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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

How 'Weinergate' knocked Democrats and Debbie Wasserman Schultz off message

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is just as busy on TV this week, defending the president on Israel, the economy, and lashing out at Mitt Romney and the Republican plan to overhaul Medicare. She does it with ferocity, and a smile.

But the DNC chair from South Florida is also having to deal with Weinergate, a bizarre Twitter-controversy that has become a distraction for Democrats who have been feeling a boost lately. (interview dealt with other subjects ... see transcript in the jump)

WOLF BLITZER:  let's talk about romney. he really went after the president. he ignored his republican opponents for the nomination. he took direct hits at the president of the united states. calling him a failed president, if you will. how worried are you about romney as the potential republican no, ma'am me?

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  well, wolf, mitt romney has a puzzling definition of failure. looking at the president's -- president's record, he is taking our economy from -- being literally about being thrown off a cliff and turn things around. fast forward 2 1/2 years after he took the reins of this country. we have added just last month 286,000 jobs to the private sector. you have steady 14 months straight of job growth in the private sector and you have an economy that is -- is really beginning to pick up the pace. so if that's been romney's definition of failure, it is a puzzling one. if he wants to see failure he should look at his own record as governor. when his state was 47th out of 50 in job creation, and -- in coming out of the recession, he was in in 2001 as governor, he was one of only six states as governor that never recovered all of their jobs. so -- he would know something about failure.

BLITZER:  he made a strong point today going out of his way in his speech to go after the president on the president's position towards israel. you are a strong supporter of israel. he said the president of the united states is treating the israelis like the europeans treat the israelis. abandoning israel during a critical time. i know you are concerned about this. what do you say?

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: actually, i strongly support president obama's position on making sure that we can preserve israel and as a jewish democratic state. it is absolutely essential we con to push hard to make sure their hamas, which is a terrorist organization, as the president publicly put the -- labeled them, that they -- aren't -- israelis aren't expected to negotiate with a terrorist negotiation and make sure that -- as few countries as possible recognize a unilateral declaration when that happens, which is likely to happen, at the u.n. in the fall, we have to make sure that we can continue to help the peace process or -- get restarted and the only way that's going to happen is if we make progress. the president indicated that the negotiations when they do restart should begin at the '67 lines. by definition it means that they would not be the '67 borders. those are indefensible and president made that clear. we need to stop playing politics with our support for its real and need to come together as democrats and republicans always have and stand strongly behind israel.

BLITZER:  let's talk about your colleague, anthony weiner. i noticed on the house floor, you had an animated conversation with him today. what were you talking to him about?

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: i was actually talking to him about the votes we were -- we were casting at the moment. you know, what anthony weiner is dealing with right now is a personal matter. that's where it should be left.

BLITZER:  listen to what steny hoyer said today. he gave him some advice, number two democrat in the house. i will play the clip.

VIDEO CLIP: we had a discussion. i told him that he needed to handle this and needed to give the facts to the public.

reporter: has he done that to your satisfaction?

frankly, i have not been following it. i don't know whether he has done that.

BLITZER:  do you agree with steny hoyer?

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: i think this is a personal matter and that's how it should be left.

BLITZER:  eric cantor, the republican, majority leader in the house of representatives, he says that anthony weiner has a lot more explaining to do, if you will.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: anthony weiner is dealing with a personal matter and should be left as a personal matter.

BLITZER:  do you believe someone did hack into his account and -- send out that picture as he says.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: i think anthony weiner is dealing with a personal matter and that is where it should be left.

BLITZER:  there are some that say there -- he is a member of congress and should be a formal investigation. as the leader of the democratic party is this becoming a distraction this just something that you think will blow over?

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: i think it is important that we focus on job creation and we focus on continuing to turn the economy around and as the leader of the democratic party, i think it is very clear republicans -- particularly those that are running the house of representatives haven't done a single thing to focus on job creation and not brought a single bill to the house floor in the six months they have been in charge and that's what we should be focusing on.

BLITZER:  let me ask you about your good friend, congresswoman gabrielle giffords. how is she doing? all of us are deeply concerned, as you know.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: she is doing well. she came through the surgery last week very well. she's continuing to make progress. her birthday is next week. i know she and her family are looking forward to that. she continues to make remarkable progress. i know she is very happy mark is back i'm happy he's back and happy she is making remarkable progress. i'm happy. i know she is happy. she has a good friend like you as well.

BLITZER:  thank you.

[Last modified: Thursday, June 2, 2011 9:01pm]


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