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“This Isn’t Complicated, People”: Joe Scarborough Will Never Be President For Many Very Obvious Reasons

I guess we’re doing this again? Morning show host and coffee chain pitchman Joe Scarborough has a book out, about how the Republican Party can save itself by being less angry and extreme, and trying to do more to appeal to “swing voters” and “moderates.” Scarborough has been giving lots of interviews about his book and its very original thesis. Ronald Reagan is on the cover of the book. Now people are asking Joe Scarborough if he is going to run for president, and he “won’t rule anything out.” He should. He definitely should rule it out, as soon as possible.

Now TPM says that Scarborough will be among the potential candidates in a survey taken at the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference in New Hampshire. That doesn’t really mean a whole lot. It’s not “proof” that Scarborough is dumb enough to actually run for president. He is, hopefully, just indulging the 2016 speculation to promote his book. But if he does even slightly well in this poll — and Northeast Republican Leaders are probably the closest thing to Scarborough’s “crowd” in the modern GOP, so it’s not impossible — there will be a lot of very insufferable words written, by the sort of people who appear or want desperately to appear on “Morning Joe,” about how Scarborough could make a serious run for the presidency. Mike Allen and Dylan Byers will say that “insiders” are “buzzing” about Scarborough 2016.

OK. Let’s be absolutely clear about this: Joe Scarborough is not a serious potential presidential candidate. That is nonsense.

The people who write credulously about candidate Scarborough tend to imply that because Scarborough is a television host, that he has built-in national name recognition and popularity. That is not actually true. Scarborough’s show is popular among people who follow politics closely. Most Americans don’t. And so, most Americans are watching something else most weekday mornings. Among Beltway (and New York) political journalists and media people, it is not a huge stretch to say that “everyone” watches “Morning Joe.” But in the real world, only a couple hundred thousand people watch it. That’s (a lot) fewer people than watch “Community.” I’m not trying to be harsh on Scarborough’s ratings, I am just trying to explain that the man is not, by normal standards, a huge television talk show star. He is more like the most popular local news guy for the Acela corridor.

Meanwhile, a million people watch Fox’s brain-dead morning program. Based on popularity as measured by ratings — a decent measure of popularity, I think — Joe Scarborough would be a less successful political candidate than Bill O’Reilly, Megyn Kelly, Chris Matthews, Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow and the Rev. Al Sharpton. In a Republican primary, in any state, for any office, nearly any Fox News host — probably even that old rascal Shep Smith — would almost certainly beat Joe Scarborough.

Suggesting that Scarborough run for president because political junkies like his show is like saying a “Crossfire” panelist should have run for president in 1992. Except that when that actually happened, it wasn’t a total disaster. Pat Buchanan, a former speechwriter turned TV pundit, ran for president three times. The second time, in 1996, he actually won New Hampshire, and came in close in Iowa. Still, he didn’t win. What can Scarborough learn from Buchanan’s campaigns? What made Buchanan a popular enough figure to actually win Republican primaries, beating the more experienced choice of the party elite?

Well, he was not a moderate pragmatist. Just not at all. The key to Buchanan’s almost-victory was that he was an outspoken white populist (and, in certain respects, white supremacist) who ran as the true conservative, opposed to the Washington establishment. He expressed anti-free trade beliefs that white working-class voters weren’t hearing from any other candidate in either party. He went big on the culture wars. His campaign semi-jokingly referred to its supporters as “the peasants with pitchforks.” It was, essentially, a proto-Tea Party campaign. That’s how Buchanan came close (though never that close) to winning the GOP nomination for the presidency: by doing exactly the opposite of what Joe Scarborough believes Republicans ought to do to win.

It is hard to believe that Joe Scarborough, coastal pro-business “moderate” who works for MSNBC, would do as well as Pat Buchanan, populist anti-corporate member of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans, in a GOP primary campaign, even in 2016. A third-party or independent run would be a colossal waste of time and money. Please, stop suggesting that this could actually happen.


By: Alex Pareene, Salon, March 13, 2013

March 16, 2014 Posted by | Election 2016, Politics | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“A Swarm Of Media Cicadas”: Morning Joe’s Week-Long Whine Over Obama ‘Optics’

It started a while ago, but it may have reached an absurd peak this week: Joe Scarborough, Chuck Todd and the MSNBC morning crew’s whining about Obama’s ostensible tin ear and awful “optics.”

