MSNBC Panel: Republicans are Like 'Terrorists,' 'Threatening to Bomb the Stadium'

Former Governor Ed Rendell (D-Pa.) drifted a bit too far off MSNBC’s pro-Obama message on Thursday’s Now with Alex Wagner, receiving a strong left-wing rebuke after suggesting that President Obama should be willing to compromise with Republicans on upcoming budgetary battles.

MSNBC contributor Joy Reid likened Republicans to terrorists, claiming that the president’s situation is like “when somebody is threatening to bomb the stadium.” Reid rejected Rendell’s call for bipartisanship, instead pushing her offensive analogy even further:

You don't go out and make a speech about how you're willing to dismantle the stadium in order to appease them.

In fairness to Reid, she wasn’t the first panelist to employ the terrorist motif. She wasn’t even the second. Host Alex Wagner dropped the term first, likening the GOP’s strategy to a team that is “losing the game,” and therefore “bomb[s] the stadium.” And Obama enthusiast Jonathan Alter, a columnist for Bloomberg View, asserted that working with Republicans is “like negotiating with terrorists.”

Wagner also called Republicans “hostage-takers,” simply buttressing Alter’s attacks on the GOP. Alter doubled down later in the segment, demanding that President Obama “play the game differently” with the opposition:

This – economics are a national security issue. Do Republicans want to be on the side of surrender? Do they want to be surrender monkeys in the global economy? The terms of the debate must change. They must understand that they will pay a price with patriotic Americans who understand that shutting down the government which is what the Republicans are talking about is an unpatriotic act.

Wagner even took the metaphors to an extraterrestrial level, arguing that Republicans were negotiating “on Mars.” Interestingly enough, the host’s hyperbole stands in direct contrast with comments by her colleague Joe Scarborough on Thursday’s Morning Joe. Scarborough blasted liberals for acting as if conservatives Republicans “were transported from Mars to America in 2010.”

While Wagner, Alter, and Reid were conjuring up childish images of the GOP, Rendell – the only past or current statesman on the panel – was recognizing a political reality: in order for Obama and the Republican House to avoid a government shutdown, both sides will have to make concessions:

He's got to try to make this work, and he's got to tell the American people what the solution is – and he's also got to tell progressives in our party that we're going to have to give something. If we're going to get a grand bargain that is going to fix the debt, really cause the economy to take off, we're going to have to make concessions, too. And he has got to set the table for that. And that’s what a leader does.

Of course, for the die-hard liberals at the Lean Forward network, anything short of an unabashedly progressive vision for America is unacceptable.

See the full transcript below:


MSNBC
Now with Alex Wagner
July 25, 2013
12:24 p.m. Eastern

ALEX WAGNER: [Former Pennsylvania] Governor [Ed Rendell], I think the White House has learned some lessons. I mean, they have some battle scars from their wars with Republicans in showdowns past.

GOV. ED RENDELL: You think?

WAGNER [laughing]: Yeah, exactly. This seems to me like they're going to play hardball. They're going to have one message. I think the criticism that he didn’t announce any new programs is semi-ridiculous, given the fact that he's already put so much out there. They have a clear line of thought, they have a clear plan and they're just going to hammer it home until it is time to actually do the deal-making.

RENDELL: I think that's right, and I think what Sam [Stein of the Huffington Post] said was right. But I think the president has got to fight this battle on two fronts. One, to play hardball publically, but two, he's got to be able to reach out to the Republicans that he can reach out to. And there are some. He's got to try to make this work, and he's got to tell the American people what the solution is – and he's also got to tell progressives in our party that we're going to have to give something. If we're going to get a grand bargain that is going to fix the debt, really cause the economy to take off, we're going to have to make concessions, too. And he has got to set the table for that. And that’s what a leader does.

WAGNER: But don’t you think – I would ask you on that front – I mean, he has put a plan for Medicare and Social Security out there on whitehouse.gov.

RENDELL: Yes, he has. But he hasn’t done it clearly enough, and he hasn't communicated it to the public. What I would do if I were the president, or if I were advising him, is make a speech to the country and say look, I understand that I can't dictate this. There’s a Republican caucus that controls the House. That there are going to be compromises. So let me explain why I'm for chained CPI –

WAGNER: I guess I wonder, Jonathan [Alter], if the president came out and publicly, sort of, outlined the concessions he was willing to make in an effort –

RENDELL: Well, he’s done it already.

WAGNER: Right. But if he did it in a more forceful and meaningful and positive public way, would he even find anybody on the right to greet him at the bargaining table? Given how completely intransigent the House Republican caucus is now.

JONATHAN ALTER: I hate to disagree with this distinguished governor of Pennsylvania – but, I think it's a little bit of a Lucy and the football [from Charlie Brown] situation. If you were to go out and do that. So I think it should stay a little bit vaguer, but still flexible privately.

RENDELL: But how has that strategy worked in the past? It’s been a disaster. It’s been a flat-out disaster. We haven’t done anything to deal with the problem.

ALTER: So the thing has to change. They are – it’s like negotiating with terrorists. They are threatening –

WAGNER [laughing]: Hostage takers.

ALTER: They are not in this the way normal negotiators are, the way they are playing the game. So Obama also has to play the game differently, and he started to do it today. The most important thing he said today, which I hope he repeats over and over again, is that if we don't invest in the future of this country we are, quote “raising the white flag of surrender.” This – economics are a national security issue. Do Republicans want to be on the side of sur render? Do they want to be surrender monkeys in the global economy?

The terms of the debate must change. They must understand that they will pay a price with patriotic Americans who understand that shutting down the government which is what the Republicans are talking about –

WAGNER: Is an act –

ALTER: Is an unpatriotic act.

WAGNER: Right

ALTER: This is not the way for them to go, and they have to feel the heat over and over again that they are acting against the best interests of the United States. That's not happening yet.

REID: To put it another way, when somebody is threatening to bomb the stadium, you don't go out and make a speech about how you're willing to dismantle the stadium in order to appease them. The bottom line is the president has put forward all sorts of ideas. They're not listening to what he says. He should at this point run against the do-nothing Congress and tell the American people: look at these people. Everything they say is negative all they want to do is dismantle government. They are not working with me. Put out a program, why?

ALTER: And they want to surrender. They want to raise the white flag of surrender. That's the key line. The white flag of surrender.

WAGNER: Sam, part of it is, like, the terms of the debate have shifted. We're talking about raising the debt ceiling and in exchange for that – which is – up until like two years ago was a fairly routine procedural event. They want the president to effectively repeal settled law of the land, which is the Affordable Care Act. That kind of negotiating is like, on Mars.