MSNBC Panel Gripes Over 'Disrespectful' Brewer Finger-Wag

MSNBC host Alex Wagner rehashed an old and much-overblown feud between President Obama and Gov. Jan Brewer (R-Ariz.) on Thursday’s Now, hyping Obama and Brewer’s first tarmac meeting since the Arizona governor allegedly wagged her finger at the president in early 2012. Wagner blasted Brewer for not giving President Obama “the respect that should be given the commander in chief,” asking her panel why the governor never apologized.

Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart took the criticism of Brewer a step further. Capehart argued that many of Brewer’s supporters saw the incident as “wagging her finger at this president who’s also black, who should not be there,” implying that many in Brewer’s “base” are racist:

It played to the Tea Party base that hates the president so much that they don’t even have respect for the office, it seems, anymore, they hate him so much. And, you know, her wagging her finger, it’s not only wagging her finger at the president, but a lot of people saw it as her wagging her finger at this president who’s also black, who should not be there.

The Huffington Post’s Howard Fineman chimed in, suggesting that the president give Brewer the middle finger:

So, he could do a different kind of finger-wag if he wanted to. I’m not going to say what that other finger wag looks like, but you know what that looks like.

The entire panel burst into laughter, some nodding in agreement. The panelists couldn’t seem to afford Brewer the same respect they demanded she give the president.

It’s worth noting that, back when this episode occurred in January 2012, Brewer affirmed that she respected the office of the presidency on CNN. President Obama himself addressed the incident, claiming on ABC News that the exchange was “not a big deal.” Indeed, as my colleague Ken Shepherd noted on NewsBusters, video of the encounter suggests Brewer and Obama were both cordial throughout their short meeting.

And despite Wagner’s demand that Brewer respect the office of the presidency, the host herself has vilified former President George W. Bush on more than one occasion – insulting Bush’s intelligence and joking about “Bush-isms.” Then again, Bush is no stranger to getting fingers pointed at him either: NBC News’ Brian Williams did the very same thing back in 2006.

See the full transcript below:


MSNBC
Now with Alex Wagner
August 6, 2013
12:07 p.m. Eastern

ALEX WAGNER: Jonathan [Capehart], I want to talk – I would be remiss in this segment if I did not talk about the finger wag. It’s amazing to me, a) that, okay, there was no apology. But I suppose bashfulness and apologies are no longer par for the course in our partisan world.

But the idea that Jan Brewer can fundraise off of that, and that this has become almost a rallying cry for people who don’t like the president and the sort of – you know, we talk a lot about the respect that should be given the commander in chief, the highest office in our land. They’re going to meet on the tarmac apparently again today. I don’t think we’ll see the finger wag but it was, almost, I think, sort of like a line in the sand and an A-D-B-C kind of thing. This is how a state governor is treating the president of the United States.

JONATHAN CAPEHART: Right. It was incredibly disrespectful. Incredibly disrespectful. But it played to Jan Brewer’s base. It played to the Tea Party base that hates the president so much that they don’t even have respect for the office, it seems, anymore, they hate him so much.

And, you know, her wagging her finger, it’s not only wagging her finger at the president, but a lot of people saw it as her wagging her finger at this president who’s also black, who should not be there. And there’s that strain there – and I’m going to get in trouble, and I don’t care, because – you just showed the picture there. The idea that someone could do that to the president is just so off-putting. But, hey, she could raise money off it, she’ll raise tons of money off it. There are still people out there who hate the president and, look, more power to her. The president is one of these people who can compartmentalize, and he’ll walk down those steps –

WAGNER: I don’t know that I say more power to denigrating the office of the president.

CAPEHART: Well, not denigrating the office, but she’s going to do what she’s going to do. And the president is going to arrive in Arizona, she’s going to meet him on the tarmac. And as we were just talking here, she’s his best friend on ObamaCare and he’ll be focused –

WAGNER: And maybe he should be doing the finger-wagging and saying, “hey, hey, how about that ACA.”

HOWARD FINEMAN: Well, aside from the fact that we’re now living in a world of signs and symbols, where finger wags and so forth get tweeted out as pictures all over the world and tell volumes, which is interesting. I mean, the president’s answer to the finger wag was, I think, that he got elected by a pretty healthy margin after the finger wag.

WAGNER [laughing]: Right. Post-finger wag.

FINEMAN: So, he could do a different kind of finger-wag if he wanted to. I’m not going to say what that other finger wag looks like, but you know what that looks like.

[Panel laughs.] WAGNER: Other digital –

FINEMAN [laughing]: Digital expression.