MSNBC Explores 'Kinder, Gentler GOP' on 'Ronan Farrow Daily'

According to MSNBC, Republicans are always making things worse. On the July 25 edition of Ronan Farrow Daily, the cable host began a segment entitled “Kinder, Gentler GOP?” after playing a clip of Rand Paul at the National Urban League annual conference speaking of the “poverty problem.” Farrow asked his guests a stream of leading questions insinuating that Republicans are “catering to a demographic that may have lost Republicans the last general election” rather than actually working to aid low income individuals. 

While the president of the National Urban League Marc Morial tried to avoid being too overtly political, MSNBC analyst and former DNC communications director Karen Finney made it clear that Republicans “tend to be policy ideas that actually make things worse, not better.” They oppose “things like an increase in the minimum wage or equal pay for women that we know could actually help communities of color.” (See video below)

Both Morial and the former Disrupt anchor agreed that government programs stemming from the federal government are the only way to aid the poor. Morial claimed any “ideas of transferring all of the responsibilities to the states are really a non-starter.”

Farrow added balance to the discussion by inviting former RNC chairman Michael Steele onto the show to answer questions about Republican intentions such as, “how much is a genuine policy shift toward addressing poverty?” He also questioned Paul Ryan’s budget, and how “it actually conflicts with his budget plan in some ways,” asking, “is he not focusing on the actual specifics of these plans when he comes out with this kind of strong rhetoric?”

See transcript below:

MSNBC
Ronan Farrow Daily
July 25, 2014
1:12 p.m. Eastern
7 minutes and 8 seconds


SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): The poverty problem, it’s not new and it's not going away easily. Black unemployment still twice white unemployment. And I don't accuse the president of not caring. I think he does care. But that's what we have to talk about policies, not just about caring. I think there are people in both parties who care. But, frankly, we have to come up with a policy that does better.

RONAN FARROW: The new face and the new kinder, gentler attitude of the GOP? That was Senator Rand Paul at the National Urban League annual conference this morning. He's one of a number of prominent Republicans and prominent potential 2016 candidates now emphasizing poverty. Inequality. Social welfare. The question is, do GOP policies back up the new GOP rhetoric? Joining us now, Marc Morial, he’s the president of the National Urban League, Michael Steele, MSNBC contributor and former chairman of the RNC and Karen Finney, MSNBC political analyst and former communications director at the DNC. Thank you all for being here. Marc, is the GOP changing its tone on poverty?

MARC MORIAL: I couldn't tell you that. I think what is important is that both Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Reince Priebus were here at the National Urban League. Joe Biden and Rand Paul were here. And what I think it's a reflection of is that, the problems of poverty and income equality are issues central to the nation at this time and that communities of color and urban communities cannot and will not be ignored in 2014 or '16. I think the responses you see have a lot to do with a hard, cold facts around the political reality of the electorate as much as perhaps changing concerns within the GOP.

FARROW: What do you think, Michael? How much of this is catering to a demographic that may have lost Republicans the last general election and how much is a genuine policy shift toward addressing poverty?

STEELE: I think it's more of a wake-up call and reality check as opposed to a change in policy direction. And I say that for this reason. There have been for quite some time, certainly during my chairmanship, chairmanship of Ed Gillespie and others who put a lot of emphasis from a policy slash political standpoint that never got the traction that you see right now. And that's a good thing. I think it means the party is tuning in and sort of turning up not just the rhetoric but actually following it up as you see with guys like Rand Paul and Paul Ryan. With specific proposals and ideas to address exactly what Marc Morial just outlined. I think this is a positive turning point. Let's see how they reconcile voting laws in this country that the party has supported that African-Americans think disenfranchise. So those types of things are the next step. We'll see how they handle it.

FARROW: We’ll be watching. And Michael Steele, you couldn’t see it perhaps but Karen Finney was smirking and has thoughts. Karen, I want you to talk specifics for a second. But before we get to Paul Ryan, I know we have burning thoughts on his budget. Let's talk about Rand Paul. He’s proposed economic freedom zones that reduce taxes in very poor communities. Ones with unemployment 1.5 times the national average. Good idea?

KAREN FINNEY: Possibly. I mean again, a lot of this, the devil is in the details. And really understanding because a lot of times, this kind of speaks generally to what Michael was saying. Yes, Republicans have put forward ideas but a lot of times those ideas actually end up not being ideas that will help communities of color. They tend to favor, you know, they may have policy ideas but they tend to be policy ideas that actually make things worse, not better. And they tend to not support things like an increase in the minimum wage or equal pay for women that we know could actually help communities of color or how about Rand Paul was talking about jobs. The president's jobs act. The problem I have with some of the proposals is the devil is in the details and a lot of times when we really scratch below the surface and see those details, you find out that it actually ends moving money around in a way that is not always beneficial as it might seem an the surface.

FARROW: And that's a criticism that Paul Ryan's budget has gotten for instance. Let's look at that for a second, Michael. Paul Ryan introduced his anti-poverty plan but it actually conflicts with his budget plan in some ways. The New Republic highlighted some of those. They say Ryan cut $137 billion from food stamps but his anti-poverty agenda doesn't cut food stamps at all. Is he not focusing on the actual specifics of these plans when he comes out with this kind of strong rhetoric?

STEELE: I think he is focussing on the specifics and what Paul Ryan has been trying to do for the past few years that he's produced these budgets and is now being accentuated by a gentleman like Rand Paul is let's have the debate. Let's just put these numbers out there. Karen makes a very good point. The devil is always in the detail when it comes to policies and legislation because both democrats and republicans have to sign off on it. And we philosophically have differences that need to get ironed out. Oftentimes what we've seen, Ronan, is the idea of starting the conversation that people sort of blow it up before you have it. So let's have the conversation now. Let's really get into the numbers and see how these policies work out and we'll see what works and what doesn't work.

FARROW: Mark, on the Ryan budget, he proposes taking $100 billion out of federal welfare programs and giving them directly to the states. Is that something Democrats should welcome?

MORIAL: It's a highly irresponsible plan. And when I saw his plan several months ago, it's an assault on the poor. It's a war on the poor. So with Paul Ryan, it was interesting that now he's got an anti-poverty plan that does seem to conflict to some extent. And I think it reflects the fact that his earlier budget plan got very, very poor reviews. You've got to invest in people. You've got to be serious about trying to left them up. And I think the test is going to be whether the ideas expressed turn into action. Rand Paul and Paul Ryan are both sitting members of Congress. They've got the opportunity to introduce legislation and use their influence to try to bring those legislative instruments to a vote. So I welcome the idea that people recognize that issues of income inequality, poverty, the growing political strength of communities of color will not be ignored going forward.

FARROW:  Mark, what about Marco Rubio's new push on some of these issues. He's been out talking about education. That's clearly welcome and seen too infrequently in politics. But he’s also very big on transferring a lot of this funding that's now federal to the states. What do you have to say to his role in this?

MORIAL: Look, you've got states that refuse to expand Medicaid. You have governors who refuse American reinvestment -- Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars. That's not the way to go. Many states would be responsible. There are too many states that would not necessarily be responsive or responsible with the money. So for me, those ideas of transferring all of the responsibilities to the states are really a nonstarter.
Laura Flint
Laura Flint is a 2014 summer intern for the MRC's News Analysis Division.