Farrow And Ball Team Up To Shout Down Republican Strategist

On his Wednesday program, Ronan Farrow called on MSNBC’s favorite failed congressional candidate Krystal Ball to aid him in decrying both the “corrupt system of Congress” today and the “U.S. policies in the '90s” that have lead to the immigration crisis on the border. This was after the host of Ronan Farrow Daily unironically brought Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist convicted of bribing public officials in 2006, on to hype the backhanded relationships of congressmen and lobbyists.

Both Farrow and Ball teamed up to counter Republican strategist John Feehery’s defense that congressional relationships with lobbyists are evidence of  “distraction[s]” rather than of a “system” that “is necessarily corrupt.” Krystal responded by citing “new research that shows that the voices of ordinary citizens literally have no impact on our legislative process,” while Farrow switched the subject to immigration reform before Feehery could respond. [See video below. Click here for MP3 audio]

After Farrow showed a clip of the president placing the blame for the border crisis on Congress, Ball was visibly flabbergasted when Feehery separated immigration reform from the current crisis and pointed out that the “failure of diplomacy on the president's part” in “offering some false promises on DACA [deferred action on childhood arrivals] has encouraged” this influx of illegal minors.

The co-host of The Cycle responded that “the facts just don't bear that out” and “the timing of when this surge started is not consistent” with DACA. Farrow added his lefty spin by chiding in that America is mostly responsibly for the surge anyway since “we were sending gang members and a lot of organized crime down Central America” during the 1990's. According to Ball, “our policies still contribute to it through the War on Drugs.”

See transcript below:

MSNBC
Ronan Farrow Daily
July 8, 2014
1:07 p.m. Eastern
5 minutes at 45 seconds


RONAN FARROW: Kystal, so we're talking about how dysfunctional this Congress is, how people are fed up. How rampant do you see this problem as being? Is this a corrupt system on the whole?

KRYSTAL BALL: It's an entirely corrosive system. I think Jack is right to point out the fact that as members of Congress are going about their day to day, their week to week, every single day has multiple hours carved out for talking to donors. And even the best intentioned, I don't think that there are a lot of members of Congress who are actually engaging in the sort of direct quid pro quo, but these are the folks that you're talking to. You're hearing their concerns over and over. You're deeply steeped in this donor culture, so you're much more responsive to their needs than you are even to your own constituents who, frankly, you're spending a lot less time with and less time dealing with. Campaigns these days are all about putting up enough of a sort of a front of campaign events to show the public that you're out doing stuff, and carving out as much time as possible to actually be on the phones or at fundraisers. That is the real campaign activity, not the grassroots events.

FARROW: And we're selecting for people who can entice big money, not people who can necessarily lead. It's really. troubling.

BALL: That’s right.

FARROW: John, when you look at that morass and you look at the inactivity on the Hill that's resulting, how do you push through reform on specific issues that are now just sitting desperately needing action and not getting any? I mean, let's take immigration as an example? Who's the stronger lobby in that debate right now and how do you cut through the dysfunction?

JOHN FEEHERY: Look at immigration for example. The big money is in favor of passing immigration reform. It's actually the grassroots that has been able to stymie it. I think that the problem with the campaign laws, and I think they are broken, is members of Congress spend a lot of their time raising money and not enough time legislating. It's a distraction. I don't think the system is necessarily corrupt. I do think there is a distraction there that members need to focus more of their time, and I think this is really an outgrowth of the McCain-Feingold laws which actually put more money into politics, took a lot of power away from the political parties and has kind of completely made throwing the system up for grabs.

FARROW: I have to push back on that. I mean, McCain-Feingold entered what was a void of regulation on campaign finance, and while imperfect, did put into place some restrictions. Krystal do you agree?

FEEHERY: McCain-Feinegold completely destroyed the power of the political parties to raise money.

BALL: No, what completely destroyed the power of the political parties has been the Supreme Court which has viewed corruption in a narrow manner and has really opened floodgates here.

FARROW: Right, Citizens United, McCutcheon.

BALL: Right and to the question John, to the question John, of whether the system overall is corrosive, there’s new research that shows that the voices of ordinary citizens literally have no impact on our legislative process. And actually, what we see coming out of Congress is much more consistent with the desires of the wealthiest part of America. They're essentially the only ones who really have a voice in our system at this point. That’s according to recent research.

FARROW: This is a really important debate, regardless of where you stand on McCain-Feingold, I think John is certainly correct in saying “it wasn't adequate, look at the situation we have right now”.

BALL: Certainly.

FARROW: Let's go over to this question of immigration a little bit more. We're dealing with a lot of breaking news on this right now. The president is arriving in Texas today at around 5:00 p.m. He's still not scheduled to go to the border Krystal, and there's been a lot of blow back on that. He's been actually talking about immigration all day. Let's listen to his latest statements on this.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Congress just said no to fixing our broken immigration system in a way that strengthens our borders and our businesses, despite the fact everybody from law enforcement to corporations to evangelicals, there's a coalition around immigration reform that is unprecedented, these guys still they can't get their act together.

FARROW: John, this goes back to the debate on where to point the finger on the immigration reform gridlock. Do you think he's right in pointing at Congress?

FEEHERY: Well, I think there's plenty of blame to go around. I have been a strong proponent of immigration reform. I think the system is fundamentally broken. I think what is happening at the border is a humanitarian refugee crisis that is largely a failure of diplomacy on the president's part, and the president by offering some false promises on DACA has encouraged some of this action. I think that securing  the border has to be done in a right way that allows for transportation between areas. The fact of the matter is we need workers in America. There's a lot of jobs that have been unfulfilled and what we also need to do is fix this immigration system, but this system -- this crisis on the border is not necessarily -- should not be lumped in with immigration reform.

BALL: Yeah, I certainly agree with that point, this is a refugee crisis, it is a humanitarian crisis, it is separate from the immigration reform conversation, but just on the question of --

FARROW: Is it worth $4 billion to fix, Krystal?

BALL: Well, it's worth more than that in my view, but just on this question of whether or not the president encouraged this crisis with his actions, the facts just don't bear that out. The timing of when this surge started is not consistent with a reality where the deferred action program that you're talking about, John, led to this. This is being driven by violence, horrific violence, and death and rape and murder in the countries that these children are fleeing.

FARROW: Which by the way, U.S. policies in the '90s contributed too. I mean, we were sending gang members and a lot of organized crime down Central America.

BALL: Our policies still contribute to it through the War on Drugs. That's what these gangs are all about, they’re drug cartels.

FEEHERY: Well, I think, Krystal, I think you're right about the drug culture in the Central American countries. The fact, the reason the president bears some responsibility is there's been no diplomacy with the countries. I think there's been a lot of confusion on the docket program that rumors have flooded in that if you come to America now, you can get citizenship, and then the drug gangs have facilitated this transport through Mexico and made this crisis a real problem for the American people.

FARROW: Well, we have a gridlocked Congress on this particular issue, a lot of controversy swirling around and accusations being made on the Hill about the president and maybe his failure to visit the border. That's something we'll have to out later because we're almost out of time here, but certainly, things are not getting better on the Hill. John Feehery and Krystal Ball, thank you for illustrating just that.

Laura Flint
Laura Flint is a 2014 summer intern for the MRC's News Analysis Division.