Following controversial Republican nominee, Corey Stewart’s win for Virginia Senate race and Never Trumper Mark Sanford’s loss in South Carolina’s race, MSNBC devoted a lengthy segment to discussing everything wrong morally with the Republican party, on Stephanie Ruhle’s show, June 13. Using Stewart’s win as the starting point, Ruhle’s liberal guests teared into the GOP and Christians for losing their “conscience” and “selling their souls” for President Trump, whom one guest claimed didn’t even have any notable accomplishments in office to date.
Ruhle began by asking her guests, New York Times’ correspondent Mark Leibovich and former aide to Bush Sr. and speechwriter for George W. Bush, Peter Wehner, what these results meant for the Republican party. Referencing Stewart and Steve King’s controversial tweets, Ruhle asked where the “conscience” of the GOP was. Wehner claimed Republicans had no conscience.
“Well, it doesn't exist anymore. And the results of last night are going to make it even truer,” he began. Wehner went on to claim that many high ranking Republicans were actually never Trumpers, like himself. “But they won’t speak publicly because they are afraid of losing,” he noted.
Taking the media’s favorite role as armchair psychologist, Wehner accused Trump of having a “disorder personality” and Republicans of behaving like a “cult.” Ruhle then played a clip of Mitch McConnell praising the Trump presidency as the most “conservative” era since he has been in politics. The panel scoffed at that notion and completely dismissed the good things Trump has done while in office. Wehner even went so far as to claim that he’s done much less for conservatives than any president before him.
[T]hat claim by McConnell is ridiculous, even on the grounds of policy, Trump has not achieved that much. The tax cut was the big thing. The reality is that if you look at what he's achieved versus Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush or any other president, Republican Democrat or in the first year it's pretty minimal.
Sounding more like a hardened Democrat, Wehner kept ranting about how awful and evil President Trump was to the country’s morality, and slammed Republicans for aiding this “moral idiot’s” “assault on truth:”
This is a man who is a pathological liar, who is not only engaged on an assault on truth, he's trying to annihilate truth. The Republican party is his sword and shield. And they're complicit in the lies and complicit in the deep immorality, and I don’t just mean morality in terms of his sexual ethics, I’m talking a about a man who's basically at his heart, a nihilist, a kind of Nietzschean and a person who believes that might makes right. And the Republican party which was born in the era of the Civil War and Lincoln, who is the greatest moral leader that America's ever produced is now aligned with this person who is a moral idiot.
Ruhle wondered how evangelical Republicans could square away Trump’s personal immorality with his favorable policy. Wehner had no qualms claiming Christians were choosing Trump over God.
“They're selling their soul for judges. And I don't think that's a good tradeoff. There's a tremendous and huge discrediting effect that's happening to evangelical Christians,” Wehner blasted.
He went on to call out the religious right as hypocritical for leading the way in the ‘90s regarding Clinton’s lack of sexual ethics. Wehner point was completely missed, however, by his complete disregard for the magnitude of responsibility judges have in securing the rights of religious liberty and shaping the morality of the country, something that is arguably far more important to Christians.
Leibovich got the last word, piggybacking on Wehner’s previous point, that Trump had no real accomplishments to boast of, and hadn’t led the country through any crisis yet, seemingly ignoring Trump’s negotiation with North Korea this week to denuclearize the hostile country.
Read the full transcript below:
MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle
STEVE KORNACKI: The other result we want to show you, this one could have big implications. It’s Virginia, it’s the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate. Corey Stewart, he's the winner. This is what the Republican establishment suspected might happen and feared would happen. Corey Stewart, one of his big issues is the preservation of confederate monuments. He’s formed alliances with people who are clearly anti-semitic, clearly racists. He’s tried in the last couple of days to distance himself. There’s been significant damage there.He will go up head to head in November against Tim Kaine, the Democrat. Now the expectations always been that in this climate of 2018, Kaine will probably be in good shape no matter who he faces.
The problem for Republicans, Stewart doesn't just make beating Tim Kaine that much tougher, Virginia potentially has three house seats, three seats represented by Republicans that could wave here go, that could go to Democrats. Having Corey Stewart with those associations, that baggage and that kind of political headache level at the top of the ticket is going to put all three of those Republicans in very difficult positions that could drag the entire ticket. Republicans nationally, not so much doing the Senate race they're doing this morning. It’s that magic number of 23 house seats. They've got to keep the Democrats from getting that number. And the Democrat test in Virginia may have gotten a little easier after last night.
STEPHANIE RUHLE: Well we’ll see. Let’s bring my panel back in. Mark, Mark Sanford losing, he lost the primary, but did he maintenance his pride? He wasn't surprised, he said months ago, he said I'm a dead man walking for doing this. But these politicians they're in office, they're in public eye for years and years. Is this okay for him?
MARK LEIBOVICH, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT NEW YORK TIMES: Well, obviously, it is. This is sort of what -- this is someone who is willing to lose, basically. What we have in Washington now is -- yeah, this is something that happens in both parties but right now in the Republican party, you have self-perpetuation, getting re-elected. Doing what it takes being the overwhelming impetus for everything that they do. And Mark Sanford decided, made a determination, look, I don't mind losing I don't mind if this is what brings me down. Whether he can sleep any better, I don't know. Look he’s got a lot of time on his hands now. What is ironic, Mark Sanford disgraced this morning this morning was called this morning the conscious of the Republican party. I assume it's a very small sliver of the Republican party saying that and thinking that and wishing that, I think it's an emblem of where the Republican party has come in the last few years.
