Tags: Joe Scarborough

Scarborough: ‘Hillary Clinton is the biggest neo-con that there is out there.’


The third and final part of my recent chat with Joe Scarborough, host of Morning Joe, about his new book, The Right Path: From Ike to Reagan, How Republicans Once Mastered Politics — And Can Again.

Geraghty: For a while, you stood out from most Republicans in your views on foreign policy. You would describe it as non-interventionist, I’m sure you’ve had the term “isolationist” thrown at you. It does seem there’s been a shift in the party — you see in dealing with Syria, an exhaustion with Iraq, a frustration with Afghanistan. How different is your idea of a good noninterventionist policy from what President Obama is doing now, and how big an issue will this be in the 2016 Republican presidential primary, for Americans who want to find an alternative to what we experienced under Bush but also may not be happy with what they’re getting with President Obama?

Scarborough: I actually think the biggest fight is going to be within the Republican party — and I say fight, I really mean debate, and it’s going to be a positive debate.

Hillary Clinton is the biggest neo-con that there is out there. Democrats are basically going to be putting a candidate out there who’s going to be in agreement with my friend [former Bush official and Romney-Ryan advisor] Dan Senor the majority of the time. So we’re going to try to figure out whether we want to do what Bush said he would do in that second Inaugural Address, and end tyranny in all four corners of the globe, or whether we’re going to be tough realists like Ike was, and yes, like another Republican general, Colin Powell, was. He followed up on the [Caspar] Weinberger Doctrine that the United States of America only sends troops into battle as an absolute last option. And when we go in there, we go in with overwhelming force. As Colin Powell said in the 1990s, we don’t want a fair fight. We want to go over there, we want to kill the enemy, we want to achieve our objectives, and we want to bring our sons and daughters back home.

I think it’s funny that the New York Times and the other progressives will attack George W. Bush for eight years about being a neo-con, and then the second that Republicans start talking about restraint, suddenly we’re isolationists. What I’m talking about is not isolationism. It’s realism. We can’t keep spending $2 billion a week in Afghanistan, which we’ve been doing for years now, and rebuilding Afghanistan instead of rebuilding our own country.

Geraghty: The costs of interventions are crystal clear in a situation like Iraq, where we spent a great deal of blood and treasure, and then see inconclusive or dissatisfying results. But there’s also a cost of not intervening, and you see it in places like Syria, where we’re not involved, and the death toll has passed six figures and it’s getting messier. Is America, and or the world, ready for the consequences of a world with a non-interventionist America?

Scarborough: We’ve got to choose our strategic targets carefully. Afghanistan was doomed to fail from the beginning when we moved beyond what George W. Bush had [originally] planned for Afghanistan to be, which was an anti-terror campaign. When it stopped being an anti-terror campaign, and began being a counter-insurgency campaign, and we started trying to rebuild Afghanistan instead of hunting down the terrorists who blew up our buildings on September 11, killing them or bringing them to justice, then we had mission creep. Then Obama tripled the number of troops. That’s insanity. I said it in real time, and I’m still saying it today.

You brought up Syria. If you look at a map of the Middle East, over the past 25 to 30 years, you see our two enemies — and I use that term specifically — have been Iran and Syria. There are times where there are strategic battles to be fought. If Barack Obama had gone into Syria six months ago, nine months ago, a year ago, things would have been different. If the president had actually had a plan to do that, I would have been supportive of it.

I wasn’t supportive of him going into Libya. I wasn’t supportive of it, because I didn’t see that as central to U.S. foreign-policy interests. I do see Iran and Syria and the checking of those regimes as central, not only to long-term U.S.-foreign policy objectives, but also to our biggest ally in the region, Israel.

Geraghty: I live in Virginia, where Ken Cuccinelli just got demolished on the airwaves, accused of wanting to ban birth control, ban divorce, and so on. Are social issues a liability for the GOP? Is it just a matter of avoiding Todd Akin moments, or do they have to approach these issues differently?

