CNN: Filibuster comments from Switzerland made Kerry -- but not Chambliss -- seem "elitist"


CNN's Ed Henry said that Sen. John Kerry's call for a filibuster of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr.'s nomination to the Supreme Court reinforced the "elitist" label given to Kerry by the GOP during the 2004 presidential campaign because he made the statement from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. However, when CNN later interviewed Sen. Saxby Chambliss about the potential filibuster, there were no "elitist" comments to be found, even though Chambliss was also commenting from Davos.

In reporting on Sen. John Kerry's (D-MA) call for a filibuster of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr.'s nomination to the Supreme Court, CNN anchor Miles O'Brien and CNN congressional correspondent Ed Henry asserted that by calling for the filibuster from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Kerry reinforced the "elitist" label given him by the GOP during the 2004 presidential campaign. However, when CNN later interviewed Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) about the potential filibuster, there were no "elitist" comments to be found, even though Chambliss was also commenting from Davos.

On the January 27 edition of CNN's American Morning, Henry reported:

HENRY: Republicans believe that round two in "Bush v. Kerry" is going to go to Bush again, in part because John Kerry has decided to launch this filibuster of Samuel Alito from, of all places -- Davos, Switzerland -- where Kerry was attending the World Economic Forum. I can tell you, even some senior Democrats up here on Capitol Hill are saying they think this is only going to fuel Republican charges that Kerry is an elitist, that he's basically launching this from overseas. But a Kerry aide fired back to CNN that the senator could care less what the chattering class is saying about this.

Later, O'Brien interviewed Los Angeles Times columnist Ronald Brownstein about the proposed filibuster and alleged that the Republican stereotype of Kerry's "elitist nature" was reinforced by calling for the Senate action from Davos. O'Brien then paraphrased a famous line from Shakespeare's Hamlet to deride the Democratic filibuster effort:

O'BRIEN: Joining us now is CNN political analyst, LA Times columnist Ron Brownstein. They [senators conducting filibusters] don't do that anymore, do they? They don't actually have to read anything --

BROWNSTEIN: No, they don't -- they don't have to stand there like Jimmy Stewart [in the film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Sony Pictures, 1939)].

O'BRIEN: Virtual filibusters. Maybe, they should make them do it again then that could change things. Let's say -- how likely is that? And what is John Kerry thinking getting on the phone from Davos, Switzerland? All that does is, you know -- every -- every stereotype, which the Republicans would like to put out there about John Kerry and his elitist nature, is reinforced by that.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, there are a couple of steps here. First, there's a lot of Democratic opposition to Samuel Alito. As we saw, a unanimous vote of the Judiciary Committee, much more than there was to [Chief Justice] John Roberts. But the big question, of course, is whether there is enough -- and there may well be more than 40 votes against him, for his confirmation, but are those opponents willing to filibuster? You know, Miles, remember your Shakespeare? In Henry IV, one character says, "I can summon spirits from the vasty deep," and another one says, "well" -- young Henry says, "well, so can I, and so can any man, the question is, will they come when you call them?" And it's really the same thing here. John Kerry can call for a filibuster from Davos, or the Senate floor, or anywhere else he wants. The question is: Does he have the 41 votes he needs? And the Democrats, by and large, think that's an uphill proposition.

O'BRIEN: Interesting. Shakespeare. I'm very impressed. Methinks --

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. A relevant quote, however.

O'BRIEN: Methinks the Democrats protesteth too much, here, perhaps. A little Shakespeare back at you, there.

Later on the January 27 edition of CNN Live Today, anchor Daryn Kagan interviewed Chambliss from the World Economic Forum about Kerry's filibuster proposal. But Kagan offered no commentary about Chambliss's location, except to note it, even though Chambliss was commenting on the filibuster from Switzerland.

From the January 27 Live Today:

KAGAN: Let's get back to some politics now. As we told you earlier, Senate Republicans hope to have Judge Samuel Alito confirmed to the Supreme Court in a vote next Tuesday, but Democratic Senator John Kerry is making a last-ditch effort to filibuster. Kerry is over in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Conference. Also attending that conference is Georgia Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss. Joins me live now from Davos. Senator, good afternoon to you, there, in Davos.

CHAMBLISS: Glad to be with you, Daryn. We don't get much of this in Atlanta. It's great to be here.

KAGAN: No, it's been a very mild winter here in Atlanta. Let me ask you about this political storm that's brewing a little bit. Any comment on Senator Kerry from there in Davos calling for a filibuster of the Alito vote?

CHAMBLISS: Well, I would be very much surprised if the Democrats do decide to filibuster Judge Alito. I understand Senator Kerry went home early this morning, as a matter of fact, went back to Washington to do whatever is going to be done relative to that. But, you know, I think we have the votes. We're scheduled, right now, to vote at 4:30 on Monday afternoon on the cloture, and then we'll vote, Tuesday morning, on the confirmation; and, you know, this man's qualified. I think the American people understand that, particularly after watching the hearings. So, hopefully, it will move forward very quickly.

KAGAN: And I take it you'll make it home in plenty of time for both of those votes.


The Washington Post reported on January 27 that Republicans "poked fun" at Kerry for announcing the filibuster from Switzerland:

"Continuing to threaten a filibuster, even after it is crystal clear that Democrats don't have the necessary votes to sustain their obstruction, is needless, strange and at odds with many of their fellow Democrats," Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said in a statement. Some Republicans poked fun at Kerry -- the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, who may make another White House bid -- for allowing others to announce the filibuster plan earlier in the day while he was attending an economic conference in Davos, Switzerland.

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