With the country potentially only hours away from Democrats shutting down the government over their demand for illegal immigrants to be protected from deportation, on Friday’s NBC Today, MSNBC anchor Nicolle Wallace argued that Republicans would receive “a disproportionate amount of blame.”
“Do you think we’re gonna get a shutdown? And who will get the political blame if the government shuts down?,” co-host Savannah Guthrie asked. At first, Wallace placed blame on both sides: “So this blame game is a bit of a scam, in that voters blame everybody involved....I think voters typically process it as a failure of everybody in management.” However, she couldn’t resist pushing DNC spin that the GOP would bear the brunt of it: “But when you’ve got one party controlling the White House, the Senate, and the House, they will shoulder a disproportionate amount of blame.”
Fellow co-host Hoda Kotb tried to lay responsibility for the congressional dysfunction at the feet of President Trump: “So what’s the President’s role in all this, Nicolle, is there anything or something he should be doing right now to try to stop this?” Wallace declared: “I do think there’s a question now about whether he can lead. And I think it’s failing that leadership test that risks the most political exposure for President Trump.”
Guthrie actually acknowledged some risk for Democrats:
Democrats have put it on the line and some have questioned whether or not they’re overplaying their hands by tying – basically they think, “This is our moment. This is our moment of maximum leverage to do something about the Dreamers,” these immigrants who were brought here by their parents.
Wallace quickly assured her that liberal lawmakers would not be held accountable:
Well, let me give you good news/bad news for the Democrats. The good news is they control nothing, so they have the least political exposure, the least risk in all this. The other piece of good news for the Democrats is that a majority of Americans support holding Dreamers unaccountable for the crimes – if you view illegal immigration as a crime – the crimes committed by their parents. The bad news is, again, this just looks like more dysfunction in Washington, which is bad for everybody.
The worst-case scenario that NBC could imagine for Democrats was that “everybody” gets the blame, but still hoped that Republicans would just take all the criticism. The possibility that Democrats could get most of the political heat for a shutdown didn’t even enter their minds.
During the last government shutdown in 2013, NBC was not shy about exclusively blaming Republicans for the budget impasse. On October 11 of that year, then-Political Director Chuck Todd took to the Today show to proclaim the shutdown an “unmitigated political disaster” for the GOP. Even after Democrats sabotaged a bipartisan budget deal days later, Guthrie lectured Republican Senator Bob Corker: “As you well know, the polls have been absolutely devastating to Republicans. Do you think that Republican Party deserves credit or blame, however you want to put it, for this shutdown and now this looming crisis with the debt ceiling?”
On Friday, Guthrie wrapped up the discussion with Wallace by touting Trump’s low approval rating in the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll: “Okay, so one year tomorrow since Inauguration, and here we have the President with a 39% approval rating.” Wallace hyped: “Listen, these are terrible numbers....And you simply cannot govern with poll numbers in the 30s.”
What’s interesting about that statistic is that an Associated Press poll found that Barack Obama’s approval rating stood at 37% during the 2013 shutdown. However, at the time, the Today show chose to ignore that finding in favor of other polls showing “damage to the Republican brand.”
NBC seems ready to follow the same pattern of shutdown bias it employed against Republicans five years ago.