Scarborough: Avoid a Todd Akin moment, but understand that Chris Christie is pro-life. He’s the first pro-life guy to get elected in New Jersey since 1973, since Roe v. Wade passed. He used an approach to social issues that I used in northwest Florida. He said, “I could have been very outspoken and aggressive and ideological about it.” He let people know he was a Catholic, he let people know he was pro-life, and he let people know he wasn’t going to waver on that position. That’s a great approach.

Let me say also, this idea that Ken Cuccinelli was defeated because of his positions on social issues is absolutely ridiculous. Cuccinelli will tell you that, and the polls and the numbers show it. The first thing that killed him was the government shutdown. Cuccinelli will say that, and all the people close to Cuccinelli will say that. The other thing was that the Republican polling killed them. Republican pollsters got it wrong in 2013 the way they got it wrong in 2012.

All the polls showed him down seven, eight, nine points. That kept the money out. . . . With a little more money, and without that government shutdown, which Cuccinelli’s people say totally got him off his game and really hurt him in northern Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli would have won.

You would be hard-pressed to find a race where a candidate being pro-life cost them an election. We’ve got a pro-life senator from Pennsylvania [Pat Toomey], and we’ve got a pro-life governor in New Jersey.

A lot of this has to do with temperament and emphasis. If a Republican candidate can convince middle-class voters and working-class voters, that he’s the one who has the best ideas for getting them back to work and strengthening the economy, they’ll vote for a pro-life candidate.

Geraghty: What is the one most important thing that Republicans need to do between now and the 2014 midterms?

Scarborough: They need to come together. I’ll be the first to take my share of the blame. I was very critical of some guys who are actually friends of mine, leading up to the government shutdown. I was because I thought it would hurt the party, and I think I was right. But one of the things that exasperated me after the election this year was that everybody was sniping at each other. Cuccinelli was the bad guy, or Christie was the bad guy. We’re going to start winning elections when we get the Christie supporters and the Cuccinelli supporters on the same side. And we’re going to start winning elections the way Reagan won elections when we get a candidate that both Ted Cruz and Colin Powell can vote for. . . . We can do it again. But we’ve got to stop the ideological witch hunts, and we’ve got to start focusing on beating Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Tags: Joe Scarborough , Syria , Hillary Clinton , Iraq , Ken Cuccinelli , Chris Christie

Scarborough: ‘Obamacare is going to die a death of a thousand cuts.’


More from my recent chat with Joe Scarborough, host of Morning Joe, about his new book, The Right Path: From Ike to Reagan, How Republicans Once Mastered Politics — And Can Again.

Geraghty: One of the arguments that came out of the 2012 elections was that the GOP was out of touch with a voting public that was much more comfortable with activist government than Republicans were. All the way through the government shutdown, it looked like this was a major gap between the Republican base and the electorate at large. Now along comes Obamacare’s implementation. Is this a long-term game changer in the way Americans see government, or are Republicans whistling past the graveyard if they think Obamacare will provide the road to victory in 2014 and 2016?

Scarborough: The morning that Obamacare passed, I said I thought we had reached the high-water mark of American liberalism. That it was an overreach — it was an overreach politically and in terms of policy. [Washington Post columnist] David Ignatius, on my program a couple weeks ago, basically said the same thing. It took a lot of people in Washington to realize that jamming something like Obamacare down the American public’s throats, having to blow through and basically wipe out the filibuster and pass something this sweeping with only Democratic votes — it was doomed to fail from the start.

Another thing on this RINO charge, you will never find me saying, ‘Oh, gee, the Republican party is failing because it’s not progressive enough on safety net issues’ or ;‘it’s not progressive enough on immigration on all these issues.’ I believe in my heart, Americans are small-government conservatives, but they’re also conservatives with a small ‘c.’

