MSNBC’s Wagner Positively Gleeful Over Denial of FEMA Funds to West, Texas: 'These Are the Seeds' Rick Perry Sowed

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced Wednesday it would not provide additional funds to help the town of West, Texas rebuild after a fertilizer plant explosion killed 15 and injured 160. MSNBC’s Alex Wagner seemed positively gleeful over the news.

The daytime host treated the development as a political defeat for Texas Governor Rick Perry (R), implying on Thursday’s Now that the tragedy – and FEMA’s denial of funding – were “the seeds” the governor sowed for his opposition to excessive federal spending and regulation. Wagner introduced Perry’s plea for federal funds by pairing it with a sound bite of the conservative governor’s opposition to excessive spending:

GOVERNOR RICK PERRY: I think we're going through those difficult economic times for a purpose, and that – to bring us back to those biblical principles of don't spend all the money. Not asking for pharaoh to give everything to everybody and to take care of folks. Because at the end of the day, it's slavery. And we become slaves to government.

The left-wing host blasted Perry’s “utter hypocrisy” for “denying the expansion of Medicaid to the poor and needy of his own state,” her rhetoric and tone suggesting the state deserved to have its request for funds denied. The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein joined in to bash the Texas governor, huffing:

Well, it seems like in Texas, the two things you want to spend federal money on are rebuilding towns that are hit by disasters and border security. Everything else you don't want to spend federal money on.

For their part, Random House executive editor John Meacham and former RNC chairman Michael Steele came to Perry’s defense, with Steele correctly asserting the president stood “in front of the cameras” and promised support for West. But the liberal tag team of Wagner and Stein were having none of it. Stein retorted:

And I hope that you’re there when Governor Perry runs in 2016, and he starts talking about the problem of federal spending – I hope you come on the show and say, did the governor want FEMA to take money? Yes, he did. To give him money.

And Wagner couldn’t resist a parting shot at Perry, closing out her ridiculous segment with this smear, devoid of any connection to the original story:

Rick Perry is full of questionable, puzzling behavior and statements. I am sure this will not be the last one.

I guess Wagner, like other hosts on the Lean Forward network, is perfectly fine with using tragedies to bash Republicans at every turn.                            

See the relevant transcript below:


MSNBC
Now with Alex Wagner
06/13/13
12:49 p.m. Eastern

ALEX WAGNER: Yesterday, FEMA – the agency responsible for providing and coordinating emergency response to disaster – refused to provide additional money to help rebuild the town of West, Texas. In April, a fertilizer plant in West exploded, killing 15 and injuring over 160. Since the explosion, FEMA has pledged millions in aid and loans to individuals, and additional assistance to cover the cost of debris removal. What FEMA will not do is grant millions of dollars in aid to the town of West for rebuilding. In a letter, the agency said it reviewed the state’s appeal to help, but decided “[The explosion] is not of the severity and magnitude that warrants a major disaster declaration.” FEMA decided instead the county and state could for pay for the damage, a price tag of about $57 million, according to Mayor Tommy Muska. At a memorial in Texas after the explosion, President Obama pledged the support of the federal government.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: We'll be there even after the cameras leave. And after the attention turns elsewhere. Your country will remain ever ready to help you recover and rebuild and reclaim your community.

WAGNER: In a statement Monday, Governor Rick Perry said “We anticipate the president will hold true to his word and help us work with FEMA to ensure much needed assistance reaches the community of West.” As a reminder, this is a plea for federal aid coming from a man who said this back in 2011.

GOVERNOR RICK PERRY: I think we're going through those difficult economic times for a purpose, and that – to bring us back to those biblical principles of don't spend all the money. Not asking for pharaoh to give everything to everybody and to take care of folks. Because at the end of the day, it's slavery. And we become slaves to government.

WAGNER: Slaves to government, Sam [Stein]. Also, I did not know that there was written in the Bible don't spend all the money.

SAM STEIN [sarcastically]: Oh, it’s there. Deuteronomy.

WAGNER [laughing]: Yeah.

