Rothman to Morning Joe: Stop Excusing Dem Lies, ‘Rank Racial Agitation’

Appearing on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Friday, Commentary Magazine editor Noah Rothman called out the hypocritical panel of Trump-hating pundits for excusing unconstitutional policy proposals, outright lies, and “rank racial agitation” coming from 2020 Democratic presidential candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris.

The discussion began with fill-in co-host Yasmin Vossoughian touting a USA Today op-ed from panelist and Never Trump ex-Republican Tom Nichols, reading excerpts from the juvenile screed:

I don’t care if Senator Elizabeth Warren is a mendacious Massachusetts liberal, she could tell me that she’s going to make me wear waffles as underpants and I’ll vote for her....I don’t care if Senator Kamala Harris is an opportunistic California prosecutor who wants to...relitigate busing....She can tell me that I have to drive to work in a go-cart covered with Barbie decals and I’ll vote for her. I don’t care if Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is a muddle-headed socialist from a rural class-warfare state (where I once lived as one of his constituents). He could tell me he’s going to tax used kitty litter and I’ll vote for him.

 

 

Most of the show’s liberal cast were delighted by the cynical demand that voters support anyone who isn’t Donald Trump, no matter how extreme many of the Democratic candidates are. Nichols proudly declared: “Look, if you – if we really believe that this is an existential crisis of government, if we really believe that Donald Trump is a threat to our constitutional order, you know, and that the only remedy to this is voting, then, you know, you put policy aside.”

Only Rothman challenged the unprincipled argument, despite himself being a frequent critic of the President. While noting that he was “sympathetic” with some of Nichols’ concerns, Rothman pointed out the hypocrisy: “However, there’s a note of permissiveness in the op-ed that suggests that there’s a level of policing of Democratic candidates that we’re just going to not do for the sake of a broader political argument against this president.”

He specifically cited some of the unconstitutional ideas being pushed by Warren and Harris: “Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax is probably unconstitutional. Kamala Harris advocates against constitutional norms just about every other day when she says, ‘Oh, you know, I’ll give you a hundred days to legislate and then I’m gonna do it anyway and see what the courts say.’”

Rothman implored: “I mean this the sort of stuff that we are obliged – if we’re not advocates, and rather pundits – to say this is unacceptable and do some policing of our own, lest we invite this kind of situation that we’re dealing with now from a Republican, from a Democratic president.”

Nichols immediately dismissed all of those points and proclaimed: “I will deal with that...if that gets rid of Donald Trump and William Barr and other people that I think are outright threats to our constitutional order, I’ll live with that.”

Co-host Joe Scarborough echoed that sentiment and ranted about Trump “promoting now with words that seem to be inspiring white supremacists and certainly lines up with what we see in mass shooters’ manifestos.”

Earlier in the show, Scarborough made the case for Warren by claiming: “At least she won't inspire mass shootings!”

Rothman pushed back:

My concern here is that we’re going from a frying pan into a fire....And when you see somebody like Elizabeth Warren say things on Twitter, things like, the police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson “murdered” Michael Brown, and that’s simply not true. It is just factually untrue. The Department of Justice under Barack Obama said it wasn’t true and it is designed to agitate.

Scarborough angrily whined: “Come on. Noah, Noah, that’s such false equivalency....Donald Trump has lied how many times? 10,000 times? You’re going to take one of her lies and say, ‘Boy, she’s just as bad as Donald Trump,’ and Donald Trump’s doing that every day?” Rothman shot back: “But in the presidency, when she’s given four years to operate in that way, will she behave in that sense? We have an obligation not to look past this for the sake of advocacy....We have to call it as we see it.”

Moments later, Rothman stated that “verging on rank racial agitation is precisely the biggest problem I have with this president....and no, I won’t accept it in a Democrat either.”

An exasperated Nichols spat: “You’re worried about Elizabeth Warren’s rank racial agitation when we’re talking about Donald Trump.” Scarborough repeated: “I’m sorry, it is – the false equivalency there is breathtaking.”