If you take what George W. Bush did over eight years, his brand of big-government Republicanism, where we doubled the national debt, we passed a $7 trillion Medicare prescription-drug benefit plan, and then you put on top of that the bank bailouts, basically three pages of paper, and then the stimulus that no Democrat read before voting for it, and then Obamacare, that radically transformed one-eighth of the economy — and you pass that in a way where Nancy Pelosi is saying, ‘We have to pass it in order to see what’s in it.’

I was skeptical from the start that all of this was a winning position for Democrats. And it’s not. But the problem is, we have to do more than just try to beat something with nothing. We have to do what [then-representative John] Kasich did in 1994, and present an alternative budget. Back in 1994, we presented three alternatives to Hillary’s health-care plan. We have to come up with a strong governing philosophy in a way that we did in the early 1990s and that Reagan did in 1980.

Geraghty: One of the great fears among conservatives, that drove their position during the government shutdown, was that if they didn’t stop Obamacare right then and there, they might never get a chance to repeal it. Now the law is turning out to be pretty darn unpopular. But one of the big pieces is the expansion of Medicaid — and once you put people on a government program, you create a constituency, and it becomes very difficult to ever roll back an entitlement. Should Republicans push for a repeal of the Medicaid expansion?

Scarborough: Let’s be really blunt about it: If the entitlements are middle-class entitlements, those entitlements are very hard to push back. But Medicaid is not a middle-class entitlement. You’re not going to see AARP and special-interest groups going out and using Medicaid to beat up candidates, left or right.

It’s so pressing that the Republican party comes up with one idea for health-care reform. Maybe it’s Tom Coburn’s approach, which I like. But they need to come up with one approach to health-care reform and start fighting for that, and start repealing portions of Obamacare . . . 

I think Obamacare is going to die a death of a thousand cuts. I don’t think it’s going to be in one great glorious battle. I think over time, we’ll see continuing pecking at it like we’ve seen in the past several months. There will be times when we need to be aggressive in what we’re doing, and there will be times where we just have to stay the hell away. And I think this is one of those times we need to stay the hell out of the away, and let Barack Obama own health-care reform over the next six months, and at some point we’ll see if he wants to sit down with Republicans, and listen to some of our ideas.

Tags: Obamacare , Joe Scarborough

Scarborough: ‘I’m somehow a RINO because I’m being the Cassandra here!’


Also in today’s Morning Jolt . . . 

Morning Joe Speaks to the Morning Jolt!

I had a chance to speak with Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, recently, about his new book, The Right Path: From Ike to Reagan, How Republicans Once Mastered Politics — And Can Again. I’ll share more of Scarborough’s policy prescriptions later this week, but I thought I’d begin by asking Scarborough about his pitch to those who dismiss him as a RINO.

Jim: As you no doubt are aware, in the world of Twitter and in comment sections of websites, there are some folks who are a wee bit skeptical of your assessment of the Republican party. So I wanted to give you a chance to give your elevator pitch, your short pitch, to someone who’s skeptical of the criticisms you made of Republicans recently, and why should they listen to you and why the ideas you’re articulating would move the party in a better direction.

Scarborough: (laughing) Yeah, why should they listen to me?

Why in the world would anyone in the Republican party listen to me? Because they have absolutely no idea how to win elections! You know, I was only the first Republican to get elected in my [House] district since 1873. I started out a campaign against a 16-year incumbent. Everybody said I was going to lose. Newt Gingrich said I was too conservative for my own district. He and the entire Washington establishment threw all of their weight and power and K Street behind my moderate pro-choice opponent. And I ended up winning the election with 62 percent of the vote. And how did I do it? I ran as a conservative, pro-life, pro-gun Republican. I wasn’t extreme on any of the issues. I talked about economics. I talked about tax reform. I talked about getting rid of the income tax and reforming the tax code, going to a tax system that actually encouraged hard work and economic development. I’d get a lot of people coming up to me saying that they disagreed with me on a lot of issues, that I was more conservative than they were, but they liked me and they voted for me because they knew I was going to go to Washington and I was going to fight for them.

