Democrats call out Maxine Waters for encouraging incivility

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," June 25, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


REP. MAXINE WATERS, D-CALIF.: I am saying that this president has done a horrible thing, that this administration that's supporting him and not standing up and speaking the truth are supporting the president in a way that continues his ability to hold onto these children, or not find them, what have you. And so when I spoke, I stand by my speech.

SENATE MINORITY LEADER CHUCK SCHUMER, D-N.Y.: If you disagree with someone or something, stand up. Make your voice heard. Explain why you think they are wrong and you're right. Make the argument. Protest peacefully. But no one should call for the harassment of political opponents. That's not right. That's not American.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Which is what many Democrats thought that Maxine Waters did over the weekend, reacting to the story about Sarah Sanders being thrown out of that Red Hen restaurant in Virginia. She said you need to push back on them. You tell them they are not welcome anywhere anymore.

The president tweeting out about Maxine Waters, saying this, quote, the president said, "Congresswoman Maxine Waters, an extraordinarily low I.Q. person, has come together with Nancy Pelosi, the face of the Democrat party. She has just called for harm for supporters, of which there are many, of the Make America Great Again movement. Be careful what you wish for, Max."

OK, what about all of this? Let's bring in our panel: Steve Hayes, editor in chief for The Weekly Standard; Mara Liasson, national political correspondent for National Public Radio, and Charles Hurt, opinion editor for The Washington Times. Charlie?

CHARLES HURT, THE WASHINGTON TIMES: You know you have probably gone a little too far when if have Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi pulling her chain back a little bit there on Maxine Waters remarks.

It's tough. I know that this is the kind of thing that really excites a lot of a sort of the most rabid supporters on the left, not necessarily even on the Democratic Party but on the left, the most vociferous haters of Donald Trump. But it's not helping them win any new voters in the middle. And when you have a debate where you have Donald Trump struggling with the vast complexities on the border, trying to figure out some way to fix this problem that nobody likes, as one choice, and then the other choice is Maxine Waters going out and saying, pester these people in public, I think most voters are going to sort of be forced towards the Trump version.

BAIER: This does happen a lot it seems, when Democrats are looking at a political upside for a story that maybe is cratering on the Republican side, then they kind of go over there skis sometimes. Jon Tester and Heidi Heitkamp and Joe Donnelly all have to answer questions about Maxine Waters.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Look, you just heard Chuck Schumer. He does not want the Democratic Party to be the leftwing mirror image of the things they don't like about Donald Trump. They didn't like it when he said I want to protester in the face or when he does all sorts of other things they think are uncivil. And that is the challenge.

First of all, it's wrong because they didn't like it when Donald Trump did it. Second of all, it's tactically stupid because it is going to backfire and you already saw the president using it to say that his supporters are the victims of the leftwing mob. So it's not going to lead to anything good for Democrats, and that's why you saw her called out, and hopefully they will be able to restrain that because they have to make an argument on the merits.

BAIER: Steve?

STEVE HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: It's been encouraging that some people have challenged what she said even as many people have defended it or joined along with her. David Axelrod tweeted that he is kind of amazed and appalled by the number of folks on the left who applaud the expulsion of Sarah Huckabee Sanders from this restaurant, and then went on to say exactly what Mara said, he doesn't want to see the left mimic what they criticize in Donald Trump.

But there is no long-term upside in this kind of incivility. Politics is the art of persuasion, and the people who make long-term gains in politics are the people who do a better job of persuading others that their views are right. Those are the kind of people who take political moments and make them political movements.

These are not about arguments. You're not persuading anybody. If Democrats follow Maxine Waters' advice and get in the face of Republicans or harass them at a restaurant, is any Republican going to think, that's the right way to do this? And the same goes the other way too. If Donald Trump makes one of those comments, does he actually think he might convert a Democrat that could be persuaded by an argument on behalf of his policy? It's just not a long-term winner as good as it might feel in the short term.

BAIER: Right. And on substance is where the battle lies. I said I was going to, as of last week, play as many soundbites as I could of our late friend Charles Krauthammer, here talking about the Democratic resistance and what that means politically.


CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: They don't have a message. This is the same region that Hillary lost. So having nothing to say, they are now fixated on Trump. It's all on the resistance, all about Trump. But think of the big picture. Why do they want to win the House? For one reason. Not tax reform, not jobs. They want to win it so they can start impeaching the president, undoing the election of 2016. That is the biggest political mistake and political strategy I have ever seen, and I think people understand it's not a worthy cause.


BAIER: One year ago this week.

So on the immigration issue, the president saying "Hiring many thousands of judges, going through long and complicated legal process, is not the way to go -- will always be dysfunctional. People must simply be stopped at the border and told they cannot come into the U.S. illegally. Children brought back to their country, if this is done, illegal immigration will be stopped in its tracks at a very little by comparison cost. This is the only real answer and we must continue to BUILD THE WALL!"

HURT: So last week Donald Trump had everything thrown at him by everybody based on these images down on the border, some of which turned out to be from the previous administration. And the most spectacular of course being the photoshop cover of "TIME" magazine, where it has Donald Trump looking at this girl who is crying. It turns out that child was never separated from her parents and, in fact, further reporting shows of the mother had left her other children back home which suggests that maybe a sign she is not going to succeed in getting asylum, doesn't deserve asylum based on the criteria.

But now after a week of the hysteria has sort of past and we are still down to a really complicated situation on the border, and I think that moved by Donald Trump to talk about keeping people from getting into the country so that we don't have to give them due process, it's an argument for building a wall, or anything, or something that prevents them from getting across the border.

BAIER: Mara?

LIASSON: I agree last week was a bad week, but I think the message from the White House is still pretty muddled. And as soon as they clean it up and they he gets back to the big, broad issue, we are strong on borders, the Democrats are weak on borders, that's safer ground for him.

But when he's talking about due process, the reason why people have an asylum process is to see if they deserve to be let into the country or not. To just decide by fiat that every one of them should be sent back, that's what due process is, or pick up someone who is an American citizens, just doesn't have their passport on them, send them over the border to Mexico, that's why we have a constitution.

BAIER: This story was under-covered, "Fox News Sunday," the former homeland security chief Jeh Johnson talking about not only child separation but stopping people at the border.


JEH JOHNSON, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Without a doubt, the images and the reality from 2014, just like 2018, are not pretty. And so we expanded family detention. We had then 34,000 beds for family detention, only 95 of 34,000 equipped to deal with families. So we expanded it. I freely admit it was controversial. We believed it was necessary at the time. I still believe it is necessary to maintain a certain capability for families. We can't have catch and release.


BAIER: And he defended it, Steve. There weren't Obama people being kicked out of restaurants.

HAYES: No. The thing that was missing from last week's debate, well, there were lots of things missing from last week's debate, but one of the things that was missing was context. What we were seeing wasn't unprecedented.

The reason that it was happening and the reason it was happening in increasing numbers was unprecedented. It was a result of a deliberate policy decision that the Trump administration had made because they wanted this to serve as a deterrent. The Obama administration had a different approach to it. I think they would argue that what they did they had to do, and it was regrettable. But it happened.

We didn't hear that it happen until several days into the debate. It was a failure on the part of the mainstream media. And I think Charlie is exactly right, there is all this navel-gazing among journalists these days about what they can do to restore credibility. The first thing you can do is get the story right. The second thing you do is when you get it wrong, you don't stand by a misleading image. It incredible that that picture that Time magazine used tells a story that isn't true in the most fundamental sense. And yet they are standing by the story.

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