On Monday’s Morning Joe, hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, joined by MSNBC political analyst Steve Schmidt, got very riled up over an imaginary political scandal that Vice President Mike Pence supposedly was at the center of and ended up angrily blaming him for holding up phantom ambulances and job interviews in a Bridgegate-style conspiracy, all by refusing to sit through an NFL game after some of the players protested the National Anthem.
It’s somewhat difficult to comprehend precisely what Morning Joe’s thought process was on this one. However, an earlier exchange in the show about the Pence walkout story appeared to shed some light on their strange conclusions:
SCARBOROUGH: You know, it's pretty incredible. We're talking about Mike Pence. Think about Mike Pence going and just really angering the people of Pennsyl-, of, of, uh, Indianapolis. And Indiana.
SCHMIDT It's really amazing. So he took Air Force Two, a full package of Secret Service from Las Vegas to Indianapolis for a stunt, inconvenienced tens of thousands of Colts fans to, again, use the flag and the anthem as a prop.
SCARBOROUGH: [interrupting] But he, something that he knew was gonna happen.
SCHMIDT: And the, and the, and the, and the greatest desecration of that flag is the assault on its foundational values which occurs every day with this administration with their attacks on the spirit of the first amendment, freedom of the press, freedom of expression. Utterly appalling, wasteful, profligate, disgusting behavior from the Vice President. He ought to be ashamed of himself.
SCARBOROUGH: [interrupting] And, and Elise, Trump’s tweeting about this today, and people of Indiana were welcoming Pence back.
ELISE JORDAN [MSNBC, POLITICAL ANALYST]: It's sad. It’s sad to, you know, a native son who’s made it really big time going home and the whole state, I'm sure, wants to celebrate, and welcome him, and then they're just part of being a political prop. It's sick and it’s sad and it’s a waste of taxpayer dollars too.
It’s not a problem to call out a wasteful trip if you think it was just for a political stunt, although presidents and vice presidents have frequently traveled all over the country to campaign and raise support for political purposes, so it’s not clear why Pence’s actions here were shameful or how exactly he inconvenienced “tens of thousands of Colts fans” by walking out of the game.
However, regardless of this apparent gap in reasoning, Schmidt and the hosts returned to this tack closer to the end of the show and came up with an imaginary scandal to get even angrier at Pence:
SCHMIDT: And I wonder in Indianapolis yesterday if there was a mom who was in labor who needed to get to the hospital-
BRZEZINSKI: [interjecting] Oh, it's like Bridgegate!
SCHMIDT: -because the roads were closed for the VP’s motorcade or if there was a police officer who couldn't respond to 9/11 [sic] as quickly or if there were ambulances tied up. When you just step back from it, the abusiveness-
SCARBOROUGH: [interrupting] The abuse of power!
SCHMIDT: -alright, of, of, of power, that's what it's about. It's not about the First Amendment. And by, by the way-
SCARBOROUGH: [interrupting] By the way, Donald Trump, by the way, Donald Trump-
BRZEZINSKI: [interjecting] It's a great story.
SCARBOROUGH: -in private and in public loved talking about Chris Christie and Bridgegate, loved talking about it.
BRZEZINSKI: [talking under Joe] Alexis, do a checkup on 9-1-1 calls.
SCARBOROUGH: This makes shutting down a lane at the George Washington Bridge pale in comparison, because the Secret Service were involved, there, the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is so much worse than Bridgegate! And Donald Trump would talk to anybody about Bridgegate that would listen.
SCHMIDT: And not for nothing. You want to talk about disrespecting the flag? This is somebody who stood in silence when his running mate, Donald Trump, attacked a Gold Star father and mother.
JORDAN: Yes. Yep.
SCHMIDT: And attacked prisoners of war, who include my former boss, Captain John McCain, U.S. Navy retired, winner of the Distinguished Service Cross and three awards of the Bronze Star and one of the Silver Star, and Colonel Bud Day, recipient of the Medal of Honor, real heroes,-
SCHMIDT: -doesn't say a word. So, he can spare us the sanctimony and the lectures and the hypocrisy here with his outrageous, profligate abuse of my tax dollars and all of yours.
SCARBOROUGH: And again, the que-, again, the safety,-
BRZEZINSKI: I think he thinks everyone is stupid.
SCARBOROUGH: -of the people of Indianapolis. I mean, that's a very good question. Who was delayed from getting to the hospital or who was delayed from doing their job, maybe just going to a shift?
BRZEZINSKI: [interjecting] Responding to a 911 call.
SCARBOROUGH: Who was late to maybe the first job that they had-
BRZEZINSKI: [interjecting] A fire.
SCARBOROUGH: -that probably might have gotten fired because, I mean, we don't know?
BRZEZINSKI: Who missed a job interview?
This whole-cloth fabrication was quite strange. There is no evidence that anything remotely like Bridgegate happened in Indianapolis or that, as would actually be analogous to Bridgegate, the Vice President ordered roads or bridges to be shut down to punish local city government. Wherever the President or Vice President go, roads can be temporarily shut down to make sure that VIPs are safe from terrorist or other attacks. That is neither out of the ordinary nor noteworthy, let alone scandalous.