You can trace a straight line from what I said on the campaign trail in 1994 in northwest Florida, to what I have said throughout my congressional career, what I voted in thousands and thousands of congressional votes, what I said on “Scarborough Country” every night — in 2003, I started warning about George W. Bush’s big-government spending ways — in early 2003, everybody else was turning a blind eye to it. In 2004, I wrote a book, Rome Wasn’t Burnt in a Day. I predicted that big-government Republicanism was going to lead to the destruction of the GOP majority and wreck the economy.

The only people who were talking that way in 2004 were Tom Coburn, myself, and the Wall Street Journal editorial page. In 2009, I wrote another book, where I said the same exact things I said years back.

Over the past several years, I’ve been branded this RINO, for basically calling the people that our party keeps putting up for elections “amateurs.” I was right when I criticized Mitt Romney, and I was attacked for being a RINO. I was right when I kept saying to people like Sarah Palin and Herman Cain and Rick Perry and a lot of these other contenders that were getting a lot of national media attention, I said they’re amateurs, they’re not going to be able to win a national general election. I said time and time again, on air, that this happens to us every four years, where we get amateurs. They run on the extreme right. I don’t just mean ideologically, I mean temperamentally, in a way that offends voters in all the swing areas we need to win, whether it’s the suburbs of Philly, the I-4 corridor [in Florida] — areas Republicans need to win in order to win national elections.

[getting excited]

In spite of all these predictions that always turn out to be right, I’m somehow a RINO because I’m being the Cassandra here, who has been saying the same . . . exact . . . thing! I almost swore!

There is one issue where people can say, “Joe Scarborough has changed,” and they would be right. That has to do with guns, specifically background checks. I support background checks, that puts me with 90 percent of Americans, that puts me with Ronald Reagan. If that one issue alone that I’ve changed on, since 1994, if that makes me a RINO, and these people say I don’t fit in the party, I think they’re sadly mistaken. It’s always been my party, it is my party, and it’s going to be my party. I believe in small-government conservatism and that’s what drives me every day.

Tags: Joe Scarborough , Republicans , Conservatism

How the Media Makes Cruz the Issue Instead of Obamacare’s Implementation


On Morning Joe this morning, the opinion of Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, the Huffingon Post’s Sam Stein, the New York Times’ Jeremy Peters, Bloomberg columnist Al Hunt and Cokie Roberts is uniform and vehement: everything about Ted Cruz’s semi-filibuster on the floor of the Senate is bad. They’ve called it preposterous, a publicity stunt, political theater, ridiculous, crazy, and said he’s “screaming”; guest Sen. Claire McCaskill said Cruz thinks he’s starring in a movie and using the floor of the Senate to promote himself. (Because senators otherwise never speak on the floor of the chamber to promote themselves.)

Much as the discussion of the NSA domestic surveillance program shifted to a binary choice about personality (“what do you think of Edward Snowden?”) the media is turning the discussion of Obamacare into a up-or-down choice on what you think of Ted Cruz.

But what one thinks of Ted Cruz is, in the grand scheme of things, a rather minor matter compared to the program’s impact on full-time employment, its malfunctioning software, the program’s failure to ensure coverage for 500,000 children, and the way lower-income families that have good insurance plans will be forced to pay much more for them

Of course, to discuss those subjects, you have to know something about how Obamacare is being implemented and the ensuing problems. To fume and scoff and sneer and mock Ted Cruz… you don’t really need to know that much.


Tags: Ted Cruz , Joe Scarborough , Obamacare

Which Entertainment Moguls ‘Glorify Murder’?


Joe Scarborough: “Entertainment moguls do not have an absolute right to glorify murder while spreading mayhem in young minds across America.”

So can anyone point to movies, television shows, video games, etc., that explicitly glorify and/or endorse murder, as opposed to depicting it? (This is aside from the rather important question of whether any particular piece of media spurred a person to commit a violent act.)

