The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

14 July 2008

Joe Scarborough No Longer Hiding His Leftist Sympathies


At MSNBC, A Move To The Left Is The Price Of Admission

*** BREAKING: Scarborough Doing WABC/ New York Tryout With Mika Brzezinski ***

Which came first, Joe Scarborough's move to the left or his MSNBC gig?

While the answer to that riddle may never be known, what has become clear is that "Morning Joe" no longer feels the need to hide his ideological shift.

Like Huffington Post honcho Arianna Huffington's identical right-to-left political makeover, however, questions about one's true leanings are bound to persist.

For several years, your Radio Equalizer has called attention to Scarborough's odd statements, weird affiliations and outrageously sloppy prep work, which has sometimes led to puzzled reactions from conservatives.

But any lingering concerns with this site's position are likely to be erased, however, by the latest issue of New York Magazine, where the cows have officially been released from the barn:

Scarborough’s slippery partisan loyalty has proved useful to the network. Despite his criticisms of the Bush administration, he is often cited as MSNBC’s house Republican, his Morning Joe a counterpoint to Olbermann’s Countdown. And indeed, Scarborough’s nineties résumé is that of a true conservative.

He has said his “visceral dislike” of the newly elected Bill Clinton inspired him to run for the House of Representatives in 1994. At the time, he was living in Pensacola with his first wife and two sons, putting his law degree to use litigating local insurance cases. Despite having no political background, he launched a quixotic campaign and was elected as part of the class of freshman Republicans who swept Newt Gingrich to power. He supported impeaching Clinton, abolishing the Department of Education, and cutting off AIDS funding for the so-called Ryan White Act. (He lost all of those battles, the last by a vote of 402 to 4.)

But Scarborough bristles at being called one of Gingrich’s “lieutenants.” “We never really clicked,” he says now. Still, he concedes that the militancy-by-association “helped me get reelected in a district Jerry Falwell called one of the most conservative in America.” He was certainly one of the hardest-line freshmen when it came to government spending—part of the group who would come to be known as “the New Federalists”—and says he’s still “almost libertarian” on economic issues. “But I was always quirky on human rights, China, the environment,” he says. “I say ‘quirky’: Republicans couldn’t figure out which way I was going to break on votes. They finally just gave up whipping me.”

“Joe was a partisan, but he wasn’t a crazy,” says liberal Massachusetts congressman Bill Delahunt, one of Scarborough’s closest friends in the House. “I think if Joe had stayed in Congress, he’d definitely be in leadership now, and his voice would have been good for the Republican Party.”

By the late nineties, Scarborough was losing interest in Washington. He began flying back to his district every weekend to play gigs with his band, Regular Joe. The chorus to one of his songs went, “We can’t change the world, we can’t change the world / Life’s a bitch and they can’t make me care.” He drank onstage “with regularity,” and his marriage broke up in 1997. (He married his current wife, Susan Waren, a former fund-raiser for Jeb Bush, in 2001.) A profile of Scarborough in the St. Petersburg Times from 2000 opens with a description of his Florida office, including the “empty Absolut vodka bottles” cluttering his “desk,” which was really a door atop a pair of sawhorses.

Scarborough retired from Congress in 2001, to spend more time with his then-13-year-old son. But he continued to make appearances on shows like Hardball and Hannity & Colmes, and Phil Griffin took notice. MSNBC, then floundering in third place among cable news networks, had decided to emulate top-rated Fox News with an O’Reilly Factor of its own. Scarborough was telegenic, quick on his feet, and came off as a sort of populist Everyman.

But Scarborough never quite mastered the voice of perpetual outrage. “There are very few things in politics that make me feel like wagging my finger,” he says. “It wasn’t me.” Scarborough has two major modes on television. Either he holds his face unnaturally still, maintaining a somewhat stagy deadpan, or he appears to be on the verge of laughing. “I remember my first six months in Congress, doing all the cable shows,” he says. “I saw myself on TV once, and I looked so angry it scared me. So I sort of made a rule that every time I started to get upset, I’d laugh and tell a joke.”

That first paragraph confirms what many on the right have long believed: that MSNBC hires faux "conservatives" who are really liberals in order to prevent real right- leaning viewpoints from reaching its several-dozen viewers across the country.

Especially ominous is the praise from Bill Delahunt, the extremist Democratic Massachusetts congressman and supporter of terrorists. What does it take to win over the Bay State's far-left representatives?

Clearly, Scarborough's own defense is that he really never was as conservative as he was made out to be, but the voting record speaks for itself.

Now, several trade publications have recently indicated that Scarborough would like to give talk radio another try, despite failing at it the first time around. Some insiders believe Scarborough and other media elitists have been tempted to move into the medium after learning of Rush Limbaugh's mega- contract renewal deal.

But where is the audience for this kind of programming? Short of joining Air America, it's hard to understand where "Morning Joe" might fit.

UPDATE: Scarborough is filling in for Bob Grant tonight on WABC. Is left-leaning Citadel again looking to water down the station's highly- rated conservative lineup?

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  • That's from the New Yorker? They might want to check their facts. He was not on the losing side of impeaching Bill Clinton. Clinton was impeached. He was not convicted by the Senate, but he was impeached.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 15 July, 2008 09:17  

  • Joe Scarborough is a conservative and always has been. Just because he criticizes an incompetent Republican president and a corrupt and clueless Republican party does not mean he is a liberal!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 16 July, 2008 02:25  

  • Anyone who is a conservative knows that Joe Scarborough is no conservative.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 30 September, 2008 14:01  

  • Nothing about Joe Scarborough's personal or political records make him a serious contender for anything other than a mouthy host who owes his broadcast career to the folks that surround him on-air.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 29 December, 2010 09:03  

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