Even when a fellow critic of the President tries to gently remind his media colleagues that Democrats have to be held accountable too, MSNBC freaks out and tries to shut him down. The left-wing cable channel is clearly in campaign mode now.

Here is a full transcript of the lengthy August 16 segment:

7:10 AM ET

(...)

YASMIN VOSSOUGHIAN: Tom Nichols actually has a new op-ed out in USA Today titled, “Why this Never Trump ex-Republican will vote for almost any 2020 Democratic nominee.” Tom writes, in part, this, “I don’t care if Senator Elizabeth Warren is a mendacious Massachusetts liberal, she could tell me that she’s going to make me wear waffles as underpants and I’ll vote for her.” That would be quite a sight, I gotta say. “I don’t care if Senator Kamala Harris is an opportunistic California prosecutor who wants to relegate busing –

WILLIE GEIST: “Relitigate.”

VOSSOUGHIAN: Excuse me – “relitigate busing,” thanks for that. “She can tell me that I have to drive to work in a go-cart covered with Barbie decals and I’ll vote for her. I don’t care if Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is a muddle-headed socialist from a rural class-warfare state (where I once lived as one of his constituents). He could tell me he’s going to tax used kitty litter and I’ll vote for him.”

Tom, you then write, “I have only two requirements from the Democratic nominee.” First, he or she must not be obviously mentally unstable, second, the nominee must not be in any way sympathetic – or worse, potentially beholden – to a hostile foreign power.” This rules out Gabbard, Williamson and maybe New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, although in de Blasio’s case it’s hard to tell whether he is unstable or just a terrible person.”

GEIST: Wow.

VOSSOUGHIAN: “As for the rest of them, I am willing to live whomever wins the Democratic primary process. Tom Nichols, I mean, you basically said it all there in you’re op-ed. But you’re one of those 50%, it seems, in that poll.

TOM NICHOLS: I decided I needed to be a little more nuanced...

GEIST: Yeah, it’s subtle. [Laughter]

NICHOLS: ...and leave people grasping for my meaning. I think partly that was my frustration with some of my old comrades on the right, who, when I would say, “Look, you know, never Trump means never Trump.” And they’d say, “Yes, but what about – ” and you get the “what about.” “What about Warren’s? What about Bernie Sanders? You know, what about Kamala Harris’ attacks – ” Look, if you – if we really believe that this is an existential crisis of government, if we really believe that Donald Trump is a threat to our constitutional order, you know, and that the only remedy to this is voting, then, you know, you put policy aside. You don’t say, “It’s an existential crisis but I can only treat it that way if I get universal health care or a lower tax rate.” That is stuff we can fight about, all of that stuff, a year from now, two years from now, when all of this over. So I sort of have just had it with the what aboutism arguments that were mostly coming from my right. I am one of those people that has basically said that as long – because I do think the President, we talked about this early, I do think the President’s gotten worse. I mean, to some extent, all kidding aside, I’m actually kind of concerned about the President. Because he seems like he has become, you know, that this is getting to him in some way and he’s becoming unstable. And I’m also, as a –

VOSSOUGHIAN: What do you mean by “this,” when you say this is getting to him?

NICHOLS: Just the pressure of governing and running and trying to keep up. I think that I have always proceeded from the assumption that Donald Trump never intended to win this election and that he has been treading water ever since, without knowing what he’s doing. I also think that he – I’ve said for three years, I think that he is in fear of the Russians, I think the Russians probably hold a lot of his financial secrets and he’s very worried about that. And so I think, you know, we’re really in an unprecedented moment where, you know, I am – again, as long as we have a person that I don’t think has any issues with the Constitution or with a hostile foreign power, you know, that’s my exit ramp until we can normalize and stabilize our national politics.

SUSAN DEL PERCIO: Yeah, he basically he went from, you know, not necessarily being capable of running the government to being a flat-out, like, destructor of it. And that’s, I think, the most dangerous thing right now that we’re facing.