Sure, there are lots of movies, television shows, video games, etc., that depict murders, and there are quite a few in which the protagonist or hero murders others. But there are very, very few in which the protagonist murders “innocent” people and is still supposed to be seen as heroic by the audience. Our cultural sensibilities – even in godless, hedonistic, depraved Hollywood – won’t allow us to see the intentional killing of innocent people as consistent with a heroic character.*

I asked on Twitter for examples of movies in which murder was not merely depicted, but celebrated and glorified.

The first suggestion was the television series “Dexter”, which I admit I haven’t watched. The knew the protagonist was “a serial killer who targets other serial killers who have evaded the police,” but apparently he has killed innocent people to cover up his crimes.

(I think some of the later portrayals of Hannibal Lecter may best fit the description of  “glamorizing” an irredeemable, indisputably evil and murderous character as a hero, and may be the best example of Hollywood’s creative class reaching a total moral inversion. But I’m skeptical that either of the little-watched 2001 film “Hannibal” or the 2007 film “Hannibal Rising” are guilty of any crime to our society beyond fleecing gullible film-goers.)

Another person nominated the Charles Bronson “Death Wish” films, but I think that’s perhaps a perfect example of the “moral context” I’m talking about: Charles Bronson seems to shoot every mugger in late-1970s New York City after his wife is murdered and his daughter is raped. We can argue whether the muggers he encounters deserve to be shot for their actions, but Bronson’s character’s violent acts are only in response to those who threaten him or others.

Others suggested mob movies, but even there most of the portrayals (The Godfather series, HBO’s “The Sopranos”) often depict the strange code of honor among the mobsters, in that they’re not supposed to kill “civilians” (those not in the mob) and a common plot is the gangsters hoping to avoid an all-out gang war.

Some pointed to the “Call of Duty” video game franchise, although they started out as a World War Two combat game and have moved on modern or slightly futuristic settings. In those, the player is playing the role of a soldier and the antagonists are ultra-nationalist Russians and Middle East radicals. I fail to see how modern portrayals of good soldiers killing evil men is somehow more psychologically dangerous to view than, say, John Wayne or Clint Eastwood movies.

What kind of depictions of violence in media spur “mayhem in young minds”? The Star Wars movies? G.I. Joe? Transformers? Ben 10?

Lurking behind these arguments of “glorifying violence” is the matter of taste and sensibility; some works linger upon the terrible deeds of their villains to emphasize their moral degeneracy. Some audiences can appreciate it as part of the context of the story, others can’t. Very few people believe that the media they choose to consume is the type that manufactures murderers; it’s the television shows, movies, and video games of other people that ought to be banned for the good of society.

Of course, some depictions of violence will be inappropriate for young viewers; that’s why we have movie, game, and television ratings and parental discretion is advised. But I think Scarborough is attacking a foe that doesn’t really exist. There is no “In the Mouth of Madness“-style piece of work that we can identify as the trigger of murderous rampages. The world would be an easier place to live in if we could find those works and ban them.

Unfortunately, as we look at the shooters of Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tuscon, and Newtown, we see intense mental problems in which any one of a wide variety of factors could have spurred the decision to slaughter others.

We’re fools if we decide to empower government to limit the creative arts depending upon what they think will cause a murderous rampage in disturbed minds already inclined to lashing out in that manner. It would make as much sense as banning dogs because David Berkowitz, the “Son of Sam” killer, believed that his neighbor’s dog was telling him to kill young women.

And while some might argue that self-censorship is a better option, I don’t want our storytellers in any medium limiting their work by thinking, “what will the murderously disturbed take away from it?”

(*I suppose I should specify “intentional”; one of the funnier bits of dialogue in Kevin Smith’s movie “Clerks” is speculation about the civilian contractors killed in “Star Wars” when the Rebels blow up the Death Star.)

Tags: Joe Scarborough , Media , Movies , Tom Davis

From MSNBC to SEN, R-FL.?


The last Morning Jolt of the week includes the headline, “What Is Scott Walker Doing Right Now? Duh, Winning!” but today’s excerpt deals with another figure on our television screens, who also can sometimes spur people to shake their heads and ask, “What is he thinking?”

