MSNBC's Reid: GOPers Find Clarence Thomas 'Better Than Other African-Americans'

On Thursday's The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, during a discussion of Republican Senator Ted Cruz's father, Rafael Cruz, making a birther joke about President Obama, MSNBC political analyst Joy Reid asserted that Republicans prefer minorities who "repudiate" political views supported by minorities. Singling out Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, she griped:

The thing that's sort of interesting about when Republicans try to recruit minorities and bring them into the fold,  what they wind up doing is they bring in people whose sort of primary feature, or one of their primary features is repudiation of other members of their own group, right? So Clarence Thomas is popular because he constantly repudiates things like affirmative action and is sort of an anathema to many African-Americans which shows them that he's pure of principle and better than other African-Americans.

Host Lawrence O'Donnell injected, "Yes," during her analysis.

She then turned to Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. Reid:

And in the same way, they've recruited Ted Cruz. Initially, Marco Rubio, he was the Tea Party guy who doesn't bring Hispanic to the Republican Party. He, in your face, goes back to Hispanics and says, "No, I'm going to bring you conservatism," until he did the apostasy of immigration reform. Once Marco Rubio stepped toward immigration reform, he was instantly seen as a traitor to conservatism.

She added:

And in comes Ted Cruz, similar profile. They're both Cuban-American. But Ted Cruz is himself a Latino who's saying, "No, I repudiate the thing that 70, 80, 90 percent of my fellow Latinos want," and that gives him the bona fides within the conservative movement, but ironically it makes him useless to them as somebody to broaden the party's base among Hispanics. So it's sort of they get somebody who they like and who can make other white Republicans feel good about supporting a minority but who can't help bring in more minorities.

Below is a transcript of relevant portions of the Thursday, October 31, The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell:

JOY REID, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, it's so precious when the guy whose son was born in Canada does birther jokes. That's totally adorable. But it does sort of highlight kind of without the media officially there, kind of the way conservatives are talking amongst themselves. And that really is the problem.

The problem is even with the 47 percent video, this was Mitt Romney being asked by somebody in the audience, "How can we get those moochers to stop taking our tax money and living on the dole?" He answered that question with 47 percent. So the conversations that are taking place just inside conservatism, inside the conservative base, they produce the hostility, the sort of rage, the ugliness that then shows itself outwardly in the politics of Ted Cruz. That's their problem.

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL: Steve Schmidt, the other thing that's in that video is a very strong sense of superiority, that we are superior people to the other people we're talking about, be it the President of the United States or anyone who votes for him.

STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, it's very damaging. When you look at the numbers, the Republican Party's image numbers today after following the path laid down by Ted Cruz, you see the damage that that has brought, so this is a bad day for this to be out there for Ted Cruz because I think very clearly, even Ted Cruz by standing up today and really for the first time acknowledging to his fellow Senators, his colleagues, distancing himself from the Senate Conservative Fund that I'm not going to raise money to attack you anymore. I think he understands that even his show while it has inspired some of these people in the Tea Party, you know, it's inflicting damage on him now.

And so, very perilous political situation and again I think the issue with Rafael Cruz isn't just that it's a parent speaking, you know, he's, you know, he's not the only guy in the country, you know, who might have a crazy parent out there. The issue is that he's been identified in many, many serious news organizations as Ted Cruz's senior political adviser.

And I think it's important that you communicate clearly not that my father doesn't, you know, speak for me but what's wrong about that statement. The de-legitimization of the President and that type of rhetoric has just killed Republicans and it obscures our ability to make a policy argument. So it's just terrible.

O'DONNELL: To go to Steve's point about the polls, new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, it doesn't have great news for any politician these days. President Obama is at a new low for him with a 41 percent positive rating. But that is almost double the Republican Party's positive rating  which is at 22. And I got to say, Steve, I didn't know it could get that low. Tea Party is 23. That's where their positive rating is, Joy Reid. And I want to go to something that is in the New York Times today. a Republican pollster on the issue of immigration reform is talking about that and he said he worried about the Republican opposition to it possibly being based in racism.

He said, "Racism may be a part of it. The Republican Party needs to stop pandering to that," which I think is what we just saw Rafael Cruz doing. "The Republican Party needs to throw in the towel on the immigration issue."

REID: Yeah, absolutely, and the thing that's sort of interesting about when Republicans try to recruit minorities and bring them into the fold, what they wind up doing is they bring in people whose sort of primary feature, or one of their primary features is repudiation of other members of their own group, right? So Clarence Thomas is popular because he constantly repudiates-

O'DONNELL: Yes.

