In a discussion about Rand Paul’s presidential chances on MSNBC’s The Last Word, a panel featuring Josh Barro and Richard Wolffe managed to hit Republicans for being anti-immigrant while also accusing Paul and conservatives – not the Obama administration – of misleading on Benghazi. Paul has received media criticism for supposedly fleeing a dinner with Rep. Steve King when the Iowa Republican was approached by two so-called “Dreamers” regarding his opposition to the President’s DACA program. Paul says he got up from lunch to conduct a pre-arranged interview with reporters a few feet away.
The New York Times’s Barro, who recently caused a stir for suggesting on Twitter that socially conservative attitudes need to be ruthlessly “stamped out,” had unkind things to say about those who support more border security as well. He whined that “so much of the Republican base...is just very strongly anti-immigration.” He elaborated further on the subject: “And when Republicans talk about these immigration issues, they come off as sort of nasty.” In Barroland, it’s “nasty” to want the President to enforce the nation’s immigration laws, but perfectly civil to daydream about society blackballing social conservatives for their religious beliefs. [MP3 audio here; video below]
Host Lawrence O’Donnell offered a backhanded compliment to Paul, asserting that bolting from the camera was the “right political move for a Republican candidate in Iowa. Just get out of there. This can come to no good.” The conclusion from the liberal panel was that conservatives need to avoid the topic of immigration if they are going to be successful as a party going forward.
Earlier in the segment, after O’Donnell played a clip of Rand Paul speaking on Benghazi at an Iowa fundraiser, he cited a report claiming a Republican-led committee did not find any wrongdoing. O’Donnell wondered, “is it possible then that Republicans like Rand Paul will stop talking about Benghazi?” Wolffe, a liberal MSNBC contributor, spun the entire scandal back on Republicans, blaming them for misinformation:
I have to say that, even if the House Republican-led committee said there was no deliberate wrongdoing, that no one was deliberately misled, there has been deliberate misleading of the American people. And it's by conservatives like Rand Paul.
Wolffe claimed he understood why so many conservative voters believe this. He opined, “It has been repeated so many times that there was some coverup. There was wrongdoing. It was something intentional. There were these orders that were pulled back...You've got to believe it because it has been repeated so many times.”
The relevant portion of the transcript is below.
The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell
August 5, 2014
10:06 p.m. Eastern
LAWRENCE O’DONNELL, host: And the Benghazi message might be running out of steam. There's a report in the San Francisco Chronicle saying that the House Intelligence Committee, led by Republicans, has concluded that there was no deliberate wrong doing by the Obama administration in the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. According to Congressman Thompson, the second ranking Democrat on that committee, Thompson said the report confirms that no one was deliberately misled, no military assets were withheld, and no stand down order to U.S. Forces was given. Richard Wolffe, assuming that report comes out and that report supports what the Democratic congressman says it does, is it possible, and as I field the question being formed, I think I know the answer, is it possible then that Republicans like Rand Paul will stop talking about Benghazi?
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC contributor: You're such an optimist. I have to say that, even if the House Republican-led committee said there was no deliberate wrongdoing, that no one was deliberately misled, there has been deliberate misleading of the American people. And it's by conservatives like Rand Paul. Because you can understand why a conservative voter in Iowa would believe this stuff. It had been repeated so many times that there was some coverup. There was wrongdoing. It was something intentional. There were these orders that were pulled back. You’ve got to believe it because it has been repeated so many times, so who would believe the findings of the august House committee – even if it’s led by Republicans – when it has been repeated so many times? If you were running for President, you would say it too, because no one is going to dispute it, not in the Republican field.
O’DONNELL: Now let’s get to the – when we're discussing this, it would be nice if we could get that video up again of Rand Paul trying to have lunch and then making a decision that lunch is going to be over sooner than we think, because those young dreamers approach, identify themselves, extend their hands, shake hands with Congressman Steve King. Rand Paul, he hears it, as well as we just did, even better because he's sitting right there. He's heard them identify themselves, knows what they are, and he makes the right political move for a Republican candidate in Iowa. Just get out of there. This can come to no good.
JOSH BARRO, MSNBC contributor: Yeah, I mean this is such an awkward political issue for Republicans. There is so much of the Republican base that is just very strongly anti-immigration. The only thing House Republicans could agree as an immigration package was a bill to end DACA and say no, we don't want to let these people stay in the country. At the same time, broad, comprehensive immigration reform polls well with the electorate as a whole. And when Republicans talk about these immigration issues, they come off as sort of nasty. I mean, you have Steve King right there with his calves the size of cantaloupes line. And he saying, oh no, I didn’t mean you, I meant other people. But so, and also you have elites in the Republican Party who are quite favorable to immigration. So the right strategy for anyone running for President is to say as little about immigration as possible and certainly not be present for an argument between Steve King – whose supporters you want to back you in the Iowa caucus – and a fairly sympathetic immigrant who just wants to make a living in the United States.
O’DONNELL: And, uh, Richard, classic political handler move. I don't know if the guy in the green shirt is a Rand Paul political handler, but you know, you get the guy out of there as soon as you hear those things.
WOLFFE: Yeah so, the official story is, of course, he had a very urgent press briefing that he had to attend, which was what the nod of the head was. Truth is, the glory of Iowa and New Hampshire and all these early states is that you cannot run away. He may be able to duck out of it this time, but there will be a town hall, there will be another dreamer and there will be more video cameras on him, and he won't be able to take half of that burger and whatever is in that cup and run away. Because he has to answer the questions.