Morning NO!

Sorry, I can’t summon even the faintest enthusiasm for this: “Republicans in Washington are trying to recruit Joe Scarborough to run against Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) next year. Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), who heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), told The Hill on Thursday that he has talked to Scarborough a couple times about a Senate bid. And he indicated he’s still working on persuading the MSNBC host to run for the upper chamber. ‘I’d be delighted to talk to him a third time,’ Cornyn said.”

Zip at Weasel Zippers is particularly unenthusiastic: “No [implied bad word] RINO’s. I guess we didn’t make ourselves clear enough last November.”

Has he even lived in Florida anytime recently? Oh, that’s right. In the post-Hillary Clinton, post-Alan Keyes, post-Rahm Emanuel world, this stuff doesn’t matter anymore.

UPDATE: For what it’s worth, the National Republican Senatorial Committee vehemently denies the story.

Communications director Brian Walsh e-mails me:

This story is 100% false.  They had a casual conversation last cycle about Joe possibly running for the New York Senate seat.  That was the context of the Senator’s comments yesterday — not Florida — and unfortunately The Hill got this dead wrong.  We already have plenty of great candidates looking at the Florida Senate race and the NRSC is neutral.   We’re confident any one of them can beat Bill Nelson in 2012.

UPDATE: Scarborough says, “No, it was Florida.”

Tags: Joe Scarborough

Scarborough: Palin Made Up Death Panels, Obsessed Over Birth Certificate


I suppose it could be just sloppy wording, but Joe Scarborough — the MSNBC morning host who is making noises about running for office again — appears to suggest that Sarah Palin is a Birther in an interview with Howard Kurtz: “I’ve told them it’s counterproductive to call Obama a Marxist. I caught so much flak by calling out Republicans when a few of them, like Sarah Palin, made things up like death panels, or obsessing over his birth certificate.”

Er . . . no.

Voters have every right to ask candidates for information if they so choose. I’ve pointed out that it was seemingly fair game during the 2008 election for many on the left to badger my doctor and lawyer for proof that Trig is in fact my child. Conspiracy-minded reporters and voters had a right to ask . . . which they have repeatedly. But at no point — not during the campaign, and not during recent interviews — have I asked the president to produce his birth certificate or suggested that he was not born in the United States.

That was in a Facebook post entitled “Stupid Conspiracies,” lest anyone have any doubt about what Palin thinks of the Birther theory.

As for the notion that Palin “made things up like death panels,” he’s wrong there too. I’ll refer you to the Wall Street Journal:

We wrote at the time that Sarah Palin’s coinage was sensationalistic, but it was meant to illustrate a larger truth about a world of finite resources and infinite entitlement wants. Under highly centralized national health care, the government inevitably makes cost-minded judgments about what types of care are “best” for society at large, and the standardized treatments it prescribes inevitably steal life-saving options from individual patients. This is precisely why many liberals like former White House budget director Peter Orszag support government-run health care to control costs: Technocrats in government can then decide who gets Avastin for cancer, say, and who doesn’t.

Democrats and the press corps accused Mrs. Palin of misrepresentation to avoid reckoning with this inexorable rationing reality that President Obama has himself implicitly acknowledged. In a 2009 interview with ObamaCare advocate David Leonhardt of the New York Times, he called for “a very difficult democratic conversation” about the costs that are incurred in the last six months of life. The President even mused about whether his own grandmother’s hip replacement following a terminal cancer diagnosis represented “a sustainable model.”

But how is Scarborough to know this? I’m sure no one around his MSNBC table ever corrected him.

But I guess I shouldn’t call him “wrong,” after all . . . that’s a label.

Tags: Joe Scarborough , Sarah Palin

Joe Scarborough: ‘At some point, I may feel the need to run for office again.’


For all of you who have been yearning for the chance to vote for Joe Scarborough, look at these comments in Parade

Have there been moments—say, during the tax debate in December—when you wished you were back in Congress?