MAGGIE HABERMAN [laughing]: And in that language.

WAGNER: Before we get to the question of whether or not FEMA should be supporting the rebuilding of the city, we must look at the utter hypocrisy of Rick Perry here – who is also denying the expansion of Medicaid to the poor and needy of his own state, and sort of, at the same time, chastising the federal government for not coming to the assistance to those devastated by the fertilizer plant explosion.

STEIN: Well, it seems like in Texas, the two things you want to spend federal money on are rebuilding towns that are hit by disasters and border security. Everything else you don't want to spend federal money on. And obviously, it’s hypocritical of Governor Perry to ask for this money when he’s talking about different federal agencies he wants to abolish. That said, how do we define a disaster in this country? What is a disaster? Is it when a plant explodes and it kills all these people and destroys a town? Is it when a hurricane goes through a town and destroys a town? I think – I would like to know what the actual delineations are for a disaster. I do think there is a role for the federal government to play, in helping this town get back on its feet.

WAGNER: But let's also be clear, John [Meacham], this fertilizer plant was situated and ringed by schools, places of business, retirement homes. That is not zoning that should have been done, and there is anti-regulatory zeal that is actually a selling point for Texas if you're Governor Rick Perry. These are the seeds – you sow the seeds and this is what happens. To some degree, this could have been mitigated if you had not put schools and places of business next to a fertilizer plant.

JOHN MEACHAM: I suspect all that is true. It’s also true that the president of the United States said what he said. And you’re talking about $57 million. I hate to say this, but in the federal government, you know, that's not a huge amount of money. It is a huge amount of money for a state and a county. The president makes a pledge like that, I don't think – I think the spirit of that was we'll be there when the cameras are gone and, whether you approve of what the governor of Texas says or not, the president made a pledge.

STEIN: Question is, though, let’s say the explosion was half that size. Does that rise to the –

HABERMAN: But presumably there are guidelines for this.

WAGNER: There are.

MEACHAM: I’m quoting the president.

MICHAEL STEELE: The bottom line is the president, at that moment, said what he said. Honor the pledge. Write the check. Move on. Then you can deal with the discussion about the guidelines and what – to Sam's point – constitutes a disaster that FEMA or any other federal agency would write a check for in the future. But right now, this moment, irrespective of what Rick Perry said in the past or recently, the president has of put his imprimatur on this disaster. And that’s what has got to be honored.

WAGNER: Let me just speak to that. Because according to the Associated Press, this is not unusual for FEMA to turn down this kind of assistance. A northern California gas pipe exploded. Eight people died, which is half the number. They were rejected for funding. FEMA is providing funds and loans to people affected by this. They are providing funds to remove debris. They are not providing funds to rebuild the town of [West,] Texas.

STEELE: But question: did the president go to those disasters and stand in front of the cameras with the American flag draped behind him and say that when the cameras go out, we will be here for you? If he did not, then FEMA is well within its guidelines to turn down. If he did, then you've got to honor the pledge.

HABERMAN: You are totally right, but you also will also remember this happens in so many disasters, including in this state after 9/11. It’s not like there was not years of debate over exactly what FEMA would cover and what it wouldn’t.

STEIN: And I hope that you’re there when Governor Perry runs in 2016, and he starts talking about the problem of federal spending – I hope you come on the show and say, did the governor want FEMA to take money? Yes, he did. To give him money.

STEELE: Absolutely.

WAGNER: Yes.

STEELE: I would say that. Because I know when I was lieutenant governor of Maryland. We had to deal with a hurricane that ripped through Maryland, and we recognized the relationship, the partnership of the federal government to help us get our citizens back on their feet. So any governor of the state –

WAGNER: Should! Theoretically.

STEELE: Our own Chris Christie, who made it very clear – look, I'm here to take care of my people. I'm not getting into this political squabble of whether or not a Democrat writes check or a Republican writes the check. I want the check written.

WAGNER: Rick Perry is full of questionable, puzzling behavior and statements. I am sure this will not be the last one.