What so unnerved them this time was that Obama gave a speech on the economy in the aftermath of the Navy Yard shootings in Washington. That bad timing is proof, said Joe, that the president is facing a “lame-duck meltdown.”

In the Monday speech, long planned for the fifth anniversary of the financial collapse, Obama attacked the GOP for risking “economic chaos,” with its threats to shut down the government if Obamacare isn’t defunded (which the House just voted for today) and to refuse to raise the debt ceiling. Obama addressed the massacre, and he delayed the speech by an hour but no longer because, as he later told Telemundo, “Congress has a lot of work to do right now.”

That set off nearly three days of Morning Joe tsk-tsking, as if they were a swarm of media cicadas. Mika made sad faces, Joe went into his customary high dungeon, and the other boys, including Mike Barnacle, John Heilemann and liberal Donny Deutsch, joined the concerned circle of consensus.

But it was frequent MJ guest and former George W. Bush aide Nicole Wallace who pointed out the faux pas’s true dimensions. It was, she said, as devastating a moment as when her old boss, asked what was the biggest mistake he made after 9/11, said he couldn’t think of one. “This for me is that moment for Obama,” Wallace said, “where he is publicly showing us he’s incapable of adapting and adjusting to events. It’s incredibly revealing and incredibly damaging to the White House.”

Wallace, a moderate Republican, may sincerely believe this, if only to remind herself that good people can make bad, career-crushing decisions. She’s no stranger to that problem, having worked as Sarah Palin’s adviser in the 2008 campaign—until she realized the Alaskan governor wasn’t fit to be a vice-president. (Wallace later revealed that she didn’t vote that year.)

But no such excuse exists for the rest of the Morning Joe gang or for Chuck Todd. Todd complained about Obama’s misstep all day Tuesday. He led The Daily Rundown the next day by asking, “Where’s the outrage?”—outrage not only that Congress, just blocks from the Navy Yards shooting, wasn’t stirred to debate gun control but outrage that the president didn’t change his plans.

Maybe Obama should have rescheduled. Waiting a day wouldn’t have hurt; and, sure, he should have anticipated the media carping. But the carping itself—not just from MSNBC, of course, but from the usual suspects like Maureen Dowd and Fox News—was way out of proportion. Especially given the outrage that the same media choose not to feel every day.

Just this morning, for instance, Morning Joe mentioned yesterday’s mass shooting on the South Side of Chicago. But that didn’t change the show’s plans, which included a deep discussion on the wonders of the latest iPhone.

Where’s the outrage?! (Well, Joe did briefly rage about the Chicago violence, saying that law-abiding citizens there were asking, “Do you know if there’s a version of stop-and-frisk you can import from New York to our neighborhood?”)

And Joe and company surely spent more time this week bewailing the timing of Obama’s speech than they spent covering another still-unfolding and deadly emergency, the Colorado floods. This selective finger-wagging can go on and on—why didn’t they obsess over the House’s vote to cut food stamps by $40 billion? Or the ongoing misery by sequester? Or anything that’s more important than whatever the media take on with self-intoxicating urgency? (Remember the IRS kerfuffle, the “worst scandal since Watergate,” as Peggy Noonan wrote?)

Of course, speech-timing-gate is just part of the larger Beltway consensus that Obama is a failure as a salesman, on issues from healthcare to Syria to Larry Summers.

Obama, Politico complained, was “incoherent,” moving from calling for intervention in Syria to asking for a congressional vote “to diplomacy [with] Putin, who had spent the summer humiliating him in the Edward Snowden case.”

By giving up on Summers’s nomination to head the Fed, Politico said, “Obama also allowed a vacuum to grow in which liberals in his own party felt no compunction about publicly registering their opposition, whatever their president’s preferences.”

So Obama is a sap who listens to his Democratic and lefty critics, and occasionally changes his mind. That’s pretty much the opposite, in fact, of Nicole Wallace’s slam that “he’s incapable of adapting and adjusting to events.”

He’s either too forceful or too weak, a tyrant or a dupe. He’s never Goldilocks. You can almost hear the Morning Joe crowd: if Obama had postponed his speech in light of the violence in DC, they’d say that means the terrorists have won.

