MSNBC's Wagner, Finney Gang Up on GOP Congressman: ObamaCare is About 'Life and Death'

For a perfect illustration of why few conservatives wish to subject themselves to MSNBC, look no further than Rep. Tom Cole’s experience on the network’s Now with Alex Wagner. The Oklahoma Republican went into the lion’s den on Thursday’s Now, where the conversation was anything but fair and balanced – and certainly less than cordial.

Wagner and weekend host Karen Finney used the opportunity to blast Republicans for their opposition to ObamaCare, with Finney – a former DNC communications director – suggesting the law is about “life and death” for some people. All too often, Cole could barely get a word in edgewise as he was badgered by the dynamic duo. He was often cut off by the two MSNBC hosts, especially when talking about the approval ratings of ObamaCare:

COLE: You know, I’ve been hearing that for four years – how, sooner or later, it’s going to be popular. It’s never been popular.

WAGNER: Well, but it hasn’t, I mean –

COLE: Parts of it are in effect now. We were told it would be, you know, popular within a couple of years, and certain things happen. It’s just simply not. You look toward –

WAGNER: But in all fairness, Congressman, it hasn’t – I mean, the exchanges –

Wagner’s questions often took an accusatory tone. The host asked if the “anger and distress over ObamaCare” was “a natural extension of what House Republicans have been doing for years.” She also addressed the refusal of Cole’s state (Oklahoma) to expand the Medicaid rolls under ObamaCare, asking if the congressman was “concerned” that “poor people are going to have access to health care in one state [Arkansas] and not in another.”

Finney, who hosts MSNBC’s Disrupt on Saturdays and Sundays, was even more subjective than Wagner in her questioning. The former DNC communications director asked if the GOP had a “moral obligation” to work on making ObamaCare better:

So, I mean, we’re talking about the health and well-being of our people here. We’re not, it’s not – you know, this is not some philosophical argument. We’re literally talking, for some people, this is life and death...at some point is there not a moral obligation to people?

Finney also interrupted Cole at one point, bristling at the notion that President Obama could have put the GOP “in a box” over health care reform:

COLE: So again, this idea that somehow what the president has done is put us in a box and on the road to extinction is just simply wrong –

FINNEY: I think you guys put yourself in a box.

COLE: No, I don’t think so.

FINNEY: We’ll see.

Finney wrapped up her role in the segment by asking the congressman why the GOP can’t “focus [on] what you can change and make better” in ObamaCare, rather than pump “misinformation” out into the public.

At the Lean Forward network, an interview with a conservative is nothing more than an excuse to conduct an interrogation.

See the full transcript below:


MSNBC
Now with Alex Wagner
August 8, 2013
12:02 p.m. Eastern

ALEX WAGNER: Joining us from Oklahoma City is the Republican congressman from Oklahoma’s 4th district, Deputy Majority Whip Tom Cole. Congressman Cole, thank you so much for joining us while you are on your recess. I hope that the August heat isn’t quite as hot over there as it is in other parts of the country, although we are hearing – according to the Associated Press – that during one of your town hall meetings, “nearly 150 people broke into applause in support of legislation” over a government shutdown. What did you make of that, Congressman Cole?

(...)

WAGNER: So, you sound fairly even-minded about this. Are you not worried about the “suicide caucus,” as [senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center] Peter Wehner calls them?

(...)

WAGNER: Congressman, I am all in favor of cooler heads prevailing. I know that some people on the right may not agree that we’ve done a good job of fomenting a cooler atmosphere. But to your point about reason and understanding how, sort of, how Congress works – I guess I ask you, is this not the harvest that you reap? When the House spends an inordinate amount of time trying to repeal ObamaCare, fomenting negative opinions. You know, 40 efforts to take down the settled law of the land, something the Supreme Court held up. Is this fear and anger and distress over ObamaCare not a natural extension of what House Republicans have been doing for years?

(...)

WAGNER: I want to bring our panel here in New York into the conversation. And Karen [Finney], you know, I understand that Representative Cole has some serious issues with ObamaCare.

FINNEY: Which is a law, by the way, not a bill.

