CBS's Smith Spends 'Quality Time' With Joe Biden; Helps Sell Stimulus 'Success'

On Wednesday's CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith teased an interview with the Vice President: "We got a great chance yesterday to spend some quality time with Vice President Joe Biden. He's got a lot to say on a lot of different topics." During the interview, Smith shilled for the failed stimulus package: "The Vice President says the stimulus created or saved 2 million jobs. Many of them green."

At the top of the show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez announced: "Today is the first anniversary of the economic stimulus package." Smith treated it like a celebration, joking: "Where's the stimulus package cake?" Rodriguez replied: "There should be." Smith began the segment with Biden by citing a Pew Research poll showing only 24% Americans actually think the stimulus plan has improved the economy, but rather that challenge the VP on its failure, he simply asked if taxpayers "got their bang from the buck from the stimulus." That allowed Biden to argue: "Absolutely. But I don't think they realize it....The job creating portions are really loaded at the second half here....they have gotten their money's worth."

Traveling with Biden in Saginaw, Michigan on Tuesday, Smith touted one employer who was helped by the stimulus: "At Fuzzy's Diner, a local businessman, Paul Furlo, told us government-backed loans helped him expand and add hundreds of new employees." No critics of the stimulus were featured in the segment.

On Tuesday's Early Show, retiring Democratic Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, argued that no jobs had been created by the government. After Rodriguez asked about the Senator's future plans, Bayh in part declared: "If I could create one job in the private sector by helping to grow a business, that would be one more than Congress has created in the last 6 months." Smith did not bring up that quote in his interview with Biden.

Smith did however move on to political strategy: "Your critics would say the administration made a maybe even fatal miscalculation in the beginning to spend so much time and energy on health care when in fact it really was the economy." Biden replied: "Harry, we had to try to walk and chew gum at the same time."

In a follow up, Smith wondered: "Unemployment hovering around 10. The real unemployment number is probably closer to between 15% and 20%. People don't think you or a lot of other folks in Washington get it. Does the Obama administration get it?" Biden blamed Washington gridlock caused by Republicans: "We get it. We understand why they're angry....It reflects the reality that Washington right now is broken. I don't ever recall a time in my career where to get anything done you needed a super majority, 60 out of 100 senators."

Smith helped emphasize that point as he referenced some earlier bonding between himself and the Vice President: "You said to me at lunch, you said you've never seen it this dysfunctional." Biden lamented: "I've never seen it this dysfunctional. I'm trying to get the other team to cooperate to get in the game here a little bit."

After apparently being finished with the 'tough' questions, Smith gauged the VP's mood: " Are you optimistic or pessimistic?" Biden replied: "It's - you know, optimism is an occupational requirement. And I - but I actually am optimistic." Smith smiled and remarked: "That's an old Joe Bidenism."

After the taped interview, Rodriguez asked Smith about the effectiveness of the stimulus: "Did you see any evidence, at least in that town in Michigan, that the stimulus is working?" Smith again cited that one man from Saginaw: "...this guy Furlo....has built a 30,000-foot building, hires hundreds of new employees and it is an example - at least you know, from the - what we were shown - of the stimulus working." Rodriguez concluded: "We need more examples like that."

Later in the 8:00AM ET hour Smith played another brief clip of his interview with Biden, focused on the current Vice President's war of words with former Vice President Dick Cheney, who Smith declared: "has for months blasted the Obama administration's approach to fighting terrorism."

Smith asked Biden if he "liked" Cheney, to which Biden replied: "I do like him. I honestly do....he's a really smart guy. He is - he's really patriotic - I just think he's wrong." Smith followed up: "Do you think his criticism is based in his patriotism or in his politics?" Biden claimed: "Look, I never question another man's motive," but then went after Cheney: "I mean it's almost like he forgot he left us a $1.3 trillion debt. There were two wars going on. One that was ignored. One that wasn't going all that well."

Smith added that: "most of his [Cheney's] criticism has been based on the issue of terrorism. He basically says 'we don't feel like you guys are taking it seriously.'" Biden claimed: "Well look, we have made more progress in dismantling the hierarchy of Al Qaeda central and evidence of that is now they're going to lone bombers as the means to get there." The Vice President then made a bizarre distinction: "Am I less worried about an attack? No. I'm worried. Am I less worried about a catastrophic event? Yes." Wouldn't a successful terrorist attack be a "catastrophic event"? Smith didn't think to ask.

After the conclusion of that portion of the interview, Rodriguez observed that Biden and Cheney "just respectfully agree to disagree in so many ways." Smith commented: "I don't know how respectfully." Rodriguez agreed: "You're right, you're right."

-Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center.