Andrea Mitchell Praises Lefty Protests, After Being Frightened by Tea Party

At the top of her 12 p.m. ET hour MSNBC show on Tuesday, anchor Andrea Mitchell enthusiastically touted liberal protesters showing up to congressional town hall meetings: “Republican Congress members getting an earful back home as they prepare to rollout their plan to repeal ObamaCare.” However, back in 2010, Mitchell was frightened by such “angry” displays by Tea Party demonstrators attending public meetings with Democratic lawmakers.

Leading off a panel discussion later in the show, Mitchell played a clip of an unidentified man lecturing Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley at a town hall appearance that morning:

I'm on ObamaCare. If it wasn't for ObamaCare, we wouldn't be able to afford insurance. With all due respect, sir, you're the man that talked about the death panels. We’re going to create one great big death panel in this country that people can’t afford to get insurance. Don't repeal ObamaCare! Improve it, for God's sakes!

His declaration was met with roars of applause from left-wing attendees who packed the event. After the footage, Mitchell gleefully proclaimed: “Well it is a reverse image in town halls across the country. There you are in Iowa, you’ve got angry constituents venting about health care. This time it isn't the Tea Party fighting ObamaCare, it's ObamaCare recipients, you heard that man, angry that Republicans like Senator Grassley want to take it away.”

In stunning contrast to such fawning coverage, during the rise of the Tea Party movement in 2010, Mitchell appeared on NBC’s December 27 Meet the Press and warned:

There's an anger out there, and I have not seen it since my very first campaign, which was 1968 and George Wallace. And that is the angry populism which is not fact-based, it's just furious at everybody; angry at Democrats, at Republicans. The Tea Party has higher numbers in our last NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll than either of the other traditional parties. And that is what I think this news cycle which you referred to is feeding into, and that is what does frighten me. This spirit of America is so large and embracing, but there is an angry subtext because of economic dislocation that is very, very worrisome. 

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Weeks later, on January 11, 2011, while talking to Ebony magazine publisher Desiree Rogers, Mitchell teed up the former Obama White House staffer to smear the Tea Party as racist: “Let's talk about the current issue of Ebony. Some very provocative articles here about whether he [President Obama] is tough enough and whether or not the politics that we've been seeing – Tea Party politics, and the like – really reach a new level of white supremacism, of anti-African-American rhetoric.”

Turning to The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza on Tuesday, she wondered: “...we don’t know how representative it is, we're seeing it around the country, but what is the peril, if any, for Republican office holders?” He replied: “Well, the peril is when the other side's base is very energized...that is a scary thing for the other side....changing something that people have or taking away something that people have, even if they don't love it, as in ObamaCare, there's a lot of political peril there.”

Moments later, Cillizza’s Post colleague Jonathan Capehart chimed in and was thrilled by the prospect of Democrats using the protests to attack the GOP:

And as that man said there, “Don't repeal it, make it better!” That guy right there is going to, if Senator Schumer doesn't find a way to use it or House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi doesn't find a way to use it, someone's going to find a way to show that the American people like ObamaCare, they want to keep it, and they're going to demand that Congress find a way to fix it, not tear it completely away.

Here is a transcript of the February 21 segment:

12:50 PM ET

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY [R-IA]: I haven't seen you for a long time. How are you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I've been busy. I'm on ObamaCare. If it wasn't for ObamaCare, we wouldn't be able to afford insurance. With all due respect, sir, you're the man that talked about the death panels.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Yep.

MAN: We’re going to create one great big death panel in this country that people can’t afford to get insurance. Don't repeal ObamaCare! Improve it, for God's sakes!

[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]

ANDREA MITCHELL: Well it is a reverse image in town halls across the country. There you are in Iowa, you’ve got angry constituents venting about health care. This time it isn't the Tea Party fighting ObamaCare, it's ObamaCare recipients, you heard that man, angry that Republicans like Senator Grassley want to take it away. Joining me now for our Daily Fix, the Washington Post’s  
Chris Cillizza and Jonathan Capehart, both MSNBC contributors.

Cillizza, first to you, it’s the flip side, we don’t know how representative it is, we're seeing it around the country, but what is the peril, if any, for Republican office holders?

CHRIS CILLIZZA: Well, the peril is when the other side's base is very energized – and that's what you see, people who are willing to take time out of their schedule and attend a town hall, whatever time of the day it is – that is a scary thing for the other side. There's always a tendency when you are where Republicans are – in control of the White House, the Senate, the House, large majority of governorships, large majority of state legislative seats – there's a tendency to think, “People love us, that's why we have the jobs that we have.” You know, “That's why we're in the majority.” There's also a tendency to be complacent. And you know, changing something that people have or taking away something that people have, even if they don't love it, as in ObamaCare, there's a lot of political peril there. And Chuck Grassley, as well as a number of other – Jason Chaffetz last week – Republicans are seeing that reaction.

MITCHELL: And we're seeing more and more, Chris Cillizza and Jonathan, you’re seeing the White House signaling that, well they'll let the Congress devise the repeal and replace. Repeal is not so difficult, it's the replace that is of course the problem. They'll let – they’ll see what the Speaker and what Mitch McConnell come up with, rather than have the White House's fingerprints on the replace.

JONATHAN CAPEHART: Because it seems as though there are people in the White House who remember how this became law in the first place. It didn't take place in the course of three months or four months, this was, you know, more than a year of back-and-forth, lots of political fighting. The man in that clip you showed talked about death panels, that – just the mere suggestion of that almost derailed the effort eight years ago. Congress is not going to be able to repeal the Affordable Care Act in the way that they've been promising over the two terms of President Obama's term.

And as that man said there, “Don't repeal it, make it better!” That guy right there is going to, if Senator Schumer doesn't find a way to use it or House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi doesn't find a way to use it, someone's going to find a way to show that the American people like ObamaCare, they want to keep it, and they're going to demand that Congress find a way to fix it, not tear it completely away.

MITCHELL: And Mitch McConnell wasn't at a town hall meeting, but here he is at a Chamber of Commerce meeting, which is a friendly crowd. But outside, there were protesters. This is what he had to say about it today.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL: You know, this country for 240 years has been an open country where you can express your points of view, as long as you do it peacefully, and we're proud of that. So I'm proud of those folks out there. They don't much like what I'm doing, they don't cheer my agenda.

MITCHELL: And you can see there are plenty of people outside, they were not inside of the Chamber of Commerce meeting.

(...)

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is the Senior News Analyst for MRC