MSNBC’s Scarborough Flips, Suddenly Defends CPAC Attendees

It’s hard to know what goes through Joe Scarborough’s head these days.  One day he’s trashing CPAC as a conference full of hate, the next he’s defending the conservative confab, saying its attendees are his friends. 

The latest example of Scarborough’s schizophrenia came March 18 on Morning Joe when he shot down National Journal’s Ron Fournier for calling CPAC attendees "wacko birds" -- a term borrowed from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) who derisively deployed it in an interview with the Huffington Post against Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas).  McCain later apologized for his comments directed at Senators Paul and Cruz. 

Speaking with the daily all-liberal Morning Joe panel, Scarborough criticized, “What everybody in the greater Manhattan area thinks about CPAC.”  Scarborough’s commentary was in response to Fournier’s comments about the top two contenders in CPAC's presidential straw poll, Sens. Paul and Rubio (R-Fla.):

[T]his is always the worst three days of the year for the Republican Party when you have all of these wacko birds on the fringe fighting each other.

Scarborough conceded there were “extreme elements” at CPAC, but then pointed out that such elements exist at liberal events:

I spoke at CPAC and I've spoken at CPAC before and, yes, there are elements there. But let me tell you something. I've also been at liberal organizing events where there were some crazy, almost bordering on violent people at some labor organizing event.

After getting co-host Mika Brzezinski to admit there are extremists in the Democratic Party as well, Scarborough proceeded to comment that, “Left wing activists in a room? They can get a little wacko too. Start pushing people around.” 

While Scarborough’s comments are a refreshing change for the MSNBC conservative, they are in stark contrast to the sharp condemnation he made of CPAC in February.  Just last month, Scarborough said that CPAC was an echo-chamber that focuses on “hate” and “anger.”

In the same February 28 rant, Scarborough concluded that CPAC doesn’t care about winning, instead, “They care about hate, resentment, selling books, talk radio, things that in the end keep us out of the White House for another generation.” 

Who knows which version of Scarborough will appear on the next Morning Joe.  Stay tuned. And if you don't, that's okay. We watch so you don't have to.


See relevant transcript below.


Morning Joe

March 18, 2013

6:14 a.m. EDT

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Also at CPAC, Sarah Palin challenged the party brass to stop trying to rebrand the GOP. She blasted establishment figures for their efforts. Do they look at each other's speeches before or no? Because didn’t they look, I remember that was a requirement, to only fund candidates who they consider viable in a general election. It was a message that drew a quick response from one of the party's top strategists.

SARAH PALIN: The last thing we need is Washington, D.C. vetting our candidates. If these experts who keep losing elections, you keep getting rehired, raking in millions, if they feel that strongly about who gets to run in this party, then they should buck up or stay in the truck. Buck up and run. The architects can head on back too. They can head on back to the great lone star state and put their name on some ballot. Though, for their sake, I hope they give themselves a discount on their consulting services.

KARL ROVE: Well, first of all, I live in Texas. I don't live in Washington.

CHRIS WALLACE: You're a little dirty here now.

ROVE: Second of all look. Look, Sarah Palin should be agreeing with this. She didn't support Todd Aiken and when he said the reprehensible things he said she wisely came out and said he ought to get out of the race. The I’ve been raking in millions. I'm a volunteer and don't take a dime from my work with American Crossroads. I even pay my own travel expenses out of my own pocket. Look I appreciate her encouragement that I ought to go home to Texas and run for office. I would be enthused if I ran for office to have her support. I would say this though, I don't think I'm a particularly good candidate, a sort of balding fat guy and second of all I’d say if I did run for office and win, I'd serve out my term. I wouldn't leave office midterm.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Oh my goodness.

BRZEZINSKI: Well, now.

SCARBOROUGH: That was just, come on now. I don't even know where to begin. CPAC, winners and losers.

MARK HALPERIN: Well, Jeb bush I think is currently the dominant figure in this process. Not just because he’s a great fundraiser and well known--

BRZEZINSKI: How did he do there?

HALPERIN: If you read his speech, it was fantastic. I thought it was far and away the most thoughtful speech that anybody put forward. His reception wasn't that good. Part of the challenge of CPAC is the Saturday dinner slot which is what he got. Or Friday dinner slot rather. It's hard to kind of give a rising speech. It’s not as many of the younger kids who skip the Friday night dinner and so his reception in the hall was not that great.

SCARBOROUGH: Got pretty dreadful reviews.

HALPERIN: But read it. It's a great speech.

JOHN HEILEMANN: Big black binder he came and read from. It didn't seem like a lot of people were electrified by it.

SCARBOROUGH: I don’t know that but read it is a defense of how -- we are talking mainly how he was received.

HALPERIN: He wasn't received well. I’ll tell you another person who was not received well was Bobby Jindal.

SCARBOROUGH: I heard that that fell flat too.

HALPERIN: Also fell flat.

