affect at least some percentage of small businesses. Should he rethink that now, given the scale, the size of this economic downturn?

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, we -- well, Andrea, as you know, Senator Obama's plan includes a tax cut for 95 percent of working families. The focus needs to be -- when we get to the -- to the next administration the focus of our economic reform needs to be on assisting working families, regular folks who are struggling to buy milk that is -- whose price is skyrocketing and put gas in their tanks so they can drive their kids around like I do in my district every day, or at least when I'm home. We need to -- we need to make sure that the working families have some assistance, because the wealthiest few in this country have had their president for the last eight years and they'll get another one if John McCain is elected.

MS. MITCHELL: Now, Florida is becoming a major focus, we understand, of get out the vote efforts for Barack Obama.


MS. MITCHELL: And one of those get out the vote efforts is comedian Sarah Silverman with her website "The Great Schlep," which is asking --

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: (Laughs.) It's The Great Schlep.

MS. MITCHELL: -- Jewish grandchildren to visit their grandparents in Florida and educate them about Obama. Let's take a listen to her pitch.

SARAH SILVERMAN: (From video.) If Barack Obama doesn't become the next president of the United States, I'm going to blame the Jews. I am. And I know you're saying, like, "Oh my God, Sarah, I can't believe you're saying this. Jews are the most liberal, scrappy, civil rights-y people there are." Yes, that's true. But you're forgetting a whole large group of Jews that are not that way. And they go by several aliases: Nana, Poppa, Zadie, Bubbie, plain old Grandma and Grandpa. These are the people who vote in Florida.

MS. MITCHELL: Okay, Congresswoman, what are the older Jewish voters in your district, in your state, saying about Barack Obama? What is this -- what is going on there with all of the suggestions, certainly, by the Republicans, that he's not right on Israel, that he's got Palestinian connections? Is this having an impact?

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, first of all, good for Sarah Silverman, because The Great Schlep is actually becoming a movement across the country where, you know, Jewish grandchildren are imploring their grandparents, the Bubbies and Zadies that I represent here in South Florida to make sure that they cast their vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden, because the young Jews in this -- in this country and now Jews across my community understand that Barack Obama and Joe Biden would be the best choice if we want to make sure that we preserve Israel's democracy in the Middle East and continue to have the United States stand side-by-side with Israel and have the United States be a catalyst for the peace process again.

What's happening with the McCain campaign and the Republicans is that they are trying to put a question mark over Barack Obama's head and leave doubt in the mind of Jews and it's just not working because what's going on is that the McCain campaign can only talk to the Jewish community about Israel because they're wrong on every issue that matters to Jews besides Israel. And you know, Jews, Andrea, want a candidate for president who supports all of our values, not just some of them. And that's what we have in the difference between John McCain and Barack Obama.

MS. MITCHELL: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, thank you very much for joining us.

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