MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts on Tuesday argued that, based on Barack Obama's record, it would be fair to label the President a "fairly conservative Democrat." Talking to Ashley Bell, a Georgia politician who left the Democratic Party to become a Republican, the host listed several examples that he suggested could, at the very least, make the President a "centrist."
Bell argued that Obama's moves reflect convenience rather than principle. Explaining his own party switch, the Hall County Commissioner claimed the Democratic Party no longer has room for conservatives. This prompted Roberts to incredulously wonder, "Why did you think you were a Democrat to begin with, then?"
Lobbying for Obama, Roberts argued, "He cut corporate tax rates, kept Guantanamo open, didn't push for the public option. Now promising to cut taxes even more, fewer regulations for businesses. I mean, I could go on and on. Wouldn't this be a definition of a fairly conservative Democrat or at least a definition of a centrist?"
[See video below. MP3 audio here.]
Of course, the President has also added more to the national debt in 29 months than all presidents from Washington through Reagan. Additionally, closing Guantanamo is a goal the President that simply hasn't accomplished yet. The tax cut deal he opposed and only signed as a compromise.
A transcript of the February 8 segment, which aired at 3:13pm EST, follows:
THOMAS ROBERTS: Conservative Democrats in growing numbers are leaving the party in the rear view mirror, so to speak, as they bolt for the GOP, especially in the south. Now, consider the case of Ashley Bell. Former President of the college Democrats of America, who spoke at the 2004 convention. He is now a Hall County Commissioner in Georgia who decided to jump ship after the shellacking the Democrats took in the midterms. Now, since November, no fewer than 24 state senators and representatives in five southern states have defected from the Democratic Party to become Republicans. Ashley Bell is now a Republican Hall County Commissioner from District four in Gainesville, Georgia and he joins me from Atlanta. Ashley, it's great to see you.
ASHLEY BELL: Great to see you, Thomas.
ROBERTS: Explain to all of us. Break it down for us. Why did you leave the Democratic Party? What was at the base of this decision?
BELL: Well, I tell you, you watch to Morning Joe every day, you listen to Joe Scarborough, what else can you do? But, no, seriously, I've taken a long time to thing about this. My family and I have been thinking about this for a year now. And to be honest with you, something's been on my hearts. When you look at being a conservative in the south and you look at where the national parties are going, it's was once said that, you know, parties is all local [sic], but it's really national now. And when you look at it as a conservative, the Democratic Party, just isn't a conservative party anymore. And, you know, growing up, Thomas, you know, being a Democrat in the south, there were conservatives in the Democratic Party, that's now longer the case. And if you're going to be a conservative and you're going to argue with liberals, you might as well do it from the Republican Party instead of as a Democrat.
ROBERTS: Also if I know the good people at Morning Joe, the smart people, Joe, Mika, Chris, you probably made their show for tomorrow morning. [Bell laughs.] But, under President Obama, the Bush cuts, they were extended. Taxes, as a whole, are down to levels that are unseen in a generation. The stock market, it's up, you know, 12,000 once again. The President escalating the war in Afghanistan. He cut corporate tax rates, kept Guantanamo open, didn't push for the public option. Now promising to cut taxes even more, fewer regulations for businesses. I mean, I could go on and on. Wouldn't this be a definition of a fairly conservative Democrat or at least a definition of a centrist?
BELL: Well, you know, I applaud the President for his efforts. But, you know, the reality, Thomas, is that now the people have spoken. The Republican Party has taken the House and what other option is there? Because there's no bill that's going to come out of the United States Congress on the House side that won't be fiscally conservative, that won't be responsible and look at taking care of our debt and obligations. So, if that's the case, the President is definitely understanding he's dealing with a Congress that's not going to allow reckless spending, not going to allow government to grow anymore. I think he's really dealing with the political realities, more so than coming to the center.
ROBERTS: [Slightly incredulous] Why did you think you were a Democrat to begin with, then?
BELL: Well, let me tell you, you know, a lot has been made about, you know, being African American in the south and growing up in an area where a lot of people- you have the Democratic party, kind of, established and kind of entrenched. But, to be honest with you, growing up in the south, everyone was a Democrat, even in Hall County. You know, no matter what color you were, Democrats were everywhere in the south. I go to college, I come back, and everybody was Republican. I stayed a Democrat, ran as a Democrat. But the reality was I always conservative. I always looked at the issues of how can we relieve the burden of everyday people and get government out of the way. Always felt that way. The difference was is that is the Democratic Party decided to become a more liberal party. And we saw a party that only used conservative Democrats and blue dogs to gain majorities and then force issues like the health care package and stimulus package on 'em. Make 'em vote for it and you see what happens. They all got sent home. So, if you're going to be a conservative, it's better off to be in a party with folks that are fighting for the same ideas you're fighting for, instead of in a party that's actually attacking and going against the very ideals that you stand for.
ROBERTS: Ashley, we appreciate your time today.
— Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.