Christopher Hitchens, RIP, would likely have loved the rough-and-tumble of today's Morning Joe. The first half-hour was a jolting fix for political junkies.
If the goring of Newt Gingrich was predictable, there was much that was not. Michelle Bachmann's debate performance was roundly praised. Lefty Jeff Sachs put himself to Ron Paul's right on the Iranian threat. Joe Scarborough and Donny Deutsch reported that normally-Dem New York CEOs have deserted Obama en masse. Video after the jump.
Watch Morning Joe's wild ride. Former RNC chairman Michael Steele got proceedings off to an interesting start, agreeing with Joe Scarborough that Newt Gingrich made a weak defense on the issues of his Freddie Mac work and support for the individual mandate. He coupled it with praise for Bachmann.
MICHAEL STEELE: You're right there, Joe. I thought it was probably the weakest first hour for [Gingrich] in all the debates that he's had. I thought that Bachmann really scored some good punches there.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Boy, she really did.
After discussion of Bachmann fending off Gingrich's challenge to her on her facts.
STEELE: I thought last night she did herself a great service in getting there.
SCARBOROUGH: I thought she did very well and scored a lot of points.
Even redistributionist professor Jeffrey Sachs praised Bachmann's attack on Gingrich's Freddie Mac work. More surprisingly, Sachs criticized Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac themselves.
JEFFREY SACHS: Michelle Bachman completely nailed it. She had it completely right. And we know that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were a disaster, because they were in this limbo land where they were taking huge risks on an implicit taxpayer guarantee.
Willie Geist and Politico's Mike Allen were respectful of Bachmann's criticism of Ron Paul over Iran.
WILLIE GEIST: We were just talking about Michelle Bachmann in our last segment. She played an important role last night, kind of keeping everybody in check. One of those, going after Ron Paul for his suggestion that there is no evidence, he said, that Iran is close to building a nuclear weapon. Watch this.
Cut to clip of Paul-Bachmann exchange on Iran.
MIKE ALLEN: [Ron Paul] also said Iran was acting in self-defense. Excuse me? It's the least wise he has made since, you remember the Reagan Library debate, when he said we should save money by turning off the air-conditioning for our troops in war zones? It's fine to be dovish--he's got a lot of attention and following from that. And until now the other people on the stage have sort of ignored him or used him as a cheap punch line. But remarks like this are going to provoke a strong response and he hurt himself with Republican voters with these comments.
Even more surprisingly, Jeffrey Sachs put himself to Paul's right in assessing the Iranian threat.
JEFFREY SACHS: He's been right on Afghanistan and Iraq, but he was wrong yesterday to deny any issue and any risk. There's something real there, of course.
Finally, some interesting reporting by Scarborough and Donny Deutsch on the way Dem-friendly CEOs in the New York area have deserted Barack Obama.
SCARBOROUGH: We were at a lunch yesterday, again, with Democrats, CEOs--it's hard to go to a lunch in Manhattan where you're not surrounded by Democrats at the table. But these CEOs, one of them told me that 20 of the top CEOs in New York, 18 of 20, they meet once a year, had supported Barack Obama. 18 of 20 in 2008. He said not a single one around the table were going to be supporting him. Now, they were not Newt fans. They weren't Mitt fans. But they knew they definitely weren't going to support Barack Obama --
DONNY DEUTSCH: -- same thing.
SCARBOROUGH -- these Democrats, because he just doesn't understand, what Mitt Romney said, whether it's true or not the CEOs believe it, the real world. The small business owners believe it.
DEUTSCH: I hear the same exact thing. Almost across the board.
GEIST: So where are they going? If they're not supporting Obama, they don't like Gingrich, they don't like Romney.
DEUTSCH: They're begrudgingly going to Romney. Begrudgingly, or there'll be a white knight who comes up. That's where they will go right now.