It would almost not be worth noting, because it’s so predictable. On Fox News Sunday, Juan Williams, with strategic support at opportune times from National Journal’s Ron Fournier, characterized the support within the Republican Party for impeachment as coming from “Tea Party opposition … (with) no diversity, it’s a white, older group of people.”
What makes it worthy of notice is the fact that Michael Needham, head of Heritage Action for America, called out Williams for his comments and held his own as Fournier attempted to be the supposed voice of reason while really bringing aid and comfort to Williams. Video and a transcript follow the jump:
Here’s the video:
Transcript (some edits to the rushed original found at Fox have been made to better reflect what was actually said; bolds are mine):
CHRIS WALLACE: Michael, you heard and we played the clip just now of Speaker Boehner basically saying that impeachment is off the table. The words he used are, “I have no plans, I have no future plans.” Is that true, or as someone who is in touch with the grassroots conservative movement around the country, is there some push for impeachment — that’s one — and two, if, as we posited, and it seems very likely the president takes some dramatic action to defer deportations for millions of more people, what happens then in terms of impeachment?
MICHAEL NEEDHAM: Well, I think the speaker is largely right that the only people or the people talking primarily talking about impeachment are fundraisers at the DCCC. As Ron just said, it’s the same thing that the RNC did six, eight years ago, when Democrats were talking about impeaching President Bush. Look, the trouble with a lawless president is it’s very difficult to constrain him because he doesn’t care about the law. You have a president right now who is totally out of control, totally–
RON FOURNIER: He’s a lawless president? Is that really a phrase you want to use? He’s a lawless president?
NEEDHAM: He can’t get a carbon tax through the Congress, so he decides to impose it through the EPA. ObamaCare is falling apart. It’s totally unworkable, so he decides to unilaterally change the law. The IRS is totally out of control, targeting conservatives, using all sorts of expletives to describe conservatives. This is a president that is totally out of control. And trying to find a mechanism to constrain him is difficult.
WALLACE: But isn’t in fact one of the reasons that House Republicans are pushing this lawsuit is because they are trying to have a pressure valve against the fact that a lot of grassroots folks that I’m sure you’re in touch with, really want to go for impeachment?
NEEDHAM: No, I think they are trying to find a way to constrain a lawless president. And so I think that when you look at what Jim Jordan is doing with the investigation into the IRS, which is fantastic, that is one mechanism that they have, the power of the purse, is one mechanism that they have that they have tried to use. They are filing a lawsuit because the president of the United States is unilaterally changing the law. I think 40 different times with regards to Obamacare. This is a lawless administration, and trying to find a tool within the rule of law to constrain it is a challenge, frustrating challenge.
JUAN WILLIAMS: Well, I think you listen to Michael and you understand why there are lots of Republicans who think this man is a demon. This guy is awful. We got to get this guy out of here any way we can. He’s breaking the law.
I don’t agree with a lot of the points you are making, Michael, but I hear this on talk radio. I hear this in conservative columns that people are saying we think this guy is way over the line. And then they say “oh, yes, we got to find a way to get him.” Then you hear from Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, others, yes, we use the impeachment word. And then you come on and say, “oh, no, we’re not talking about impeachment, that’s the Democrats.” All the Democrats are doing is taking advantage of the fact that you guys have demonized President Obama to this extent, because not only does it help them with fundraising, lots of people, especially in the minority communities, see it as an attack on the first black president. Think it’s unfair. And so it’s going to spur their turnout in the mid-terms, which is going to be critical in several races.
WALLACE: Wait a second, I want to pick up on exactly that point. Do you think that the Republican opposition to this president, you heard Hakeem Jeffries talk about hatred, is racial, or do you think it is based on principles and policies?
WILLIAMS: Well, all I can do is look at the numbers. If you look at the core constituency, the people who are in let’s say Tea Party opposition, support of impeachment, there’s no diversity, it’s a white, older group of people. As to whether or not it’s racial, look, President Obama and others have said there are some people who don’t like him because of his race; some people who do like him. But I would say if you just break it down as a matter of political analysis and say who is this group, it reminds me that the Republican Party has become almost a completely white party.
NEEDHAM: Chris, if you were to open up your dictionary to the word irony, you would find Juan Williams in there claiming I am demonizing people because I am saying the president of the United States is lawless, which by the way the has Supreme Court agreed with.
NEEDHAM: That’s a ridiculous ironic statement. You’re the one demonizing people who are concerned about the fact that we have a crisis of the Constitution, with Jonathan Turley, a liberal law professor, just testifying in the last couple of weeks, you are the one demonizing. You’re demonizing good people who are concerned about a president who’s weak and out of control.
WILLIAMS: Look, we had a principled argument about President Obama’s actions and use of executive actions and authority. But you call him lawless as if he’s an outlaw. As if, you know, you have him riding the range. We got to go get that guy.
KIM STRASSEL, WALL STREET JOURNAL: I think with 9-0 at the Supreme Court -
WILLIAMS: The people who want him impeached, they are almost all white and they are all older and guess what, they are all in the far right wing of the Republican Party.
NEEDHAM: And he might as well have said they are all racists. That’s ridiculous.
KIM STRASSEL, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Look, I think what this underestimates is the amount of consideration that actually went into this lawsuit that has been brought against the president. I mean, the Republicans did sit down and had a discussion with a lot of legal scholars about has what the president done risen to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors. You saw Paul Ryan come out this week and say of course it does not. But there have nonetheless been grave violations of the Constitution and the law, and this is a way to go forward. They put together a lawsuit that’s very narrowly tailored.
WALLACE: I have about 30 seconds left. The thing that strikes me about this is it was almost exactly ten years ago that Barack Obama made that speech at the Democratic National Convention that we don’t have a red America, we don’t have a blue America, we have a United States. We’re a long way from there now, aren’t we?
FOURNIER: And this discussion illustrates it. I know you guys don’t mean this, but the way Americans are hearing this conversation, they hear you saying that our president is a criminal, and they hear you saying that Republicans are racists. What they want, I know it’s not what you are saying, but that’s what they are hearing. What they want are solutions.
NEEDHAM: I agree with Jonathan Turley.
WALLACE: You can file a footnote on this. Thank you, panel. See you next Sunday.
As odious as Williams’s backhanded claims of racism were, Fournier’s oh-so-expert interpretation of “what they hear you saying” was arguably worse.
Strassel had just gotten done saying that Obama’s actions don’t rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors (i.e., relatively minor crimes), as stated by Paul Ryan. Needham didn’t disagree. But Fournier insisted that what people “hear you saying” is that Obama is a criminal. No Ron — you just wanted to make sure that the audience interpreted what was said in that way.
That said, Fournier got it half-right, because Juan Williams, in classic passive-aggressive fashion, was calling the Tea Party and President Obama’s opponents racists, and Needham was dead right for rebutting him. Concern for the survival of the rule of law is completely unrelated to racism, and that’s where the Tea Party’s and so many other Americans’ concerns properly lie.
Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.