Although Alex Wagner has donned new glasses for her news show Now, the liberal journalist seems unable to look beyond MSNBC’s favorite response to any Republican: bringing up race. On the July 31 edition, Wagner played a clip of Ari Melber’s July 30 interview with Senators Rand Paul and Cory Booker on their new drug law reform initiative the REDEEM Act – the Record Expungement Designed to ENhance Employment Act – and then asked the co-host of The Cycle why Paul and Booker were so “reticent to take up” the issue of “racial disparities inherent in our criminal justice system” and “plumb further depths of it.”
Even though the Senators were pushing a bipartisan bill on the traditionally liberal cause of criminal justice reform, Melber and Wagner were unable to resist weaseling race into the discussion, seemingly unhappy that both politicians were unwilling to play the race game. [See video below. Click here for MP3 audio]
When Melber asked Senator Paul if the “the enforcement on the war on drugs” is inherently “racist,” the Kentucky Republican acknowledged the racial disparities within enforcement, and diplomatically replied that “it has a racial outcome” which is “inadvertent.” When Melber pushed the Democratic Senator on the issue, asking if the War on Drugs was “accidentally racist or explicitly so,” Booker shot back that “you're complicating this far more than it needs to be. Rand said it very simple, this has a profound, racial impact.” [See my colleague Ken Shepherd’s blog post for more details]
Bipartisan reform is not enough for the liberal commentators on MSNBC. They want politicians to recognize that “there are aspects of the War on Drug that are racist and operate in this tremendously unfair way” which stem from “a Jim Crow history that stigmatized and criminalized often non-violent relatively minor behavior.”
Politicians left and right, Republican and Democrat must act and think in accordance with the Lean Forward’s race-obsessed view of the world.
See transcript below:
Now with Alex Wagner
July 31, 2014
4:23 p.m. Eastern
3 minutes and 2 seconds
ALEX WAGNER: The bromance between Senators Rand Paul and Cory Booker just got kind of serious. Earlier this month the pair formed an unlikely bipartisan alliance when they teamed up to tackle the fatally flawed justice system. The Senator's Redeem Act would ban minors from solitary confinement and it would restore felons' eligibility for certain government benefits and it would make it easier for felons to clear their criminal records. Yesterday, the pair sat down with MSNBC’s very own Ari Melber for a joint interview.
SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): I think people deserve a second chance. I think a lot of kids growing up make mistakes and they deserve a second chance. Particularly if you don't want them to go back into the cycle of drugs and crime, you want them to be employed and so the best way to be employed side is not to punish them forever for something they did wrong when they were a kid.
SEN. CORY BOOKER (NJ-D): I’ve had people come to me with these cases, they have a non-violent drug offense for doing something, frankly, that the last three presidents have admitted to doing and they're still having to check a box that they have a felony conviction for marijuana possession. So there comes a time of proportionality.
WAGNER: But as clear-headed as the Senators were about the effects on the War on Drugs, they were quite coy when it came to this intent.
MELBER: In your view, is the enforcement on the war on drugs racist?
PAUL: Well, I think it has a racial outcome, I think is a better way to put it. I think it's inadvertent and so I don't think anyone is plotting to make it that way.
BOOKER: I think you're complicating this far more than it needs to be. Rand said it very simple, this has a profound, racial impact.
WAGNER: Joining me is the host of MSNBC's The Cycle, Ari Melber. Ari, always good to see you. Congrats on a very interesting interview. I thought it was telling or I don't know if it was telling or simply worth discussing and unpacking the fact that given the racial disparities inherent in our criminal justice system, both Cory and Rand, as they refer to each other, were really reticent to take up that issue and plum further depths of it.
MELBER: Right, here are two people that are leading the Congress in both of their parties saying there are systemic failures and racial unfairness in the way we enforce the War on Drugs and we need to change it completely. We have Rand Paul, a Republican, saying we have food stamps to give food stamps and government benefits to the convicts, not something you hear everyday.
WAGNER: Right, from the party that is trying to slash us, the social safety net.
MELBER: And there is tension there and yet this matters in saying that providing that leadership, but when we get to the question of where the policies came from and where the fear of crime came from and what the crackdown did, reticence equal from both of them to say this is racist. My view, since we’re here now discussing not just what they said but the larger context is obviously, we know, historically and currently there are aspects of the War on Drug that are racist and operate in this tremendously unfair way and some of it grows out of as Michelle Alexander has documented, a Jim Crow history that stigmatized and criminalized often non-violent relatively minor behavior.