Not yet. I think I may at some point. We have more influence doing the show. There are 435 members of Congress. There’s one Morning Joe show. Hopefully, we can keep hammering the argument that you can disagree with other people and have debates but remain civil.  

“At some point”? How seriously are you considering a return to politics?

My wife always tells people, “He’s not going to be able run to for anything because I’m not going to let him start a campaign.” Look what’s happened to Barack Obama over the last two years or George Bush for eight. It’s a blood sport. But at some point I may feel the need to run for office again.  

What would make you?

An absence of leadership. The same thing that had me run the first time, in 1994, when I felt the country was veering off dangerously in the wrong direction. If Washington continues to fumble issues like taking care of the debt, getting the troops home, and rebuilding our economy, my wife and I may sit down and say, “These are critical things and maybe we need to get back in the ball.”

It’s interesting that Scarborough calls his own debates civil, because, you know, that’s a label, and I thought he opposed those.

Tags: Joe Scarborough

Suspicions That Joe Is Yearning for Sarah to Punch Back


In today’s Morning Jolt, a question or two about what really is at stake when yet another high-profile figure denounces Sarah Palin as loudly as possible . . .

I’m Not Going for Scarborough’s Fare

Can you stand a bit of cynicism about Morning Joe with your Morning Jolt?

MSNBC morning show host and former GOP congressman Joe Scarborough takes to the pages of Politico to demand that the Republicans “take on” Sarah Palin: “Republicans have a problem. The most-talked-about figure in the GOP is a reality show star who cannot be elected. And yet the same leaders who fret that Sarah Palin could devastate their party in 2012 are too scared to say in public what they all complain about in private. Enough. It’s time for the GOP to man up.”

So what is the net impact of Scarborough launching this broadside, asserting that his green room is the epicenter of a vast secret underground of intimidated Palin doubters? Nothing much. Sarah Palin is no more or less popular than she was before Scarborough’s op-ed. If any Palin fan was shaken off the bandwagon, I have yet to find them. I doubt Scarborough’s argument was sufficiently odious to stir a backlash among Palin critics. Not one Republican doubter — let’s assume for the sake of argument that his unnamed folks exist, and they do complain loudly in the MSNBC green room — will come forward and denounce Palin because Joe Scarborough called upon them to do so. In fact, he may have made it impossible for any GOP figure of any significance to do so, since none of them want to be seen as taking their marching orders from an MSNBC host. And I doubt Scarborough’s audience will be any larger or any smaller because he’s staked out his position standing athwart Sarah Palin yelling stop.

However, Scarborough did get 20 or so blogs to link to the piece. So if that was the goal, mission accomplished.

Jim Treacher notices that Scarborough offers his scathing sneering piece, contending on the same day he announced he’s joining a group that aims to promote “civility and respect” in the public dialogue. “Say what you want about Scarborough’s laundry list of criticisms, but at least he’s keeping it civil,” Treacher observes, tongue firmly in cheek. “Yay, civility! Also: respect. Words are fun to say.”

At Legal Insurrection, William Jacobson is particularly unimpressed: “There is a lot which could be said about Joe Scarborough’s very personal and demeaning screed against Sarah Palin, but I’ll rest on this response: ‘You are the Alan Colmes of MSNBC, and I mean no offense to Alan Colmes.’ On second thought, maybe I just insulted Alan Colmes. Sorry.”

Matt Lewis tries to find the valid points, and probably invites quite a few heated responses from Palin fans himself: “Scarborough refers to Palin as a ‘reality show star,’ but is she really? Now that we have all seen her TLC program, ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska,’ I’m not so sure that is a fair classification for it. When people hear the term ‘reality show,’ they likely think of ‘Keeping Up With the Kardashians’ or ‘The Osbournes.’ Calling ‘SPA’ a reality show is not entirely inappropriate, but I would argue that it is also a documentary/travelogue . . . while I think the criticism over Palin comparing herself to Reagan was overblown, I do think Scarborough’s main thesis — that Palin may not be ready for prime time — deserves consideration. Anyone running for president (and she is considering it) deserves such scrutiny. Is she serious enough? Does she have the intellectual heft or gravitas? These are all fair questions.”

