MSNBC Cheers: Obama Can ‘Shame’ GOP With ‘Machiavellian’ Supreme Court Pick

On her 12 p.m. ET hour MSNBC show on Thursday, host Andrea Mitchell was giddy over reports that President Obama was considering Republican Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court: “...the trial balloon, if you will, that came out of the Obama White House, of nominating a Republican to try to put the Republican Senate on notice, and try to back them up against the wall.”

Moments later, Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post agreed: “It feels sort of like an attempt to, as you put it, Andrea, back Senate Republicans into a corner....to make them look as though they're obstinate, they’re tied to this obstructionist Republican Party who won't even consider anyone, not even a Republican governor.”

Turning to left-wing commentator Joy Reid, Mitchell reiterated: “...they [at the White House] think their only path is to really back the Republicans down and shame them, especially going after the Republican senators that Chris just named, who are up for reelection.”

Reid gushed: “Like if you really wanted to think in Machiavellian terms, right? The Brian Sandoval float...” Mitchell interrupted: “Who is Hispanic.” Reid continued: “Who is Hispanic, who is popular, who was already on the federal judiciary, unanimously approved, it puts Republicans on the spot...”

At the top of the exchange, Mitchell highlighted how “Hillary Clinton in a speech has just drawn a line against” nominating Sandoval. A clip played of Clinton telling supporters: “Now, there’s been some talk that maybe the President would nominate the Republican governor of Nevada....but I sure hope the President chooses a true progressive, who will stand up for the values and the interests of the people of this country.”

Cillizza touted: “For Hillary Clinton, it's a great issue to say, ‘I like Brian Sandoval, but we need to nominate a liberal or a progressive.’”

Reid saw the Sandoval rumor as a “gift to Hillary Clinton” because “it allows Hillary Clinton to get to the left of President Obama, someplace that she very rarely can be....This puts her to the President's left, it allows her to come out strongly for a progressive, it allows her to place herself in the progressive camp...”

Going further, Reid saw it as a way for Clinton to “get her voting rights, sort of, issue on the table, which African-American voters care deeply about.” She concluded: “So I think this is, in a sense, a real gift, not only to Hillary Clinton, but to the Democratic Senate Congressional Committee.”

Mitchell excitedly replied: “Voting rights – North Carolina, Alabama, Texas, all the big cases coming up that we've all been tracking, and a number of them in, of course, Super Tuesday states.”

About hour after the all the wishful thinking about Obama “backing Republicans into a corner” with a Sandoval nomination, the Nevada Govenor announced he was withdrawing his name from consideration for the high court.

Here is a transcript of the February 25 exchange:

12:22 PM ET

(...)

ANDREA MITCHELL: Let’s talk about the Supreme Court because Hillary Clinton in a speech has just drawn a line against the trial balloon, if you will, that came out of the Obama White House, of nominating a Republican to try to put the Republican Senate on notice, and try to back them up against the wall. This was Hillary Clinton just moments ago in Kingstree, South Carolina.

HILLARY CLINTON: The President has the constitutional responsibility to nominate a successor for that vacancy. And I'm very proud President Obama has said he intends, he intends to follow his constitutional responsibility. And I am deeply disappointed that the Senate of the United States has said sight unseen, “We're not going to consider anybody you send.”

Now, there’s been some talk that maybe the President would nominate the Republican governor of Nevada. Now, I love Nevada. Especially after last weekend, I really love Nevada. And I know the Governor has done some good things, but I sure hope the President chooses a true progressive, who will stand up for the values and the interests of the people of this country. Who understands that you need to protect the right to vote of a person, not the right of a corporation to buy an election. Who will understand that we still need the Voting Rights Act to be enforced because too many people are being deprived.

MITCHELL: Chris Cillizza, that is a real shot at this – to shoot down this trial balloon, and also, she slid in the whole Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which is central to Bernie Sanders' candidacy.

CILLIZZA: Well, so first of all, you see right there, the difference between being a candidate for president and being president, right? For Hillary Clinton, it's a great issue to say, “I like Brian Sandoval, but we need to nominate a liberal or a progressive.”

The other thing is, I am skeptical that – first of all, here are the things we know. President Obama does not have a short list yet, and all of a sudden, Brian Sandoval's name comes out. It feels sort of like an attempt to, as you put it, Andrea, back Senate Republicans into a corner, make them look obstinate, particularly people like Mark Kirk, Pat Toomey, Kelly Ayotte, Rob Portman – people who are Republicans who are up in states that either went for Obama or are very swingy – to make them look as though they're obstinate, they’re tied to this obstructionist Republican Party who won't even consider anyone, not even a Republican governor.

I'm not sure that Brian Sandoval was ever going to be on the short, short list here. I think now that his name has come out, it’s even less likely. But in a cycle in which Donald Trump is the Republican frontrunner, I could be totally wrong.

MITCHELL: And, not we haven’t all been wrong this entire campaign season. But briefly, Joy, the reaction from Jim Clyburn was immediate, that, “We want a real progressive.” This is what Hillary Clinton is saying. So he’s now got to satisfy his own base – the President – but also figure out what is reasonable. And clearly from Joe Biden's comments to Rachel Maddow last week, and others, they think their only path is to really back the Republicans down and shame them, especially going after the Republican senators that Chris just named, who are up for reelection.

JOY REID: Absolutely. Yeah, and I think sort of what a two-fer. Like if you really wanted to think in Machiavellian terms, right? The Brian Sandoval float, which –

MITCHELL: Who is Hispanic.

REID: Who is Hispanic, who is popular, who was already on the federal judiciary, unanimously approved, it puts Republicans on the spot, as Chris Cillizza just said. But also, and I think this is Harry Reid's second gift to Hillary Clinton, because just talking to White House folks yesterday, it seemed that they were very much disavowing, this leak came from them. It seems to have come from the world of Harry Reid. And what it does is it allows Hillary Clinton to get to the left of President Obama, someplace that she very rarely can be. She’s always hugging the President. This puts her to the President's left, it allows her to come out strongly for a progressive, it allows her to place herself in the progressive camp, and get her voting rights, sort of, issue on the table, which African-American voters care deeply about. So I think this is, in a sense, a real gift, not only to Hillary Clinton, but to the Democratic Senate Congressional Committee.

MITCHELL: Voting rights – North Carolina, Alabama.

REID: Yes.

MITCHELL: Texas, all the big cases coming up that we've all been tracking, and a number of them in, of course, Super Tuesday states.

REID: And the first election in 50 years without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act, with southern Republican legislatures and governors going after the right to vote aggressively. And one of them, Ted Cruz, one of the states that has the most egregious sort of attacks on voting rights, he sits on that Judiciary Committee. It’s the perfect storm for Democrats as far as the Senate reelect’s concerned.

MITCHELL: Joy Reid, thanks always.

REID: Thank you.

MITCHELL: Great to have you here. And thank you to Chris Cillizza.

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