Joe Scarborough's "intuitive gut reaction" to the mess in Wisconsin is that Gov. Walker's holdout against union pleas for collective bargaining "seems kind of un-American" to him. It supposedly pained the self-described small-government conservative to say it, but he held to his opinion on Monday's "Morning Joe."
"I'm going to get killed for saying this," Scarborough hesitantly prefaced his confession. "I'm going to get so killed for saying this – I hate to say this, but the concept of telling people that they cannot come together to negotiate with a government – it just kind of seems un-American to me."
The "Morning Joe" panel was covering the latest updates on the standoff in Wisconsin between Gov. Walker and the public sector unions, who are willing to compromise on some demands but want to keep their ability to collectively bargain. Walker still refuses to meet their demands, saying that unions' historic abuse of collective bargaining power contributed to the budget mess his state is now in.
Scarborough seemed to echo liberal guest Jonathan Alter of Newsweek, who remarked earlier that Gov. Walker is union-busting but trying to sell his stance as a solution to a budget crisis. "There are all kinds of scams, you could call them, that are buried in these kinds of collective bargaining agreements," Alter admitted. "That doesn't mean you don't give [the unions] the seat at the table anymore."
After his dramatic confession, Scarborough tried to clarify his thoughts for any conservatives watching the show. "All I'm trying to explain here, when I said that 'un-American' thing – is I just think intuitively Americans, like myself, that aren't engaged in these union struggles, will just say at the end of the day, 'Wait a second. What's wrong with people coming together?'"
Alter chose to frame conservatives as hypocrites for crying out in 2008 against Rahm Emanuel's remark about never wasting a good crisis, and his enforcement of his fiscal ideologies using a recession as an excuse. "Now they're doing the same thing," Alter said of conservatives. "They're using the excuse of the budget crisis to do things, some of which are necessary."
A transcript of the segment, which aired on February 28 at 8:22 p.m. EST, is as follows:
JONATHAN ALTER: It's two narratives that are going to crash pretty soon, and we're going to see – I think even though most Americans don't have a whole lot of solidarity with unions, even the private sector union members complain that their public sector brethren get better benefits than they do a lot of the times. Despite that, folks don't like to see the rules get changed in the middle of the game. And they sense that Walker is not being totally honest here. It's masquerading as a budget crisis, but what it really is is union busting.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: You know, it's fascinating that – because when, on that first Friday we started talking about it, it was a budget issue. And my opinion – I was very blunt – I said "grow up. We're out of money." And then when unions came out the next day and said "You know what? We'll give the concessions there. And suddenly, everybody turns to Walker and says "Okay, your move." And he's still talking about ending collective bargaining and it makes it look like an ideological battle more than anything.
JONATHAN ALTER: The people on the Right who were up in arms when Rahm Emanuel said "A crisis is a terrible thing to waste." Remember that, in 2008. And so they said don't use the excuse of the recession to do all these ideological things, that was their argument on the Right. Well now they're doing the same thing. They're using the excuse of the budget crisis to do things, some of which are necessary. Because these unions – they have gotten, and in some cases, kind of almost ridiculous sorts of benefits where they can double-dip, get two pensions, they can add up a lot of overtime in their last year of employments, so for the rest of their lives they get a bloated pension. There are all kinds of scams, you could call them, that are buried in these kinds of collective bargaining agreements. That doesn't mean you don't give them the seat at the table anymore.
SCARBOROUGH: (...) Again, I think for most Americans it just seems like it's driven by ideology and not a concern about the budget.
SCARBOROUGH: Also, I don't understand, and again, I'm going to get killed for saying this (...) I don't understand – it seems – I'm going to get so killed for this – I hate to say this, but the concept of telling people that they cannot come together to negotiate with a government – it just kind of seems un-American to me. And that's why I'm going to get killed. I'm no friend of the unions, but does that not seem like – let me put it in a better way. Does it not seem like the most American thing to do, to say "Let's assemble," like freedom of assembly? And then we can negotiate with a powerful government.
SCARBOROUGH: And Jonathan, all I'm trying to explain here, when I said that "un-American" thing – is I just think intuitively Americans, like myself, that aren't engaged in these union struggles, will just say at the end of the day, "Wait a second. What's wrong with people coming together –"
BRZEZINSKI: Why can't they talk?
SCARBOROUGH: – to negotiate? What's wrong with them coming to the table?
JOHN MEACHAM: What's the government afraid of?
SCARBOROUGH: Yeah, what's the government afraid of?
ALTER: And that's what we do instead of fighting in our country.
ALTER: In other countries they shoot each other.
BRZEZINSKI: That's what makes us different. That's what makes us superior.
SCARBOROUGH: So my comment was not – I just want to say to my conservative brethren it was not an ideological comment, it was just sort of an intuitive gut reaction. I think most Americans just won't get it.
BRZEZINSKI: Something about fairness, maybe?