WAGNER: Right. But what these town halls, and the anger out there – what that says to me is there’s a huge amount of misinformation, not only about whether it’s a law or a bill, as some have referred to it. Kaiser [Foundation’s] health tracking poll says that 59 percent of the country thinks it’s a law – think it is, are unaware that it is law and 42 percent are unaware of the Affordable Care Act’s status. But generally speaking, they don't also seem to understand how the balance of power works between the legislative and executive branches. I just think that this is almost a civics lesson in terms of how the American democracy works, and a lot of people have not yet learned it.

FINNEY: Well, but I think that’s part of what is – kind of what you were saying – the chickens coming home to roost, when you have been campaigning for years since it became a law, since the Supreme Court said it was a law, a valid law, by still calling it a bill and by still voting to repeal it when there’s no – you can vote to repeal it, but even as one Republican member pointed out in a town hall, the president would have to sign that, and that’s not going to happen.

WAGNER: Right, right. And, I mean, that’s what I mean –

FINNEY: But I think they’ve sort of created that mythology that somehow – and in a way what’s interesting is that it’s kind of, I think you were right – put them in their own box. This is a box of their own creation. The other side of it however, though, is now that Republicans are having to campaign on “I'm going to take something away from you.” As a woman, if you are now paying less for your health insurance because of ObamaCare, Republicans are saying “I’m taking that away from you and you’re going to have to go back to paying more.”

(...)

WAGNER: Congressman, what do you have to say to that, about the litmus test and that sort of –

REP. TOM COLE: Well, first of all, remember my town halls were a lot tougher when ObamaCare was proposed. I had a thousand people showing up. This isn’t a new thing, and we’re not in some sort of self-created box. This law is extraordinarily unpopular, never polled well in any poll at all –

WAGNER: Well Congressman, just to interrupt you for a moment – there wasn’t the split in the Republican Party that there is now back when ObamaCare was first proposed.

COLE: Well, there’s not a split in opinion about ObamaCare. There’s a split in the opinion about the appropriate way to oppose it. That’s a tactical debate, that’s not some deep philosophical fissure. Look, if we were hurt – when the president was elected, he had total control of the House. We have the majority now, second-largest in our history. He had a 60-40 control of the Senate. There’s now 46 Republican senators. We have 30 governors. So again, this idea that somehow what the president has done is put us in a box and on the road to extinction is just simply wrong –

FINNEY: I think you guys put yourself in a box.

COLE: No, I don’t think so.

FINNEY: We’ll see.

COLE: You know, it’s a bad law. And if it were a good law, the Democrats wouldn't have lost the majority as decisively as they did in 2010, or would have certainly re-captured it when the president won in 2012.

WAGNER: But Congressman, there is some concern. I think, you know, you’ll find conservatives that agree that ObamaCare very likely may be very popular with Americans once it is actually in effect. I mean, there’s some conservatives who say you’re going to get Americans sucking off yet another teat of the government.

COLE: You know, I’ve been hearing that for four years – how, sooner or later, it’s going to be popular. It’s never been popular.

WAGNER: Well, but it hasn’t, I mean –

COLE: Parts of it are in effect now. We were told it would be, you know, popular within a couple of years, and certain things happen. It’s just simply not. You look toward –

WAGNER: But in all fairness, Congressman, it hasn’t – I mean, the exchanges –

COLE: If it was working you wouldn’t be pushing back the business mandate.

WAGNER: Okay, let me move on to another piece of this. You know, you’ve highlighted the fact that it’s being implemented – parts of it are being implemented in sort of a sporadic fashion across the country. And you now have a situation where some states are expanding the Medicaid rolls and setting up exchanges, and other states are not. Your state is not expanding the Medicaid roll. Nearby in Arkansas, they are. Now, the expansion of Medicaid is going to really go towards the private insurers. But nonetheless, you’re going to have two neighboring states, one of which is yours, where poor people are going to have access to health care in one state and not in another. Are you at all concerned about that dynamic?

(...)

FINNEY: Well Congressman, I guess here’s what I find so disturbing in all of this. I mean, you were talking about some of the ways that you’ve been willing to work with the administration and work with Democrats to improve the law. So, I mean, we’re talking about the health and well-being of our people here. We’re not, it’s not – you know, this is not some philosophical argument. We’re literally talking, for some people, this is life and death. So why would the strategy not be to continue to work on making the law better, instead of this ridiculous repeal? It used to be repeal and replace, and now it’s just simply a repeal message. At some point is there not a moral obligation to people?

(...)

FINNEY: But, you know Congressman, there’s been so much misinformation about what the law really is. Why not focus what you can change and make better?