RUHLE: Peter, you know quite a bit about the conscience of the Republican party. Corey Stewart, in Virginia, a guy although defends monuments. He’s very anti-immigrant we mentioned. He tweeted last year, nothing is worse than a Yankee telling a southerner that his monuments don't matter. So that happened last night. And in the last week, Republican congressman Steve King retweeted a British neo-nazi. And that's not even making giant headlines. So talk to me about the conscience of the Republican party.
PETER WEHNER: Well, it doesn't exist anymore. And the results of last night are going to make it even truer. It's an odd thing if you talk to Republicans as I have, including high ranking Republicans, they would share the same view that I have about Donald Trump, politically, morally. And the stories that they can tell you are much worse actually than we know publicly. But they won't speak publicly, because they are afraid of losing. And the results have now strengthened Trump's grip. Last night, on the party. I do think that in the long term interest of the Republican party and the republic itself, Republicans have to lose in the midterms. The only way that Trump's grip on the Republican party is going to be loosened is if Republicans that like being attached to him are going to come at a cause. They're not going to speak out against him. As far as Cory Stewart, look, this is emblematic of where the Republican party is. He's basically a mini Trump. He's not going to win the race in Virginia but he’s going to stay in the Republican party. As I said earlier in the previous segment, It's not even a party you can't identify ideologically, Trump himself has no idealogy. He has not given any real time or thought to political ideas. It's a cult of personality. No matter what Trump does, they unite behind it. Because he has a disorder personality, the Republican party as a party is taking on those very characteristics.
RUHLE: I guess that’s what I don’t understand. When you say what they say publicly and privately are so different. What I say privately are the same things I say publicly just with more curses in it. So I think to what Mitch McConnell said last week, I think we have the sound of what the last 16 months have been like.
MITCH MCCONNELL: In my view, the last 16 months have been the single best period for conservative values since I came to Washington as Ralph indicated back in 1985. This is not hyperbole.
MARK LEIBOVICH: I'm not sure Mitch Mcconnell would say that privately, to be perfectly honest with you. Look, they obviously accomplished a great deal. But what we're talking about here is, I don't know if you call it cowardice, or just pragmatism or whatever, no this is, it's not news that politicians talk different privately than they do publicly. Right now, it's more pronounced. Look,I think at some point, we were saying this during the break, voters need to speak. We don't know what the toll will be on Republicans for speaking out until voters render a verdict. It's not just the Republican primary voters that we're talking about today, they're going to make Cory Stewart, not just a state story but a national story. It could be Todd Aiken, he could be Roy Moore, he could drag down and uptick candidates also. But look At some point, the voters are going to make a verdict here.
RUHLE: Okay. But the issue is conservative principles or values versus policy. It almost seems like Mitch Mcconnell is saying for conservatives its been an extraordinary 16 months. What he's pointing to all of those federal judges appointed. Or may be the tax cuts. When I think values I think morality. I guess that's where my massive confusion comes from.
WEHNER: Yeah it’s fair. I mean the first thing that has to be said is that claim by McConnell is ridiculous, even on the grounds of policy, Trump has not achieved that much. The tax cut was the big thing. The reality is that if you look at what he's achieved versus Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush or any other president, Republican Democrat or in the first year it's pretty minimal.
Beyond that, it's exactly what you said. But Donald Trump is not a normal candidate and that is what is going on is not a normal event. This is a man who is a pathological liar, who is not only engaged on an assault on truth, he's trying to annihilate truth. The Republican party is his sword and shield. And they're complicit in the lies and complicit in the deep immorality, and I don’t just mean morality in terms of his sexual ethics, I’m talking a about a man who's basically at his heart, a nihilist, a kind of Niesche and a person who believes that might makes right. And the Republican party which was born in the era of the Civil War and Lincoln, who is the greatest moral leader that America's ever produced is now aligned with this person who is a moral idiot.
RUHLE: Okay. So, we can agree to that. But what do you see to evangelical Christians who say you don't need to like the boss as long as he gets the job done. So from the judicial appointment standpoint, don't you think they're saying, who cares, I'm not going to know that guy in four or eight years. And these judges will be in position for a lifetime?
WEHNER: Yeah, I’d say a couple of things, they're selling their soul for judges. And I don't think that's a good tradeoff. There's a tremendous and huge discrediting effect that's happening to evangelical Christians. They were ones, during the Clinton years and before, who argued about the centrality of morality in leaders. They can never make those arguments again. And where the real hypocrisy is, they could easily say, look, we agree with Trump on judges. We agree with him on abortion policy. And he's actually advanced things we care about. But on the other side, the annihilation of truth, the pathological lies, the cruelty and crudity. All of those other things really bother us, but they will not say that. Instead of what they've done, they’re 100% for him, they will not give a voice of dissent. That is really a discrediting judgment on it.
RUHLE: Well, when we try to raise decency which should be above politics, people often get criticized for being cry baby snowflakes so that doesn't exactly make sense?
LEIBOVICH: What I would also a, Ronald Reagan governed during the Cold War. And George W. Bush governed in a crisis during his first term. He was tested by very, very really and threatening events. Again, we keep reminding people, but Donald Trump really has not, at this point.