MSNBC's Alex Wagner Spins Waters's 'Demon' Comment; It Reflects Dem 'Frustration'

It seems even when a Democrat Congresswoman calls Republicans demons, the host of NOW with Alex Wagner still needs to find a way to agree with her.  On Thursday's show, Wagner insisted she wasn't ‘defending the semiotics’ of the statement.  She then pivoted and sympathized, "...But I think what you see reflected especially on the side of the Democrats is an incredible amount of frustration in terms of the political process."

Speaking last week at the California Democratic Convention, Congresswoman Maxine Waters fired off typical vitriol at Republicans, going so far as to call Speaker of the House John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor "demons." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]

Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele shot down the liberal whining by Wagner, telling her to "cry me a river." As Steele pointed out, and apparently liberals like Wagner have forgotten, is that for the first two years of the Obama presidency, Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and the White House and both houses of Congress during the last two years of the Bush presidency.

Below is the relevant transcript:


NOW with Alex Wagner
0216/2012
12:20 p.m.  

CONGRESSWOMAN MAXINE WATERS: I saw pictures of Boehner and Cantor on our screens. Don't ever let me see again in life those Republicans in our home, on our screens, talking about anything. These are demons.

ALEX WAGNER: That was Congresswoman Maxine Waters this past weekend, speaking at the California Democratic Convention. Is Maxine Waters an outlier or is this war here to stay, Ari?

ARI MELBER: I think she is an outlier. I think there is a lot of rhetoric in politics. I mean we have a lot of –

WAGNER: Demons is pretty --

MELBER: I'm not defending demons. As Michael Steele would say, demon, tomato.

WAGNER: You say demon, I say tomato.

MELBER: It's not just a disagreement among friends. There is real anger and there's real distaste down there. And everybody knows that. That's an old story. And it's there. I think what stands out about the word "demon," to be fair, is that it's so unusual. Right.  When you say, we're going behind enemy lines, right.  That is a term that actually comes from killing people behind enemy lines. But it's something people use in politics. The word "demon" is not regularly used, so sounds really awful and she probably shouldn't have gone there. To your point, though, no, the payroll tax cut doesn’t look to me like anything new. It looks like the Republicans pushed really hard, didn't understand their own leverage, fell apart, and now people are trying to make the best of saying they have a deal. This isn't really a deal. This is the usual hostage taking that didn't work this time.

WAGNER: Michael Steele, on the use of the word demon?

Michael Steele: All I say is that she should apologize profusely.

WAGNER: That's all --

STEELE: Look.  .

WAGNER: Very succinct assessment.

MELBER: But I took so many words.

STEELE: Right.  Exactly.  Well, the problem is, you know, it's a double -- it's a two-edged thing here, where, double-edged sword. You know, on the one hand, if a Republican had said that at their state convention or whatever, people would be screaming and crying for, you know, apologies and making sure that, you know, this kind of rhetoric is not in place in the body politic. Set that aside, you know. Maxine is Maxine. She's talking to the hometown crowd, she's talking to a bunch of rabid --

WAGNER: Supporters.

STEELE: Supporters, and Democrats at a state Democrat convention. So you get a pass. To your point, the reality of it is, Washington is doing what Washington always does, punt and try to make it look like they've done something. We're just kicking cans down the road. You're seeing reports in the paper and you're talking about this, Maggie, reporting on the fact that, you know, after this vote, they're not doing anything, for the next nine months.

WAGNER: Right.  They're packing up for the year. I will say, and I'm not defending the semiotics here, Maxine Waters' choice of descriptors, but I think what you see reflected especially on the side of the Democrats is an incredible amount of frustration in terms of the political process. And you look at, I like citing historical facts and figures to buffer my arguments, but Ryan Lizza in "The New Yorker" a few weeks ago, cited Yale professor Jacob Hacker. Since 1975, House Republicans moved roughly six times as far to the right as House Democrats moved to the left. And there's a sense I think, I'm sure, if you’re at the bargaining table here that what Republicans have asked for over and over again, not to mention the absolute insanity of the caucus, has been incredibly frustrating. And so while they may not be demons, I think she's giving voice to the sense that this whole, the injustice and the difficulty and the pain of trying to work in a bipartisan

STEELE: Look, cry me a river.  

WAGNER: Oh, cry me a river.

STEELE: This is Democrat incompetency. First off, for the first two years of this Administration, they controlled all three levers of government, all right? The Senate, the House, and the White House, and couldn't get anything done. You have a Senate that has gone a thousand plus days to not even pass the budget, and to the extent that a budget was presented, a President's budget last year, 97 to nothing, they voted --

MELBER: Did they control the Senate? Did they control the Senate, though?

STEELE: It doesn't matter. At that point, you had every Democrat in the Senate voting against the President's budget.

MELBER: But you have a constant filibuster in the Senate.  

STEELE: But the fact of the matter is, you know, we’ve gotten to a stalemate point in Washington and everybody likes to point to the other side and call them names and blame.

WAGNER : I was pointing out historical facts and figures, my friend.

STEELE: But a pox on both their houses.  But a pox on both their houses at this point, given what this country has been going through for the last three or four years.

JOSH TYRANGIEL: I've got a far less passionate defense here, which is that Congress is, has been for years.  

STEELE: I'm not defending Congress, please.

TYRANGIEL: I know, you know the numbers there. Congress is a weathervane. It always has been a weathervane. And so you know we can talk about Congress is getting more divisive.  They represent people who have more divisive opinions. And so when Maxine Waters goes in front a Democratic, you know, a Democratic audience, she is going to call them demons and she's going to get applause. The wind blows that way. What I'm interested in is the payroll tax to me, you can say, this is no big deal, it's an easy one, right? And then they're going to go away. Actually, I wonder if the wind is beginning to change a little bit, and if the Republicans in Congress are saying, you know, I'm not sure we can get away with a year of nothing. We may need to work with the White House to get a couple things done, for our own good. Because we've got to get re-elected. And if we are the party of no, it's not going to work. Now the only way the wind changes is with the economy. We know that that's fickle. But to me, you can't say, you can’t give Congress so much agency that they're leading this fight. They're representatives.

WAGNER: Yeah, I would agree with that. And if you look at the specifics of the deal, it looks like everybody gave a little bit, and they came to the middle. Which is shocking. And I'm not --

STEELE: Consensus.
 

Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center.