Bloomberg columnist Margaret Carlson tied immigration reform to the shooting of Trayvon Martin on Wednesday’s Morning Joe, claiming Republican voters oppose the Senate immigration bill because they believe “immigrants are, you know, people in hoodies.” While the inflammatory line would no doubt be well-received on a liberal network like MSNBC, it seems somewhat unbecoming of a professional political journalist.
Suffice it to say, Carlson was not called out by her fellow panelists for the hyperbolic comment. Carlson also commended Thomas Friedman’s latest op-ed in The New York Times, entitled “If Churchill Could See Us Now,” in which Friedman – who recently held up China as a paragon of greatness, so long as they don’t emulate the “American Dream” – blasted House Republicans for making this country “un-great”:
Churchill never met the Tea Party, and he certainly never met today’s House Republicans, a group so narrow-minded and disinterested in governing – and the necessary compromises that go with it – that they’re ready to kill an immigration bill that is manifestly in the country’s economic, social, and strategic interests.
Co-host Mika Brzezinski kicked off the segment by asking Carlson for her thoughts. Carlson seemed to agree, in part, with Friedman, blaming Washington gridlock on the “gerrymandered districts” of House Republicans:
...you have these districts where House members are doing what their districts sent them to do, which is not to have an immigration bill because they’re gerrymandered districts, majority white voters, older, and for them, immigrants are, you know, people in hoodies. They classify them as we don’t want them. They’re going to lower the wages. There are not going to be enough jobs. They’re taking our jobs.
For his part, co-host Joe Scarborough came to the defense of House Republicans, arguing the piecemeal approach seems like “a logical, conservative approach to take,” and that opponents of the Senate bill are not “evil,” as some liberal pundits have characterized them.
With his defense of conservative Republicans out of the way, though, the rest of the panel were free to hammer home liberal talking points.
Carlson – and Friedman, though he was not present at the segment – were defended by Politico’s Jim VandeHei and the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein, who both griped that conservatives “don’t trust government on anything.” Stein huffed:
It’s the distrust of government that gets them opposed to this bill. That’s a predicate for opposing basically any bill – I mean, any bill – because government does have carry out the functions of executing the bill.
Of course, it’s hyperbolic to suggest that conservatives distrust the government on “anything.” Most conservatives, though they generally favor a smaller role for government, would concede that the federal government has many important, constitutionally-granted purposes. Liberals, no doubt, have a radically different vision, and those differences produce conflict in a divided Congress. But with many in the media on the side of a larger, more activist government – well, that means the media will often view Democrats as heroes and Republicans as villains.
See the full transcript below:
July 17, 2013
6:47 a.m. Eastern
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: It’s time for the must-read opinion pages. We’re going to start with the New York Times. Thomas Friedman writes, “If Churchill Could See Us Now”:
“Whenever we go into political drift as a country, optimists often quote Winston Churchill’s line that Americans will always do the right thing, after they’ve “exhausted all other possibilities.” I don’t think that’s true anymore. Churchill never met the Tea Party, and he certainly never met today’s House Republicans, a group so narrow-minded and disinterested in governing – and the necessary compromises that go with it – that they’re ready to kill an immigration bill that is manifestly in the country’s economic, social, and strategic interests.”
“Proving Churchill at least half-right, we have foolishly ignored immigration reform for years. But today, finally, we found a coalition of Senate Democrats and 14 Senate Republicans who have courageously compromised on a bill that, though not perfect – it still spends too much on border defense – opens more opportunity for the high and low-skilled immigrants we need to thrive and gives those already here illegally a legitimate pathway to citizenship. Yet it appears that brain-dead House Republicans and their – ” Margaret?
MARGARET CARLSON: Pusillanimous.
BRZEZINSKI: Thank you. “Pusillanimous leadership are not looking to do the right thing and pass a similar bill. We’ve exhausted all other possibilities, and we’re still stuck. That is how a great country becomes un-great.” Ouch.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Margaret, what do you think?
CARLSON: I think, Robert said earlier, how you have these districts where House members are doing what their districts sent them to do, which is not to have an immigration bill because they’re gerrymandered districts, majority white voters, older, and for them, immigrants are, you know, people in hoodies. They classify them as we don’t want them. They’re going to lower the wages. There are not going to be enough jobs. They’re taking our jobs. So these House members are going to vote that way, and they’re going to pretend like it’s because the border is not secure enough. We’re spending billions on the border. More people are getting in through JFK airport than are getting across the border now.
SCARBOROUGH: The thing is – as Robert, we were talking about during the break – it is logical for a member. They’re not pusillanimous or obsequious or whatever. They’re looking at their poll numbers, seeing they’ve got 75 percent of the vote. They’re also looking around their district, and they’re not California, they’re not Texas, they’re not even Georgia, they’re not New York state, there aren’t a lot of immigrants coming in. And it doesn’t make a lot of sense for them to support these bills. We are a big country, and it’s just, again, in their district, there’s not an urgent call for them to support this legislation right now. It’s not because they’re evil. It’s just not in their self-interest. It’s not in their district’s best interest.
ROBERT GIBBS: They’re insulated from, in many ways, the national political environment, which is much, much more closely divided than it is in a lot of these districts. Now, I think the point that Thomas Friedman is trying to make, though, is that you come – or you should come to Washington to put aside the narrow interests of your district and look at what is clearly the greater good of the country. I just think that is awfully hard when you run for re-election every two years.
SCARBOROUGH: By the way, I remember George Will writing sometime in the early 1980s that our government will always be dysfunctional, Jim, as long as we have members of congress whose world view is limited by two years and one congressional district. This has been a complaint for a very long time. This wasn’t invented with 2010 with the Tea Party. This wasn’t invented with John Boehner. Again, Republicans can fret and say we’ve got to pass immigration reform or we’re going to keep losing national elections. A lot of these members are looking at their own election.
JIM VANDEHEI: I think if, a lot of Republicans I talk to in the House, their main objection is not necessarily we don’t want a pathway to citizenship. It comes down fundamentally to their distrust the government. They look at the Senate bill and they say, great, we’re going to spend gobs of more money first. And second, we’re going to have to rely on the federal government to actually enforce the mechanism to secure the border, which is the fundamental piece of the bill they like best. They don’t trust government on anything.
SCARBOROUGH: By the way, that reminds me one other thing that, I think, Tom Friedman may be missing in this column, in my opinion – is there were people like Bill Kristol, who were aggressive proponents, supporters, of the Kennedy-McCain immigration bill back in 2007, that don’t support this bill because they think it is too big of a bill, too universal of an approach. They want it to go more piecemeal. It seems to me, that that is a logical, conservative approach to take, even if you support immigration.
SAM STEIN: I understand that. But Jim’s point is a valid one. It’s the distrust of government that gets them opposed to this bill. That’s a predicate for opposing basically any bill – I mean, any bill – because government does have carry out the functions of executing the bill.