NOAH ROTHMAN: Yeah, so I’m very sympathetic toward this argument, Tom, in part because I share your concern about this president, his capacity to governor, his mental state. All of that, it weighs very heavily on me. However, there’s a note of permissiveness in the op-ed that suggests that there’s a level of policing of Democratic candidates that we’re just going to not do for the sake of a broader political argument against this president.

But you did mention just there that there are some constitutional issues that would serve as some sort of a preclusion. Well, Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax is probably unconstitutional. Kamala Harris advocates against constitutional norms just about every other day when she says, “Oh, you know, I’ll give you a hundred days to legislate and then I’m gonna do it anyway and see what the courts say.” I mean this the sort of stuff that we are obliged – if we’re not advocates, and rather pundits – to say this is unacceptable and do some policing of our own, lest we invite this kind of situation that we’re dealing with now from a Republican, from a Democratic president.

NICHOLS: But I think this conflates two things. It says that people who have politically bad ideas – because Kamala Harris and her love of executive orders, Elizabeth Warren and some of her plans that I think will never survive any Senate, much less a Republican senate, or constitutional review – these are bad politics and we know how to fight with bad politics. We – a lot of us at this table have had fights about bad policy and bad politics over the years. I would argue that Donald Trump is a thousand light years away from this. This is not the same order of problem to say, well, Elizabeth Warren wants to do something that’s probably unconstitutional on trade. That – look, I will deal with that when she’s in office because if that gets rid of Donald Trump and William Barr and other people that I think are outright threats to our constitutional order, I’ll live with that.

ROTHMAN: So would you advocate voting Republicans down ballot to check the president?

NICHOLS: I have – I wrote that two years ago. I said the Republican Party has become a cult of
personality, it acts like a parliamentary party that is governed in lock step from the top by its party leadership and I have consistently argued for voting right down the line to take down people like – to get people like Devin Nunes out of his seat, and to make sure that Kevin McCarthy never becomes the Speaker. [Coughs] Excuse me. Until the Republican Party recovers its sanity, if it ever does, and ceases to be a cult of personality that is primarily a vehicle for enabling Donald Trump, then yes, the entire Republican Party, I think, has to pay that price. And I’m almost glad to see people like Will Hurd and other Republicans that we would have thought of as good, sensible Republicans, saying, “You know, I can’t do this from within the party and I’m out.” And I think that’s the only answer.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: So Noah Rothman, I’m curious to know what your thoughts are – I’m curious to know what your thoughts are. I know you share many of Tom’s concerns, as you just said, many of my concerns. We all of course have voted for Republican presidents our entire life. I hope I’m not assuming something incorrect there. But I am wondering what – how you respond to Tom’s argument, and also I certainly agree with him, that yes, I may disagree with the majority of Elizabeth Warren’s positions, certainly the ones that she’s outspoken on. I may, as a deficit hawk and as a small government conservative, not support Bernie Sanders’ economic policies and think that they’re utopian.

But at the same time, I, I – my concerns with Donald Trump have to do with, as Tom said, constitutional order. The breaching daily of political norms that we have, this country, American democracy has built up over 240 years. Societal instability that Donald Trump seems to be promoting now with words that seem to be inspiring white supremacists and certainly lines up with what we see in mass shooters’ manifestos.

I’m wondering, do you not take his argument that okay, maybe Elizabeth Warren is in there and you and I may not like her executive orders any more than we liked Barack Obama’s executive orders, but unlike Donald Trump, they at least understand constitutional norms. Somebody like Kamala Harris, that grew up in the legal system, would respect constitutional norms and would not be breaching political norms daily.

ROTHMAN: I’d certainly have more concerns – my concerns would be assuaged, I suspect, if they displayed a little bit more deference to the Constitution, I don’t see that. My concern here is that we’re going from a frying pan into a fire.