SCARBOROUGH: And he was telling old jokes?

HEILEMANN: Did a lot of jokes that he did at the gridiron. Talking about Eric Holder.

SCARBOROUGH: I see Eric Holder is here. But no, he wasn't.

HEILEMANN: That's CPAC. Yeah, pretty likely.

SCARBOROUGH: You need to draw that line through there.

HALPERIN: He did a whole riff on Knotsberry farm that just fell flat. No one got.

HEILEMANN: But two wig winners there right, Rand Paul obviously won the straw poll going away and was very warmly received with his speech and Marco Rubio did really well. Although you see Chris Christie sitting there with 7 percent in the straw poll. I actually think he’s actually kind of a winner from this event.


HEILEMANN: Chris Christie. Being excluded was good for Chris Christie. Both at home and nationally.

BRZEZINSKI: He was not only excluded, he was insulted there by some extreme voice.

SCARBOROUGH: The thing is though. Insult Chris Christie, you only make him stronger, Obi Won. He was I mean Ron Fournier, Chris Christie couldn't have had it any better. First of all, he didn't have to go to CPAC. Secondly, he was on everybody's mind at CPAC and, third, he finishes ahead of the Republican vice presidential nominee from 2012 in the polling. All in all a big success. I would say the three big winners, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and the guy that wasn't there, Chris Christie.

RON FOURNIER: I agree. And of course the Democratic Party, this is always the worst three days of the year for the Republican Party when you have all of these whacko birds on the fringe fighting each other. But I agree, those are the three winners. Chris Christie is setting himself up to be—it’s an awfully nice position to be the one guy who can come out incredibly and attack Washington from outside. That’s a good place to be in the cycle. And I think Jeb Bush again, mark is exactly right. He fell flat in the hall, but the platform he is laying down, the idea that Republican Party has to be a party that takes care and cares about the poor is a very smart place to be and, you know, kind of the direction that Reince Priebus was talking about.

SCARBOROUGH: If I could just personally distance myself from what Ron said and what everybody in the greater Manhattan area thinks about CPAC. I don't think they are whacko birds. They are my friends. They are my friends and—

BRZEZINSKI: Do you need to do that?

SCARBOROUGH: Yes, because you know what


SCARBOROUGH: You were there last year.


SCARBOROUGH: I spoke at CPAC and I've spoken at CPAC before and, yes, there are elements there. But let me tell you something. I've also been at liberal organizing events where there were some crazy, almost bordering on violent people at some labor organizing event. I'm just speaking for myself. Nobody else has to say anything! I just -- I just

STEVE RATNER: Can I say one thing?

SCARBOROUGH: Yes. And I know Ron, and I'm not singling you out because everybody else says the same thing about them, but they are my friends.

RATNER: I know that you have displayed some affection for Rand Paul or some intrigue with him over the last few days.

SCARBOROUGH: I like that Rand Paul believes in small government at home and small government abroad.

RATNER: So Rand Paul wants to abolish the Departments of Education, Commerce and EPA.

BRZEZINSKI: Small detail.

RATNER: Energy and the Federal Reserve. Abolish the income tax. The second amendment which does not allow in his opinion for any form of gun control whatsoever. He makes Mitt Romney look looks Michael Dukakis and this is the guy who won CPAC who may now be the face of the Republican Party.

SCARBOROUGH: Can I just say I paint in primary colors.

RATNER: I know these are details.

SCARBOROUGH: Well they are details that I would just as soon ignore. On some of those fronts. But, again, overall, the primary message that he delivers is less government at home and restraint abroad which you know what? The Republican Party has been reckless over the past decade. We have paid a lot for it with our philosophy. And so I think he's a good symbol just like his father.

RATNER: He takes it a little far.

SCARBOROUGH: Listen. I voted for his father in the republican primary in 2012. Did I agree with what he said about 9/11?

HEILEMANN: God, I hope not.

SCARBOROUGH: Absolutely not. There are a lot of things that Ron Paul said I think are way out there and I disagree with, but the core issue of small government at home and a restrained foreign policy abroad, I will just sometimes---

BRZEZINSKI: It’s just not a realistic setting.

SCARBOROUGH: Embrace people for symbolic purposes.

HEILEMANN: Joe doesn't like paper money either. He wants to get rid of the dollar bill.

SCARBOROUGH: We are into a bartering system at the Scarborough house.

BRZEZINSKI: You have Sarah Palin saying we should not rebrand the party and the crowd going wild. You got a problem. It's a little whacko. But that’s okay. Nothing wrong with being a little whacko.

SCARBOROUGH: Can you admit your party is a little whacko?

BRZEZINSKI: Absolutely! There is extremists on both sides but if you put a whole bunch in a room, you can also say that too and they did this weekend.

SCARBOROUGH: Left wing activists in a room? They can get a little whacko too. Start pushing people around. I’m so outnumbered. It makes me sad.

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