Contessa Brewer: GOP Obstructionism Slowing Response to Swine Flu?

"MSNBC News Live" anchor Contessa Brewer on Tuesday speculated as to whether supposed obstructionism by congressional Republicans may end up hampering the response to the swine flu outbreak. Talking to Republican strategist Tucker Bounds and Democratic strategist Peter Mirijanian, she asserted, "Let me ask you, Health and Human Services secretary has not been confirmed. You have a missing director of the CDC. The surgeon general is not there."

Specifically addressing Bounds, Brewer quizzed, "Do you, Tucker, think that Republicans are in any way to blame for standing in the way of those important positions- when you're facing swine flu- from being filled?" Bounds, of course pointed out that Democrats control both the Senate and the House. As for the CDC, Obama has not even nominated a candidate. Regarding the position of surgeon general, Dr. Sanjay Gupta was considered, but took his name out of contention. No one has picked to fill the spot. So, how, exactly, would Republicans be to blame? Brewer didn't say.

In an odd non sequitur, Brewer began the question on Republican culpability by musing, "A viewer just e-mailed me here and he said he just saw this bumper sticker called- that says 'Republicans No Everything.' And no was N-O."

The MSNBC host also announced that "Rush Limbaugh is blaming President Obama for swine flu." She then proceeded to play the following clip, which obviously seems like a joke and not an actual accusation by the popular talk show host:

RUSH LIMBAUGH: Everywhere Obama is spreading Obamaism, there is a deadly disease taking place either in the T.A.R.P. community or in the newspaper business. Obama goes to Mexico, they have an earthquake. Obama goes to Mexico, pig flu.

Brewer then taunted, "Wow! Tucker, would you like to respond on behalf of conservatives everywhere?"

To be fair, Brewer did discuss Democratic criticism of GOP Senator Susan Collins for removing $800 billion from the stimulus bill that would have gone to fight a flu pandemic. Brewer noted, "Peter, do you think it's fair to point the finger at Susan Collins? After all, Senator Schumer also called the flu pandemic money porky?"

A transcript of the April 28 segment, which aired at 10:14, follows:

CONTESSA BREWER: Yeah, some of that finger pointing, Tamron, is directed at Republican Senator Susan Collins, the moderate Republican from Maine led the effort to remove more than $800 billion to fight a flu pandemic- fought to remove it from the stimulus bill. John Nichols at The Nation today calls Collins a "no nothing" and accuses her of irresponsibly playing politics. Republican strategist Tucker Bounds and Democratic strategist Peter Mirijanian are here with me now. Peter, do you think it's fair to point the finger at Susan Collins? After all, Senator Schumer also called the flu pandemic money porky?

PETER MIRIJANIAN (Democratic strategist): Yeah. I mean, to give Senator Collins the benefit of the doubt, I'm sure she regrets that now. You know, there was no way to foretell this was out there. But, I just think that there has to be an abundance of caution when it comes to this. I mean, you know, we live in a world where everybody, you know, flies all over the place and these diseases are transmitted. So, this is serious stuff. So, to look at it just as a budget item that could be cut and it's unnecessary I think she probably regrets that decision today.

CONTESSA BREWER: You know, it's interesting the people who are finger pointing today- Rush Limbaugh is blaming President Obama for swine flu. Let me play it.

MIRIJANIAN: I'm surprised.

RUSH LIMBAUGH: Everywhere Obama is spreading Obamaism, there is a deadly disease taking place either in the T.A.R.P. community or in the newspaper business. Obama goes to Mexico, they have an earthquake. Obama goes to Mexico, pig flu.

BREWER: Wow! Tucker, would you like to respond on behalf of conservatives everywhere?

TUCKER BOUNDS (Republican strategist): Uh, no, you know, I really wouldn't. I think that's a radio host weighing in. What I think here is that we have serious issues that surround the response to this. And I think that the politics of it, they're really not mature yet. I think that the politics and the political debate that surround the response to this swine flu really will stem from the management of how we're able to respond nationwide once we get a better handle on what the actual response is going to be from the Obama administration. Right now, they've been trying to perpetuate a calmness. I think that's smart. But I think we're going to have to wait and see how the politics play on this, save Rush Limbaugh. I mean, his radio show is every day. He's forced to wade into these waters regardless. I don't think that represents Republican politics.

BREWER: You know, a viewer- A viewer just- A viewer just e-mailed me here and he said he just saw this bumper sticker called- that says "Republicans No Everything." And no was N-O. Let me ask you, Health and Human Services secretary has not been confirmed. You have a missing director of the CDC. The surgeon general is not there. Do you, Tucker, think that Republicans are in any way to blame for standing in the way of those important positions- when you're facing swine flu- from being filled?

BOUNDS: Well, look, Governor Sebelius is going to be confirmed today. I think that the Obama administration could be doing more to get their nominees confirmed. They control both houses of

Congress, the House and the Senate. So, I don't think it's a good time to lay blame on anyone's hands. But, I think what we're going to see, and I'll say it again, is that the politics and the political debate that surround this issue are going to get more divisive as the issues of management become more mature. At this point, we're in such an infant stage of where this issue really is, it's hard to weigh in on a political perspective.

BREWER: Peter, given this could- has the potential, we're not there yet and certainly we could avoid a pandemic. This has the potential of being a very serious for the Obama administration, how much is riding on how effectively he and his team address it?

MIRIJANIAN: Well, certainly the American public wants to see the administration taking action and taking all the kind of precautions, not signaling there should be any reason to panic, but that we should take precautions and safeguard against it. Look, let me go back to what Tucker said. I mean, the fact of the matter is, as Tucker knows, in the Senate any one senator, if they really choose to do so can hold up a nomination. The fact that Sebelius' nomination is now troubled because of her views on abortion, you know, shocks me because you know, I think the average American, again, looks at this and says why should the head of the largest health agency, the most important health agency in the country, should their nomination be held up over one's personal views on abortion rights? So, I mean, yeah, Republicans run the risk they become obstructionist on areas of widespread public health concern. That's the problem. And that's why, although we can give Senator Collins the benefit of the doubt, you know, if you're a partisan Democrat, you can make hay over this.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org