My biggest problem, as you say, with Donald Trump is the extent to which he agitates, the extent to which he uses the power of the presidency to execute vengeance against his political adversaries. Not necessarily his administration per se, the people who he surrounded himself with, and therefore the interactions with the House and his legislative priorities which are virtually nonexistent. It is all about comportment.

And when you see somebody like Elizabeth Warren say things on Twitter, things like, the police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson “murdered” Michael Brown, and that’s simply not true. It is just factually untrue. The Department of Justice under Barack Obama said it wasn’t true and it is designed to agitate.

SCARBOROUGH: Come on. Noah, Noah, that’s such false equivalency. I of course called her out for saying that myself. But Donald Trump has lied how many times? 10,000 times? You’re going to take one of her lies and say, “Boy, she’s just as bad as Donald Trump,” and Donald Trump’s doing that every day?

ROTHMAN: No, no argument here. The scope and scale, no argument here. I’m with you. But in the presidency, when she’s given four years to operate in that way, will she behave in that sense? We have an obligation not to look past this for the sake of advocacy.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, sure.

ROTHMAN: We have to call it as we see it.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, sure. And, Tom, you’re not suggesting that we look past, if Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris say things that are factually inaccurate when it comes to Ferguson. That’s not your suggestion?

NICHOLS: I say in the piece I’m going to hate their policies. I’m going to –

ROTHMAN: That’s not policy though.

NICHOLS: I’m going to hate the people that – I’m going to hate the way that they conduct politics because their politics are not my politics. But to steal a line from P.J. O’Rourke, they fall within the normal range of awful. The problem is you keep wanting to put the Democrats that are running into the same category as Donald Trump and say, “Well, they’re just a kind of a less bad version of the same thing.” No, this is a difference in quality. This is a difference in kind. This is not the same thing. This isn’t like Donald Trump is an eleven and that, you know, Elizabeth Warren is a nine and we have to make sure that we’re keeping her feet to the fire.

Elizabeth Warren, you know, is far left on many issues, a far-left liberal, and she’s going to drive us crazy by the things she says, like “murder” in Ferguson. On the other hand, I think Elizabeth Warren understands the Constitution. I think she understands she would understand her role as the President of the United States. I don’t think Donald Trump understands any of that stuff and I think that makes him dangerous. I think he’s dangerous in a way that Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are not dangerous.

ROTHMAN: I mean, I agree, but the verging on rank racial agitation is precisely the biggest problem I have with this president.

NICHOLS: You’re worried about Elizabeth Warren’s rank racial agitation when we’re talking about Donald Trump.  

SCARBOROUGH: Oh, my God.

ROTHMAN: This president racially agitates every other day, and no, I won’t accept it in a Democrat either.

NICHOLS: Well, but you’re – they’re not equivalent, they’re not the same thing.

SCARBOROUGH: I mean, Willie, let’s move on. But I mean, I’m sorry, it is – the false equivalency there is breathtaking. We can get back to it. But Tom’s argument that is most compelling to me is the fact that whoever we get in there, if it’s Elizabeth Warren, and of course we’re arguing – we’re arguing that it may not be Joe Biden because that makes it much easier for a lot of Americans and their voting – but if it’s Elizabeth Warren, who is a law professor, if it’s Kamala Harris, who was a prosecutor and an attorney general, you have two people that have an understanding of the system.

And Donald Trump, yes, there is a lot of mendacity involved there. There’s a lot of – there are just a lot of disturbing instincts involved there, but there’s also an ignorance. He is ignorant of America’s history. He is ignorant of America’s Constitution. He is ignorant of political norms. Because this is just something that he thought was a neat idea and he jumped into politics thinking he was smarter than everybody else and he proves every day that actually he knows less about politics, he knows less about negotiating, he knows less about the Constitution than anyone else.

So if we have somebody in there that will be checked by Congress, then you will have  Madisonian government working and whatever their proposals are, if they respect the constitutional norms, then we will have a political dispute instead of a constitutional crisis.

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