On Morning Joe yesterday, Wallace took another stab at proving the White House is in as much disarray as it was when she worked there; she asked former Obama advisor David Axlerod, Isn’t there anyone who “can walk into the Oval Office and tell the president he just screwed something up?” (Yes, said Axelrod, naming three people off the bat.)

But then, with Joe and Mika absent from the set, guests Carl Bernstein and Lawrence O’Donnell indirectly but firmly critiqued the show’s hysteria itself. Look, said Bernstein, however he did it, Obama avoided war (for now). O’Donnell cited Obama and Kerry’s accomplishments in Syria—”And this comes after a week of everyone complaining about the zig-zag,” he said, adding, “the president is dealing with something as serious as Syria policy…and all you’re getting in the media is a theater review of the performance styles.”

Obsession with performance styles will lead journalists to say the darnedest things. Chuck Todd, the political director of NBC News, said it wasn’t the media’s job to present the facts on Obamacare, asserting, “What I always love is people say, ‘Well, it’s you folks’ fault in the media.’ No, it’s the president of the United States’ fault for not selling it.”

After getting criticized, Todd tweeted that he was misunderstood: “point I actually made was folks shouldn’t expect media to do job WH has FAILED to do re: ACA.”

Actually, isn’t it the job of the news media, a k a journalism, to find facts and report on their distortions? Isn’t it news when politicians lie? That’s a point CREDO is making in a petition to the NBC News president, saying, “Correcting Republican lies is part of your job.”


By: Leslie Savan, The Nation, September 20, 2013

September 23, 2013 Posted by | Media | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Morning Joe’s Accuracy Deficit”: If It’s Way Too Early, It’s Just Flat Out Wrong

We’ve all played the game “telephone,” where a message gets distorted in the retelling, often so much so that the original sender has a hard time recognizing it when it comes back. Nowadays, “telephone” is played in the blogosphere, and that’s how I felt when I first learned that my views on reducing the federal budget deficit were portrayed as in sharp contrast to those of my famous Princeton colleague, Paul Krugman.

The story began when Krugman appeared as a guest on “Morning Joe” on January 28th. He locked horns with host Joe Scarborough and others over how urgent it is to reduce the deficit, with Krugman arguing that we have lots of time and Scarborough (and others) arguing that we need to act post haste. Krugman did not dispute the notion that we must eventually get ourselves off the explosive debt path on which we now find ourselves. But he insisted that, with the economy so weak and the markets so welcoming of U.S. Treasury debt, we can and should go slowly.

Scarborough, though cordial to his guest, was incredulous and even amused. He subsequently argued in POLITICO that Krugman’s view is extreme, dangerous, and — most germane to this note — shared by almost no one else. It certainly wasn’t the consensus view on “Morning Joe” that day.

When Scarborough speaks, people listen. So controversy quickly erupted in the blogosphere. In POLITICO on February 15th, Scarborough invoked me as being on his side of the debate — which was news to me. While there are nuances of difference between my views on the budget issue and Krugman’s, and notable differences in rhetorical style, our positions are broadly similar. I’m probably a tad more hawkish than my colleague, but there’s not much distance showing between us.

So why had Scarborough declared me a deficit hawk?, I wondered when someone informed me of the alleged schism within the Princeton economics department. Here’s the answer.

In my new book, “After the Music Stopped” (Penguin Press, 2013), which was published a few days before the Scarborough-Krugman debate, I argued that there is not just one, but actually three distinct deficit problems, each with its own solution.

PROBLEM 1: In the very short run, meaning right now, we probably have too much deficit reduction. The U.S. economy could actually use some fiscal stimulus (to wit, larger deficits) today, rather than more fiscal contraction, because unemployment is still so high. Doesn’t that sound like Krugman?

PROBLEM 2: Over the coming decade, however — which is the focus of Simpson-Bowles, the so-called grand bargain, and most other plans — we do need to bring the deficit down, I argued. And, indeed, Problems 1 and 2 should be linked: by joining together some modest stimulus now with perhaps ten times as much deficit reduction over the ten-year budget window. In Washington-speak, we would thus “pay for” the stimulus ten times over. Furthermore, I argued, we could accomplish that without undue pain and suffering.

PROBLEM 3: The real budget crunch comes well down the line — a decade or two or three from now. The problem is simple to diagnose — healthcare costs are projected to soar — and it looks massive. By the way, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start addressing the healthcare cost problem now.

