NBC's David Gregory: Are GOP Supporters of Herman Cain Seeking 'Absolution' For Charges of Racism?

On NBC's Meet the Press: Press Pass, Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings explained Republican support of Herman Cain to host David Gregory this way: "...they've been accused as being racist and I think when they can vote for a Herman Cain....they feel like, 'Well, you know, I support this guy...it shows that I'm not racist, and I'm supporting him.'"

Gregory added: "'Here's a black conservative who's – who's hammering the President the way we are, so there's no racism here.'" He then wondered: "You feel like he offers absolution in that way, to Tea Party Republicans?" Cummings replied: "I think that's at least a part of it."

Earlier in the interview, Gregory smeared Republicans for opposing government intervention in the housing market: "The conservative view, as you know, is, 'Look, we're one of the only countries in the world literally propping up the housing market'....We're not allowing the market to bottom itself out and for the true correction to happen. Is that just harsh conservative orthodoxy talking?"

Cummings declared: "That's very harsh. And David, you sound like – those arguments are the same arguments that we heard Mr. Romney make just recently in a debate."

Gregory repeatedly pushed Cummings on the need for more government involvement:

And really the Obama administration hasn't done anything to really address the key problem in this economy, which is housing. If this is not turned around, can the economy improve?...The larger question seems to be, is the government going to be in a position to help people actually pay down or forgive some of the principle?...Do you actually think that the government should bail out homeowners who are in danger of foreclosing?...I mean, either you have to make the bank right or you have to say to a homeowner, 'Here is a subsidy to help lower the principle of what you owe so you're not under water.'


Here are portions of the October 30 interview:

11:36AM ET

(...)

DAVID GREGORY: The big picture is that home prices are falling, still. There are millions of people, approaching 15 million, who are underwater in their mortgages, so they owe more than their home is actually worth. Millions more falling behind on their payments. And really the Obama administration hasn't done anything to really address the key problem in this economy, which is housing. If this is not turned around, can the economy improve?

ELIJAH CUMMINGS: No. As a matter of fact, Mr. Bernanke, the Fed chair, said in a hearing that I was in the other day, he said, 'Look, we cannot get past this recession unless we deal with the housing problem. Mark Zandi, as you know, one of Mr. McCain's former advisors, said that fixing the foreclosure problem is ground zero if we're going to have jobs and get this economy moving. We have to deal with the foreclosure problem.

GREGORY: And yet, what President is talking about now has limited impact. You can refinance if you've been up to speed on your payments for some big loans that are, you know, guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The larger question seems to be, is the government going to be in a position to help people actually pay down or forgive some of the principle?

CUMMINGS: I think the government could do more.

GREGORY: Yeah.

CUMMINGS: First of all, I applaud the President for what he's done. But I wish it had been done sooner and I wish it had been done in a bigger way. This effort – this recent effort is going to affect about 900,000 people. We've got millions, David, that need help. And a lot of people don't realize how important foreclosure, dealing with foreclosure is. People look at these efforts and say, 'Oh, it doesn't affect me.' But they don't realize, their property value is going down. Because when one house on a block is foreclosed upon, it may bring down the value of the other houses some 10, 15%.

GREGORY: The conservative view, as you know, is, 'Look, we're one of the only countries in the world literally propping up the housing market.' You've got two of the big mortgage giants in the country guaranteeing 90% of the mortgages. They are now, in effect, owned by the federal government. We're not allowing the market to bottom itself out and for the true correction to happen. Is that just harsh conservative orthodoxy talking?

CUMMINGS: That's very harsh. And David, you sound like – those arguments are the same arguments that we heard Mr. Romney make just recently in a debate.

GREGORY: Right. Well, that's what I'm suggesting, that that's the argument being made.

CUMMINGS: Yes. And I disagree with that. Because when I see people losing their houses and nowhere to go and no place to live, and they've got children, neighborhoods are destroyed, people are – values of their houses are going down, their neighbors. David, that's – we can't do it that way. So-

GREGORY: Do you actually think that the government should bail out homeowners who are in danger of foreclosing?

CUMMINGS: Not necessarily bail-out.

GREGORY: Well, forgiving some of the principle would be, well-

CUMMINGS: Yes. Yes, I do.

GREGORY: So won't that be seen as – I mean, either you have to make the bank right or you have to say to a homeowner, 'Here is a subsidy to help lower the principle of what you owe so you're not under water.'

(...)

DAVID GREGORY: Let me ask you quickly about Herman Cain on the other side and the issue of race. I've asked him, when he was on the program, whether he thinks race is an issue in his support or in the race at all. He said he didn't think so. But he's also talked about black voters being brainwashed to vote against Republicans or he's gone out of his way to draw distinctions between his experiences as a black man in America and the President's. What do you make of him?

ELIJAH CUMMINGS: Well, I think Mr. Cain has been a good businessman. It sounds like he did a pretty good job. I've seen the singing that he did a while back about pizza. And he sounds like a good businessman. But you know what? I think the Tea Partiers like him because he has these fast, snappy answers. And they don't want to be – you know, they've been accused as being racist and I think when they can vote for a Herman Cain and hear him say the things that he says, they feel like, 'Well, you know, I support this guy, and he's – and so he's – it shows that I'm not racist, and I'm supporting him.'

GREGORY: 'Here's a black conservative who's – who's hammering the President the way we are, so there's no racism here.' You feel like he offers absolution in that way, to Tea Party Republicans?

CUMMIINGS: I think that's at least a part of it. And I also think there's another thing here, David. I think that when they – if they put him up as the nominee for president, you've got one African-American contending against another African-American. They don't like Romney, for whatever reason, I mean, Romney's stays at 23% and he doesn't seem able to get above that. Here's Herman Cain leading him in almost every poll. And I think people make a mistake, I think people make a big mistake underestimating Herman Cain. I also think they make a big mistake underestimating the will of people to put up somebody who they think would give Barack Obama a run for his money. And I think they think that he would. But I can guarantee you, if I put the two of them in a debate, President Obama wins every time, 9 to 1.    

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC