NBC's Guthrie Tees Up Maddow to Hype Sequester 'Poison' That Puts Dems in 'Better Light'

In an interview with left-wing MSNBC host Rachel Maddow on Tuesday's NBC Today, co-host Savannah Guthrie used dire language to describe the current budget sequester: "It was supposed to be something that forced both sides to the table, mutually assured destruction. Cuts that were so bad they would never go into effect. Here we are in the sequester era. How does this end?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Maddow responded by turning up the hype even further: "In Prohibition, the government came up with the brilliant idea that to stop people from drinking, they would put poison in industrial alcohol....what they did was poison a lot of people. This [sequester] is the same kind of thing." Guthrie seized on the comparison: "And part of the effect though is this poison, to borrow your metaphor, it's not a poison that kills you overnight. Apparently it's a slow, rolling poison."

On Monday's Today, Matt Lauer confessed that he was "surprised there hasn't been more outrage" about the sequester by the American people.

On Tuesday, Guthrie fretted that Democrats and Republicans "just seemed to be positioning themselves to not take the blame" and claimed: "I don't really want to perpetuate the blame gaming." She then urged Maddow to pick a side to blame anyway: "...to the extent that's what gets people to the table, the perception that one side or the other is losing, who do you think is better positioned to weather the storm?...We know your politics. Do you think anyone has the high road here?"

Predictably, Maddow thought the Democrats had the advantage: "I think that if you want to get out of this by doing a balanced approach, you're in a better situation than if you only want to get out of this by only getting all of what you want. So the President and the Democrats are asking for both sides, the Republicans are saying, 'We won't compromise at all.' I think that puts the Democrats in a better light."

At the top of the segment, Guthrie asserted: "President Obama makes a move to force a compromise." However, she never explained what that move was during the interview.


Here is a transcript of Guthrie's March 5 exchange with Maddow:

7:11AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: And now to politics and the impact of those across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester. We're beginning to see some effects, such as longer lines at some airport screening checkpoints, as President Obama makes a move to force a compromise. Rachel Maddow is the host of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show and the author of Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power, which by the way is just out in paperback. Rachel, good morning. It's good to see you.

RACHEL MADDOW: Hey, Savannah. Nice to see you, too.

GUTHRIE: Talk about the book, which is increasingly timely, as we speak. But let's talk about the sequester. Terrible phrase, we hate the word.

MADDOW: Yeah.

GUTHRIE: It was supposed to be something that forced both sides to the table, mutually assured destruction. Cuts that were so bad they would never go into effect. Here we are in the sequester era. How does this end? What gets them to the table?

MADDOW: I was trying to come up with the perfect metaphor for understanding what we are doing to ourselves. In Prohibition, the government came up with the brilliant idea that to stop people from drinking, they would put poison in industrial alcohol. They didn't do anything to stop the underlying problem of people wanting to drink, and so what they did was poison a lot of people. This is the same kind of thing. It's supposed to be aversion therapy. It's supposed to be so awful we won't do it. But we've gone and done it anyway. It's self-imposed crisis.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Maddow in the Morning; What's Wrong With Washington?]

GUTHRIE: And part of the effect though is this poison, to borrow your metaphor, it's not a poison that kills you overnight.

MADDOW: Right.

GUTHRIE: Apparently it's a slow, rolling poison.

MADDOW: But it is designed to be harmful. I mean that is the way the sequester cuts were put together. They were designed to distasteful, to be blunt, and in the President's word, "dumb." And they are. On both sides, nobody likes what these do to the country, that was supposed to be enough to get us to not to do them. The fact that it wasn't, means we're in sort of a failed aversion therapy situation here right now and we can't just keep governing this way if we have stopped to be – stop being scared of the things we might inflict on ourselves.

GUTHRIE: What's so astonishing is as we watched this unfold in slow motion, is that both sides really didn't seem to be negotiating at all, but rather just seemed to be positioning themselves to not take the blame. And I don't really want to perpetuate the blame gaming this morning, but to the extent that's what gets people to the table, the perception that one side or the other is losing, who do you think is better positioned to weather the storm?

MADDOW: I think whoever – the person who is better positioned to come out of this well is the person who says, "We need to stop governing this way." We've had the fiscal cliff, the debt ceiling standoff, the two government shutdown standoffs, now the sequester standoff. You know what? We've got to start naming these things like our hurricanes at this point. It's a bad way to govern.

GUTHRIE: We know your politics. Do you think anyone has the high road here?

MADDOW: I think that if you want to get out of this by doing a balanced approach, you're in a better situation than if you only want to get out of this by only getting all of what you want. So the President and the Democrats are asking for both sides, the Republicans are saying, "We won't compromise at all." I think that puts the Democrats in a better light.

But honestly, the bigger problem is crisis to crisis to crisis is not the way the biggest country on Earth should govern itself. Other countries spend their times trying to build up their resilience, so if there is a crisis, they can handle it. We, instead, invent our own crises. If there is an external problem, you look at this storm Al's talking about, we've already got longer TSA lines than we otherwise would have. Now we're heading into a big storm. Why are we gonna inflict that economic blow on ourselves?

(...)

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