An amazing sight occurred Tuesday on MSNBC’s Morning Joe when the show’s host, former congressman Joe Scarborough (R-FL), hit back at widespread accusations that he and his show had gone easy on Donald Trump and helped to facilitate the rise of a political demagogue.
Scarborough hosted freshman Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), who posted a note Sunday on Facebook declaring that he would never vote for Trump, and that he would look for a third candidate to vote for as “a conservative option, a Constitutionalist.” But over the course of the conversation about the search for a potential new candidate, the two ended up in a very combative conversation about the media.
“Joe, first of all, I think that we have to acknowledge the decline of the media is breathtaking,” Sasse said. “And what’s happened over the course of the last five or six months is a whole bunch of people have had a lot of fun playing with Donald Trump’s reality TV show about our kids’ future. And I don’t believe that, and I don’t think you really believe it. But I think here’s what we know comes next. If Donald Trump becomes the likely Republican nominee in 60 days, all of a sudden the media’s gonna grow up and take the guy apart into little pieces. Because he’s not a serious adult — he’s not somebody who celebrates America. So that’s what I’m saying.”
“You weren’t referencing us, I’m sure there,” Scarborough said, “when you said media was having fun with Donald Trump, right?
“I’m saying across the media you have a whole bunch of people —” answered Sasse.
Scarborough interrupted: “Because I can tell you tell you on Dec. the 8th — and I looked this up yesterday — I asked the question, ‘Is this what Nazi Germany looked like in 1933?’ That’s not what playing with Donald Trump looks like. We’ve been very tough — all along.” (Note: Based on the date, this would likely have been in response to Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims from entering the United States.)
“Sometimes you have,” Sasse shot back. “But can I ask you a serious question: Have you guys ever pursued it to make him distinguish between why his presidency would be different than Dictator X, Y, or Z’s? Because everywhere he goes he plays these little race-baiting games, and he plays games with praising Putin. He says that Kim Jong Un should be respected. He says that the Chinese who smashed freedom fighters in Tiananmen Square in 1990 are proud.”
“I’m actually very glad you asked that question,” Joe shot back. “Because when he was on after saying positive things about Vladimir Putin, I asked him, ‘What exactly do you find attractive about Vladimir Putin?’ And he started talking about him being a strong man. And I said, ‘You do know , he assassinates journalists? And you do know, he assassinates political opponents. Do you find that attractive?'”
“And what did he say?”
“There was a back-and-forth there, and he spoke in generalities. And then I followed up with the question again, ‘You do understand, he assassinates journalists?’ So yeah, We’ve kind of been there. Ask me something else — not that this should be about us. But I think—”
Co-host Mike Brzezinski added in: “I just don’t think you should put us in the with the rest of the media.”
“I couldn’t hear you, Mika,” Sasse said — which could be true, as Joe was also trying to speak, making the two difficult to distinguish.
Joe continued, saying that the real fault for this situation lies with the Republican Party itself: “I think the bigger problem here is, Senator, that a lot of people want to blame the media for what a lot of frustrated people in your party — and my party — have been doing for the past six to nine months.”
“Well first of all, let’s back up, and let’s give Donald Trump credit for this,” Sasse said. “Absolutely, he can recognize an organization that’s susceptible to hostile takeover. Because the Republican Party has been vacuous for a really long time.”
“Yes, it has,” Joe said.
“The core principles of the Republican Party have not been clear,” Sasse explained. “So I have lots of problems with the media, over the last six to nine months. But I’ve got far bigger problems with the Republican Party over the six to nine years.”
“As do I.”
“And so ultimately, Donald Trump has seized upon a vacuous, falling-apart organization. But when the American people are mad — and they’re right to be mad, they’re right to want to scream ‘No’ to Washington — they’re also gonna want to be for something. And they deserve better than Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and I think ultimately there will be more choices.”
The discussion calmed down with Scarborough saying: “Right. Again, I agree with you. I wrote a book in 2004 saying that the Republican Party was spending too much money, and they were too reckless in foreign policy, and they were gonna lose their majority. So been there, done that. I guess the question is, how do you get there from here?”
“So let’s admit that there are nine months between now and the election, and the world is gonna change lots and lots of times between now and then,” Sasse answered. “I hope it happens over the course of the next 30 to 60 days — that the Republican Party again becomes the party of Abraham Lincoln, the party of limited government and great human potential. I want to celebrate what’s great about America in the Republican Party. But if the Republican Party becomes the party of David Duke, Donald Trump — I’m out. And I think lots and lots and lots of people are out. And so ultimately, there will be more choices than these two, if Donald Trump is the nominee.”