I'm beginning to see Joe Scarborough's skirmishes with Mika Brzezinski on Morning Joe as mere batting practice for the much more serious battles he undertakes in the evening with Rachel Maddow on Race for the White House.
As Noel Sheppard documented, Maddow and Scarborough tangled on April 17th, with Joe possibly having exited the set in the end. The pair were back at it on this evening's "Race," the Air America host this time accusing Scarborough of "tying Barack Obama to Hitler."
Maddow's theme throughout the show was that the media has devoted too much coverage to the Rev. Wright matter. David Shuster, subbing for host David Gregory, lit the fuse.
View video here.
DAVID SHUSTER: Rachel Maddow, Jay Carney says [Obama] wasn't angry enough [in his comments today on Rev. Wright]. I thought he was exceptionally angry, especially when he talked about how Reverend Wright has taken up three or four consecutive days in the middle of this major debate. Was he not angry enough for you?
RACHEL MADDOW: I thought he seemed angry. But as I said before, so far Barack Obama has said, and I've made notes of it as he's done it: he vehemently disagrees with him, he strongly condemns him, he categorically denounces him, he rejects him outright, today we got that he's appalled by him, that he's outraged by him. I find it incredible that we're all sitting here going "why won't the Jeremiah Wright controversy go away?" Well, you know what? Today, John McCain unveiled his health plan. We got three different statements, three different policies from the candidates on gas prices. We got the President of the United States making a huge economic speech and speaking to reporters for 40 minutes. We got four Marines, four U.S. soldiers, who were announced to have been killed in Iraq yesterday. What else has to happen in the news to push Jeremiah Wright out of the headlines before we do it for six straight headlines on every politics show in the country? This is all we're capable of talking about.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: When you have Jeremiah Wright going in front of the National Press Club saying, again, Barack Obama's spiritual mentor, someone that Barack Obama didn't distance himself from until today, saying that Louis Farrakhan was one of the great people of the 20th and 21st century. The same Louis Farrakhan that said Hitler was a great man and that Judaism was a gutter religion. It required the Obama campaign to do something. There's a big difference between Barack Obama saying in Philadelphia--
Maddow could be seen guffawing on camera.
MADDOW: It didn't require that.
SCARBOROUGH: I'm sorry, you may find that funny. I can guarantee you there are millions of people in America who don't.
MADDOW: I don't find you tying Barack Obama to Hitler funny. I find it funny for you to say--
SCARBOROUGH: Did I do that?
MADDOW: --that what Jeremiah Wright is doing requires a response from Barack Obama.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, it does.
MADDOW: What requires a response is the blanket media coverage of everything Jeremiah Wright does, that will not quit.
SCARBOROUGH: OK, Rachel, if I can talk for a second here.
MADDOW: Please do.
SCARBOROUGH: In Philadelphia Barack Obama said this: "I can no more disown him--Jeremiah Wright--than I can disown the black community or my white grandmother." That's not him separating him[self]. Today, he said he was "divisive and destructive, he was appalling. He gave comfort to those who prey on hate. He is not the man I met 20 years ago." He had to do that.
SHUSTER: Point made, point made.
SCARBOROUGH: He knew he had to do that. And Axelrod knew he had to do it. It's going to make a big difference.
My two cents:
Can any serious person disagree when Scarborough says Obama was obliged to separate himself definitively from Rev. Wright? Maddow might think she's boosting Barack. But had he listened to her when she scoffed at the idea "that what Jeremiah Wright is doing requires a response from Barack Obama," he would have, in my opinion, eventually found himself out of this race.
I don't doubt Obama was angry in his denunciation of Rev. Wright today. But his tone was oddly affectless. In his lack of overt emotion, he reminded me of Dukakis's disastrous response to the Bernie Shaw question. As Bob Herbert has observed, "there is such a thing as being too cool."