REID: -things like affirmative action and is sort of an anathema to many African-Americans which shows them that he's pure of principle and better than other African-Americans.

And in the same way, they've recruited Ted Cruz. Initially, Marco Rubio, he was the Tea Party guy who doesn't bring Hispanic to the Republican Party. He, in your face, goes back to Hispanics and says, "No, I'm going to bring you conservatism," until he did the apostasy of immigration reform. Once Marco Rubio stepped toward immigration reform, he was instantly seen as a traitor to conservatism. And in comes Ted Cruz, similar profile. They're both Cuban-American. But Ted Cruz is himself a Latino who's saying, "No, I repudiate the thing that 70, 80, 90 percent of my fellow Latinos want," and that gives him the bona fides within the conservative movement, but ironically it makes him useless to them as somebody to broaden the party's base among Hispanics. So it's sort of they get somebody who they like and who can make other white Republicans feel good about supporting a minority but who can't help bring in more minorities.

O'DONNELL: Steve Schmidt, you've got to think, when you hear somebody like Rafael Cruz who's, you know, very fluent in talking to Republican audiences about what they want to hear, for him to be talking about sending the President back to Kenya, if you want to look at an anti-immigration frame that might have racial components to it, it seems to me it's right in there.

SCHMIDT: Look, there's no doubt, but it's old news at this point that the Republican Party can't win national elections if it can't do better with Latino voters, if it can't do better with Asian voters, with minority voters. And so the damage here is being caused by ideologues, and ideologues are destructive in any political party, in any political organization because an ideologue brings with them the capacity to look at the red wall and insist that it's blue.

And we're following ideologues down a policy path that will ultimately lead to the destruction of the Republican Party's ability to compete as a national party. It will remain strong as a regional party but not as a national party.

And so, when you look at the 22 percent caused by the way by the fecklessness of so many Republicans for following this path that Ted Cruz laid out when it was abundantly clear from the beginning that it was unachievable, that it was unpopular and that there was no plausible exit strategy from it, and at a time when Republicans have opportunities to really define the policy deficiencies, I would argue in ObamaCare, we're once again talking about distractions caused by Ted Cruz tonight. And so a lot of Republicans I think tonight look at Ted Cruz and wish Ted Cruz would go back to Canada.

O'DONNELL: Joy Reid, everything Steve just said is what both Rafael Cruz's call establishment Republicans trying to go left. You know, I listened to Steve carefully, and I don't hear any leftism in Steve Schmidt.

REID: He would be squish and a RINO. The irony is here is that Ted Cruz is perfectly following the conservative model of Rush Limbaugh and other talk radio hosts. What they do is they constantly prick at the sort of hurt feelings and anger and rage of their listeners to keep them hopped up and excited and listening all the time. Every quarter out, they got to keep rolling them over. Well, Ted Cruz follows that model. The irony is that people like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, they are happy to have a Democrat to beat up in the White house. They're not interested in winning elections.

It doesn't do them any good to have a Republican in the White House because then what would they talk about? They would then become slavishly devoted to that president which doesn't help their ratings. So Ted Cruz is following the model of the people who least want to win elections, but he's using that and claiming that could help win elections.

It's so ironic, but it's the reason that people like Steve Schmidt are losing credibility among the base because they believe Rush and they think his stratgy will help us to win the White House when clearly that's not even what Rush probably wants.

O'DONNELL: Steve Schmidt, the backlash seems to be under way by so-called establishment Republicans in Washington against Ted Cruz.

SCHMIDT: There's no glory in losing election after election, and there's no glory in committing yourself to strategies that are self-evidently defeating the purpose of trying to build a majority that can win elections. So I think that people want to see a healthy Republican Party advancing conservative principles, making conservative policy arguments, not to see conservatism degenerate into a cult of personality.

And if you look at those polls as bad as they are, there's no evidence to suggest that they're not on anything but a downward trend line. So I think as my former boss John McCain used to say, it's always darkest before it's completely black when it comes to some of these numbers. You know, I think that there's every expectation that they would be on a trend line to go lower.

And so when you consider the damage that's been done and people's ambition to see a Republican president again, and I think it's important to despite all of the terrible news in these polls, there's going to be a governor re-elected on Tuesday in one of the bluest states in the country with, I think, ultimately pretty good numbers in a lot of the communities where we have systemic failure across the country. And so it will be interesting Wednesday to try to find that, you know, silver cloud up there. And I think we're going to see it.

O'DONNELL: Silver cloud of Chris Christie. Steve Schmidt and Joy Reid, thank you both very much for joining me tonight.

--Brad Wilmouth is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow Brad Wilmouth on Twitter.