Acting as a televised press release for the Democratic National Committee, MSNBC's Martin Bashir today brought on DNC chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) to argue that new voter ID laws in several states of the Union are an attempt by Republicans to "suppress" the votes of "minorities" and college-aged voters, two groups that historically trend Democratic.
True to MSNBC form, no Republican was brought on for rebuttal and the most cynical and racist of motives were attributed to Republicans right out of the gate (MP3 audio available here; video posted after page break)
"The 15th Amendment says, 'The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged,' so, why does the Democratic National Committee feel the need to launch a new effort to protect this most sacred right?" Bashir asked in his introductory monologue prior to interviewing Wasserman Schultz.
The constitutional amendment that Bashir referenced, you may notice, was a post-Civil War Amendment safeguarding the right of citizens to vote regardless of "race, color, or previous condition of servitude."
From the get-go Bashir was hinting that Republicans are seeking to abridge the rights of blacks to vote.
"Republicans have introduced laws in at least 40 states that would make voting more difficult," Bashir ominously warned, voicing over an on-screen graphic showing those states shaded in yellow and entitled [emphasis mine] "Voter Restriction Laws Proposed or Passed."
What's more, Bashir complained, "today they're voting on a bill that would decimate the Election Assistance Commission, the last line of defense against electoral fraud." With that preface out of the way, Bashir introduced the DNC chairwoman and tossed out the first softball:
"What is the EAC and what happens to it if this Republican-backed bill were to pass?" Bashir asked.
"Well, the EAC, like you said, is the last line of defense for making sure that voter fraud is investigated and that there are consequences for engaging in that," Schultz answered, charging the GOP for hypocrisy in "attempt[ing] to abolish the commission" even as the GOP has complained about voter fraud and responded with "voter suppression laws."
"These voter suppression laws that have passed around the country, Martin, have just been unbelievable," Wasserman Schultz groused. At no point did Bashir challenge her specious rhetoric or pose challenges to her reasoning.
For example, Wasserman Schultz said that while "for a student in Texas, even a state university-issued ID is not acceptable as a photo ID" but that a "gun license" is.
As I've demonstrated in a previous NewsBusters post, college IDs in Texas don't list addresses or dates of birth, while concealed carry permits do. What's more, to OBTAIN a student ID at the University of Texas, Austin, for example, one needs to prove who s/he is by showing up at the registrar's office with, you guessed it, a government-issued photo ID.
"It's very transparent who they're trying to block from the polls and who they're trying to block from the polls and who they want to smooth the path for," the DNC chief insisted.
In other words, Texas Republicans want conservative gun-toters to vote but not liberal-leaning college kids, but she has no evidence to present to back up her claim. An objective journalist would have a healthy skepticism about Wasserman Schultz's claims, but Bashir let that comment slide.
Bashir briefly played devil's advocate by noting that "we do have to produce a photo ID when we go to an airport," so, "what's the big issue with photo IDs?"
After Wasserman Schultz responded that it was an "obstacle" to get "certain kinds of people to the polls," Bashir took at turn at partisan flame-throwing on behalf of the Democrats.
"And of course you'll know that Herman Cain's campaign manager, the disheveled smoker Mark Block, had been found guilty for his role in voter suppression in Wisconsin, so I guess Herman Cain won't be in favor of your approach, will he?" Bashir snarked.
On top of his partisan hackery, Bashir got his facts wrong. Block was never convicted of any crime but he did reach a settlement in 1997 with the Wisconsin State Elections Board, paying a $15,000 fine "without admitting guilt" to an allegation of violating a state campaign finance law.