MSNBC Panel Pines for Ongoing Christie-Paul Feud: '2016 Republican Clown Car...Revving its Engines'

July 31st, 2013 4:49 PM

Earlier this afternoon, my NewsBusters colleague Kyle Drennen highlighted the Today show’s effort to hype the recent feud between Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Unsurprisingly, the folks at MSNBC were even more eager to blow the dispute out of proportion – and to predict a nasty fight between Republicans in 2016.

Now host Alex Wagner kicked off a gleeful Wednesday segment on the feud, claiming the “2016 Republican clown car has already started revving its engines.” Wagner also suggested the “spat” would expose “deep divisions within the GOP,” echoing similar remarks made by NBC’s Peter Alexander on Wednesday’s Today.

Mother Jones’s David Corn enthusiastically agreed with Wagner, but not before first congratulating Paul for calling Christie the “king of bacon”:

First I have to say that I’m not a big fan of Rand Paul – but for the win, king of bacon. King of bacon, I think we’re going to see that come back one way or the other.

Yet, mere seconds later, Corn scolded Paul for having a “real mean streak.” I guess in Corn’s universe, it’s acceptable for a liberal to enjoy jokes made at the expense of a conservative – while the conservative making the joke is mean-spirited.

Wagner was also upset with Paul’s rhetoric, asking why the Kentucky senator would “make fun of a governor as he tries to put a state back together.” But the MSNBC host must have a short memory, as she did the very same thing in June.

Wagner was jubilant when Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) couldn’t get additional federal funds to rebuild the town of West, Texas, after an explosion injured 160. She treated the development as a political defeat for Perry, slamming his “questionable, puzzling behavior.”

Hype a minor feud within the Republican Party? Check. Predict doom and gloom for the GOP in 2016? Check. Laugh at the same anti-GOP jokes you pretend to be above? Check. All in a day’s work at the Lean Forward network, MSDNC.

See the full transcript below:

Now with Alex Wagner
July 31, 2013
12:52 p.m. Eastern

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE [at the Aspen Institute, July 25]: This strain of libertarianism that's going through both parties right now and making big headlines, I think is a very dangerous thought.

SEN. RAND PAUL [on WSMV Nashville, July 29]: The people who want to criticize me and call names, they're precisely the same people who are unwilling to cut the spending and they're gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme all my [Hurricane] Sandy money now.

CHRISTIE [at press conference in Little Ferry, NJ, July 30]: Maybe he should start looking at cutting the pork-barrel spending that he brings home to Kentucky...but I doubt he would, because most Washington politicians only care about bringing home the bacon so that they can get re-elected.

PAUL [on CNN’s The Situation Room, July 30]: This is the king of bacon talking about bacon.

ALEX WAGNER: The king of bacon. The 2016 Republican clown car has already started revving its engines. But the back-and-forth between Chris Christie and Rand Paul may be more than a simple dust-up between two would-be rivals. The spat is exposing deep divisions within the GOP over national security, and the size and scope of government. David Corn, you know, we've talked about national security. [Rep.] Justin Amash [R-Mich.], on the floor his – 94 Republicans – 40 percent of the Republican caucus – voted for something that would have, in fact, restricted funding, or repealed or stripped funding, for terror – combating terror.
DAVID CORN: First I have to say that I’m not a big fan of Rand Paul – but for the win, king of bacon. King of bacon, I think we’re going to see that come back one way or the other. It has so many different meanings. And it shows, I think Rand Paul actually – I’ve talked to him, I think he has a real mean streak. And so when things get really fiery, you’ll see more of this. The important thing about this, though, is the Republican Party has no “there” at the top. Who are the leaders of the Republican Party? John Boehner? No leader. Mitch McConnell. Where is Mitch? Nowhere on immigration reform or anything else. So you have all of these intramural fights on very important issues – whether to repeal ObamaCare, what to do about immigration reform, NSA surveillance. And so there’s no teacher in the classroom. And so it’s going to be this big fight on one issue after another, as we head to budget and maybe a debt ceiling showdown again. This is going to keep happening again and again.

WAGNER: But, you know, the line “gimme, gimme, gimme that Sandy money” I have got to take issue with. As an American, as a resident of New York City, as someone who saw the damage – 159 deaths, $65 billion in economic damage, the second costliest hurricane in U.S. history. To say – to sort of use that language, to sort of give the cursory – to effectively make fun of a governor as he tries to put a state back together, I don’t think that plays well for you on the national stage.

HEATHER McGHEE: Well, and I think he was trying to do a couple of things – both of which failed, right? He was trying to both say that New Jersey is this big spender, and so therefore, Christie is not a good Republican. And sort of say that it’s kind of the liberal, New Jersey, elite wing of the party. But then also because he [Paul] is being attacked [by Christie] on national security – because if you read the rest of the quote, he actually then went and said the Sandy money is crowding out the defense money. And so we can’t do – meet our national defense needs because of things like the Sandy money. I mean, let us be very clear. Our defense budget has doubled since 2001. We spend more than the next 13 countries combined. And it’s more than half of our discretionary budget, right?

WAGNER: And, Jared [Bernstein], the Rand Paul budget would privatize Social Security and Medicare, institute a flat tax, abolish the Department of Education, make food stamps, Medicaid and nutrition assistance block grants, and nothing would happen to defense.

JARED BERNSTEIN: Right. It’s kind of the [Paul] Ryan budget on steroids – and scary. Look, I actually think where that debate kind of started, where Chris Christie started – every once in a while, Chris Christie says things that make a lot of sense to me. Before this got into the kind of altercation we’ve been talking about, he actually said something important when he talked about the libertarian wing. What I think he was saying there was, absent the kind of compromise – the ability to work together – we’re stuck at a level of gridlock and dysfunction that we can’t get anywhere. And every once in a while, you see Chris Christie kind of rise above that. And he gets whacked by Republicans in the base.
WAGNER: I don’t know – if anybody is doing any whacking, I think it’s the Jersey guy.

KURT ANDERSEN [laughing]: And I’m just waiting for him to say: yeah, I’m fat, you’re short.

WAGNER [laughing]: And so it goes. That’s all for us.