MSNBC Anchor Says Republicans Weren’t Sent to D.C. to ‘Just Hold Hearings’

MSNBC continues to disparage the scandals that have plagued the Obama administration the last few weeks. On Sunday’s Weekends with Alex Witt, the host brought on former Democratic staffer Jimmy Williams and former RNC chairman Michael Steele to reluctantly discuss the scandals once again. Of course, rather than focus on the substance of the controversies, Witt fell back on the concern that she and many others in the liberal media have often expressed: “[D]oes this have the potential to derail the president's second-term agenda?”

The president’s agenda is always the victim of these scandal investigations in the minds of the press, at least when there's a (D) following the president's surname. Williams, being the Democrat that he is, brushed aside that question and riffed on another favorite left-wing talking point – Republicans will overreach, just as they did with Bill Clinton in 1998:


"[T]he Republicans, and Michael, you probably won't disagree with me on this, almost always overreach. And when they do that, then they look foolish."
 

But Steele never had a chance to say whether he agreed with Williams’ attack on his party. Witt jumped in, returning to her concern about the president’s agenda:
 

"If you investigate, Michael, and you hold up the president's agenda ultimately, is that really success in the minds of GOP constituents who did not send their elected officials to Washington to just hold hearings?"
 

Witt may think this all comes down to just holding hearings, but I suspect that for many GOP constituents, it’s about more than that. It’s about uncovering the truth and holding the administration accountable for its actions if necessary. Surely most voters would agree that government corruption damages the country and must be rooted out.

Also, most Republican voters would absolutely consider it a success to hold up the president’s liberal agenda. That was one of the reasons Republicans swept into control of the House in 2010. During his first two years in office, President Obama had the nearly unchecked ability to move the country leftward, and he suceeded in doing just that with legislation such as ObamaCare. Voters sent more GOP congressmen to Washington in hopes of slowing this march toward a liberal paradise.

Interestingly, when Witt introduced her two guests, she labeled Steele as a Republican while failing to label Williams as a Democrat. She introduced them as “MSNBC contributor Jimmy Williams and former RNC chairman and MSNBC analyst Michael Steele.” But Williams is a former economic policy advisor to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL). In the interest of fairness, Witt should have mentioned this. But then again, what does an MSNBC host really care about fairness?

Below is a partial transcript of the conversation:

ALEX WITT: In today’s strategy talk, taking back the conversation with Republicans showing no signs of relenting on the controversies which have plagued the White House in recent weeks. President Obama is going on the offensive trying to steer the conversation back to the recovering economy. Joining me now, MSNBC contributor Jimmy Williams and former RNC chairman and MSNBC analyst Michael Steele. And with a welcome to both of you here. Let's talk with you first, Jimmy. The weekly address yesterday, the president really was saying all about the economy. He's touting the gains, and the fact that it's coming back to life here. Is that the right play? Is that what he has to do? Does he kind of ignore the controversies that are out there?

JIMMY WILLIAMS: No, he has to do both. He has to actually be presidential and he’s got to address these, quote, “scandals” as they’re called. I just tweeted that we were going to talk about scandals and all the liberals on Twitter just lit me up. Just to be clear, liberals in America, I don't think that they’re actually scandals, however -- anyway. No, listen, he can talk about the economy and he's got a lot of great stuff to talk about with the economy. Corporate profits, great. Consumer spending, up 3 percent last quarter. K show and home price index, 10 percent up versus a year ago. Housing starts, 13% versus a year ago. Housing, consumer spending are the two things that drive our economy. And they're doing great.



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WITT: But here’s the problem. You have these controversies, and you know the inner workings of Congress. Once folks get their teeth into stuff like this, I mean, does this have the potential to derail the president's second-term agenda?

WILLIAMS: Sure it does. But I mean, listen, the Republicans did this to Clinton and look what happened to that. Bill Clinton is the most popular politician in the country at this point. And so, I mean, the Republicans, and Michael, you probably won't disagree with me on this, almost always overreach. And when they do that, then they look foolish. So I support the Republicans and the Democrats in the House and the Senate investigating the executive branch. They have a right to do that. That is their job. But if you investigate and you find nothing, then you look pretty stupid.

WITT: If you investigate, Michael, and you hold up the president's agenda ultimately, is that really success in the minds of GOP constituents who did not send their elected officials to Washington to just hold hearings?

MICHAEL STEELE: Well, I think it probably would be viewed as success by both the Democrats and the Republicans. Republicans from the standpoint that, okay, we haven't implemented any more of this wacko agenda from the president. And the left saying, now we've got something to go into 2014 and talk about how Republicans are still the party of no, the party of obstruction, the party that won't allow the president to actually help the economy move through various stimulus or other programs that the president wants to put in place. So both look at these type of scandals, which is why it will be interesting to see how it plays out over the summer, as an opportunity to do two things. One, to rev their base, to get their – keep their base in the game, and two, to set up the talking point, to set up the dynamic that they want to put in play for 2014. Democrats wanting to take the House. Republicans wanting to hold the House, maybe spend a little bit, but absolutely go after the Senate.
 

Paul Bremmer
Paul Bremmer is a Media Research Center News Analysis Division intern.