An excerpt from my book, making these points, was published in The Atlantic on January 25th — three days before the “Morning Joe” show. Interestingly, The Atlantic entitled the excerpt: “How to Worry About the Deficit: (1) Don’t; (2) Wait a Few Years; (3) Then Worry About Healthcare Costs.” A bit long as headlines go, and maybe a bit misleading, but it did capture the three separate deficit issues.

Apparently the article caught Scarborough’s eye. In that POLITICO article, he cited me as among the anti-Krugmans, claiming I was “particularly supportive of the “Morning Joe” panel’s view.” Why? Because I had warned of “truly horrific problems” ahead and “even shared [the] conclusion that the coming Medicare crisis will be so great that Democrats won’t be able to tax their way out of it.”

Well, I did say those things, but they referred to Problem 3, the long-run explosion of healthcare costs, not to Problem 2, the ten-year budget. Here’s the actual quotation about taxing our way out of the exploding healthcare costs (from “After the Music Stopped,” p. 404):

“The government can cover no more than a small fraction of the projected deficits by raising taxes. Sorry, Democrats, but the Republicans are right on this one. Americans are used to federal taxes running about 18.5 percent of GDP; they will not allow them to rise to 32 percent of GDP. Never mind that a number of European countries do so; we won’t.”

Krugman subsequently noted in his blog (on February 16) that his position is “not so different” from mine.

I don’t blog, so the purpose of this missive is simple: Can we please end the mini-debate right here? While there may be some small differences between Krugman’s position on reducing the deficit and my own, they are pretty small. Had I been on “Morning Joe” that day, the debate surely would have been two against four, not one against four. Furthermore, Krugman and I are not occupying some obscure corner of the policy debate, where only weirdos live. A large number of economists are on our side. Others, of course, are closer to the Scarborough camp.

The more important question is the substantive issue of the day: Should we be going for more fiscal austerity right now, or not? Those of us who say “not” urge you to consider some pertinent facts: the unemployment rate remains sky high; fiscal austerity has failed in Europe, where it is harming growth; the U.S. Treasury can still borrow at super-low interest rates; and we have already made serious progress on the ten-year budget problem. Now make up your own minds.


By: Alan S. Blinder, Opinion Contributor; Professor of Economics and Public Affairs, Princeton; Former Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Politico, March 4, 2013

March 5, 2013 Posted by | Deficits, Sequester | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Brewed For Misogynists”: How Not To Defend Yourself Against The “Chauvinism” Charge, Starring Joe Scarborough

As best as I can tell, here is what happened on “Morning Joe” this morning. Wacky jokester morning show host and respected American political figure Joe Scarborough mocked and belittled his co-host, Mika Brzezinski, until she became genuinely upset with him, then he angrily yelled at her for being upset with him until, finally, he got her to apologize to him for calling him on his bullshit.

Brzezinski was defending Obama from complaints that his Cabinet is too male. Scarborough was responding to her comments with snide jokes, including one about the Lily Ledbetter Act. Brzezinski told Scarborough that he was “being chauvinistic right now,” and Scarborough responded with outrage. Soon he was — for real — snapping his fingers to get her to shut up and listen to him berate her.

“Knowing me and seeing me work around here for five years, you want to call me a chauvinist on television?” Scarborough asked Brzezinski. The answer to that question, as anyone who’s watched Scarborough and Brzezinski work together on television for five years could tell you, is an unequivocal “yes.” One of the running jokes on “Morning Joe” is that “Morning Joe” constantly talks over and generally disrespects his co-host, who also happens to make half his salary.

Eventually, Brzezinski apologized for being mean to poor Joe.

My only question is, is Joe Scarborough actually different from Greg Gutfeld? They both do the smirky frat-misogynist who is Allowed To Say That Because He Is “Just Kidding Around” thing for a living. I guess there is the fact that Gutfeld seems to be aware of the fact that he’s an unpleasant character, while Scarborough imagines himself a serious and important person. Also Gutfeld’s show gets much better ratings. (His 5 p.m. show, not his 3 a.m. show.) Other than that, though, they seem like a couple of guys who’d really get along well.


By: Alex Pareene, Salon, January 10, 2013

January 12, 2013 Posted by | Sexism, Women | , , , , , | 1 Comment

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