Why do I suspect that Scarborough is hoping Palin will fire back on her Facebook page, guaranteeing a day or two of headlines about the “PALIN-SCARBOROUGH BRAWL” and ensuring the most attention he has enjoyed in years? How far away can a “How to Save the GOP from Sarah Palin” book deal be? Between Keith Olbermann’s suspensions and fights with management, Ed Schultz’s arson threats, Bill O’Reilly’s fireworks on The View, and Glenn Beck’s big rallies on the Mall, all the big cable hosts seem to spend as much time making the news as reporting it. Scarborough has chosen the easiest and most well-trod path to a white-hot spotlight: defining himself as a furious foe of Palin.

Tags: Joe Scarborough , Sarah Palin

Can You Believe I’m Being Harshly Criticized by Both Sides? Unthinkable!


Twice in recent days, I’ve gotten into little back-and-forths with Joe Scarborough on Twitter, and my current argument probably needs more than 140 characters.

First, a couple of nice things about Scarborough: He’s a nice guy. His show is near-ideal for political junkies, a lot of great inside baseball and much less fluff than a lot of other shows. He is a gracious and well-informed host. Often he’s surprisingly blunt about what he thinks about other programs and hosts on MSNBC, and let’s face it, we find that awesome. His goal of a more polite and respectful public dialogue is completely worthwhile.

Having said that . . .

It seems like at least once per day on Twitter, Scarborough expresses some variation of surprise, irritation, and incredulity that he’s been criticized by left-wing folks and right-wing folks in the same day.

Now, I know where he’s coming from. Hate mail used to drive me bonkers. Every once in a while, it still does. But the Internet has changed our culture; when I started in journalism, critics used to have to use a stamp, envelope, pen, or crayons and the occasional bit of DNA evidence to tell you what a terrible job you were doing.* Now you can wish a painful death upon me or any other voice in the public square with the touch of a button. This, we are constantly assured, is progress.

I don’t like this state of affairs, but it is what it is. The folks who practice this the most are well beyond our ability to change their behavior. Once, after writing an op-ed that mentioned a particularly infamous figure who had sent death threats to a blogger, the figure sent me a note thanking me for helping keep her in the news. Some folks who write harshly are just caught up in the moment, but others actually think and speak this way all the time, and feel no shame, remorse, or regret about how they choose to treat people. If we could somehow undo the technological revolution that enabled these people to communicate beyond earshot, the U.S. postal system, and their cats, our public discourse would probably be nicer, healthier, and more productive and civil. But nobody’s turning off the Internet anytime soon, and there doesn’t appear to be a way to put the genie back in the bottle. I think ignoring them is probably the best approach, but I’m open to suggestions.

The end result is that Scarborough seems perpetually taken aback by vicious denunciations that are now sadly standard in our discourse, and many of his Tweets amount to a plea for us all to be nicer to each other and treat each other with respect. Now, Jesus Christ and Rodney King would agree with that message, but it’s hard to see what those pleas accomplish. Those who are already respectful don’t need to hear it, and those who aren’t respectful don’t seem inclined to change their behavior because Joe Scarborough is disappointed in them.

(Search for #JoeNBCWisdom on Twitter to find folks parodying the host’s well-meaning but obvious and often preachy messages.)

Finally, when you’re being criticized by both the Right and the Left, sometimes it’s because you’ve found a sweet spot of compromise that irritates the fringes of both sides. Then again, sometimes it just means you’re really, really wrong.

* “Bah! You call this hate mail? Why, back in the day, cranks used to send bits of dried-up flowers! These kids today, they have no idea what it used to take to tell a writer he stinks. Why, they used to have to take the letter to the mailbox, in the snow, uphill both ways . . .”

Tags: Joe Scarborough

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