NBC's Williams Tells Letterman GOP 'Suicide Caucus' 'Cabal' to Blame for Shutdown

Appearing on CBS's Late Show on Thursday, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams ranted to liberal host David Letterman about Republicans in Congress being to blame for the government shutdown: "It's about a small – they've been called the suicide caucus in the U.S. House, about 80 members.....right now they have a hold on the House of Representatives....because of this caucus, this cabal, nothing moves." [Listen to the audio]

Letterman was eager to join in bashing the GOP: "If we wanted to blame someone....Would it be crazy Ted Cruz? Would it be – can we blame him for this?" Williams replied: "Ted Cruz is the leader of a lot of this."

After making a general complaint about gerrymandered congressional districts, Williams again hit Republicans: "If you come from a congressional district that's kind of rigged to make sure you're always gonna win back home, you can never be, in this case, too conservative for the folks back home. That's going to keep you in a certain mind-set and insulate you from any concerns about the nation as a whole."

That sentiment echoed a declaration from Williams on Tuesday's Nightly News, in which he argued the shutdown was "being driven by a committed core of Republican members of Congress who are all but assured of re-election in their districts, and just can't be conservative enough for many of the folks back home."

Letterman then proposed a conspiracy theory about the GOP's motivation in the budget fight:

Certain – certain members of this – I don't want to call them fringe – but not necessarily mainstream Republicans, the sort of the Tea Party people, are hoping that this country will tip into some sort of panic, economic crisis, perhaps even another warfare someplace. And thereby, attract voters who are fearful and come running to the extreme, to the extreme right, beyond the central core of the Republican Party. And thereby, get their country back.

Williams responded: "That could perhaps be the case. I go back further. I go back to Goldwater in '64. I go back to years and years and years of conservative frustration."

Here are portions of the October 3 exchange aired just past midnight on October 4:

12:02AM ET

(...)

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Well, obviously it's day three of the shutdown. And something I heard you say last night that there are times when you just wonder, are we still together? Are we still the country we grew up in? And are we becoming unhinged? We had shots fired on Capitol Hill in Washington today. Very tempting to good ahead and diagnose this and describe it all, but it's one of those fog of war, preponderance of caution issues and I think it's all over. We had a high-speed chase across the capital city. But it just – it adds to that tension in the air, in the sadness in the air.

(...)

DAVID LETTERMAN: As you expressed, there's a certain sense, perhaps even growing now, of hopelessness, maybe hopelessness is too strong a word, but confusion and frustration, what should anyone do?

WILLIAMS: And anger. I brought a quote, this was the chaplain who started services on Capitol Hill this morning, listen to this. Senate Chaplain Barry Black, quote, "Deliver us from the hypocrisy of attempting to sound reasonable while being unreasonable." That's in the opening prayer.

[APPLAUSE]

LETTERMAN: Praying for someone to be thoughtful and reasonable with the future of our lives and the future of this country.

WILLIAMS: Yeah, I think this is not a profile in courage for our country right now. I think it's a very, very dark time.

LETTERMAN: Now we've been through this in the past. Everybody invokes the Tip O'Neill, the Ronald Reagan, there were shutdowns. People say, "Oh, those were just procedural." I don't know what this means.

WILLIAMS: Well, this one is pretty targeted, this one is over health care. It's about the results of the last election. It's about a standing law for three years. It's about a small – they've been called the suicide caucus in the U.S. House, about 80 members. They come from districts where Obama lost by an average of 23 points. They come from districts where they won by an average of 34 points. Very safe seats. They tend to be more white, more conservative districts than other congressional districts. And right now they have a hold on the House of Representatives. Certainly on the Speaker, John Boehner. And that is what is doing this right now.

LETTERMAN: Is this – a friend of mine was saying today that this is classic obstructionism, is that correct?

WILLIAMS: You can label it that. It's been called a political hostage taking, it's been called political extortion. You've heard the vitriol and the rhetoric this week. But right now, because of this caucus, this cabal, nothing moves.

LETTERMAN: If we wanted to blame someone – and that's really all I'm interested in life, is finding someone to blame, I think we all agree on that.  

[APPLAUSE]

LETTERMAN: Would it be crazy Ted Cruz? Would it be – can we blame him for this?  

WILLIAMS: Ted Cruz is the leader of a lot of this.

(...)

WILLIAMS: If you come from a congressional district that's kind of rigged to make sure you're always gonna win back home...

LETTERMAN: Yes.


WILLIAMS: ...you can never be, in this case, too conservative for the folks back home. That's going to keep you in a certain mind-set and insulate you from any concerns about the nation as a whole.

LETTERMAN: Now this goes back to early on in the campaign with John McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin and the – after Obama won – "Take our country back" and the birth of the Tea Party and the first term and on and on and on.

Here's what I believe, and I think as a sensible man you probably share these thoughts. Certain – certain members of this – I don't want to call them fringe – but not necessarily mainstream Republicans, the sort of the Tea Party people, are hoping that this country will tip into some sort of panic, economic crisis, perhaps even another warfare someplace. And thereby, attract voters who are fearful and come running to the extreme, to the extreme right, beyond the central core of the Republican Party. And thereby, get their country back.

WILLIAMS: There – that could perhaps be the case. I go back further. I go back to Goldwater in '64. I go back to years and years and years of conservative frustration. They have point to make. They don't like how the place is being governed.

Now, it's a heck of a lot easier to do this from their set of seats in the House. It's a heck of a lot tougher when you've bottled things up and now we are where we are: day three, complete paralysis. When I called the U.S. Capitol this afternoon after we'd had a shooting in Washington, I couldn't get anybody. The government workers had been furloughed.

LETTERMAN: Yeah. Now is this – and I know it is, I just don't understand how. This is related to ObamaCare. And this is further protestation against that, correct?

WILLIAMS: That is correct. It's established law, three years old. The first provision, as you know, went into effect this week. But this is a disagreement with the very basic idea of ObamaCare. They want it defunded. They want it, at minimum, delayed a year.

LETTERMAN: And this is an essential disagreement about how we want this country to operate. "We want to be free to choose any health care, we want to be free to choose anywhere. We don't care what it costs. We don't care if others don't have it and that other people say everybody is entitled to it, everybody should have it." Is that the essential argument?  

WILLIAMS: Presumably let market forces prevail. They feel the President won by using party-line votes. They feel that even though an election has been held since, that a lot of the new folks in Washington never had a voice.

(...)

— Kyle Drennen is News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.