Sunday, January 23, 2005

Joe Scarborough Asked A Legitimate Question, But His Guests Knew Not To Answer

A funny thing happened on MSNBC's Scarborough Country last week:

On the eve of President Bush's second term in office, Joe Scarborough asked a legitimate question about the president's agenda. And, faced with that question, Scarborough's two conservative guests treated him like a journalist, ignoring the question and providing rah-rah answers supporting Bush.

Scarborough probably wasn't aware of the irony, given his conservative background. But it highlights the conundrum that is Scarborough Country. Is Scarborough, a former Republican congressman from Florida, acting as right-leaning journalist and interviewer, or is he merely providing a platform for conservative guests and viewers, facts be damned?

On the Jan. 19 show, Scarborough interviewed recent NBC/MSNBC hire Monica Crowley -- formerly a host on Fox News and Fox News Radio, where she presented herself as something of a conservative lightweight -- and Lawrence Kudlow, the more conservative half of CNBC's Kudlow & Cramer.

He started with a reasonable question: "What does (Bush) have to accomplish tomorrow in a country that may not be 50-50, but if it‘s not 50-50, it‘s 51-49?

And Crowley knew not to answer:

CROWLEY: Well, if you remember, one of the first statements he made after winning that election back in November was, I have earned a lot of political capital, and I am prepared to spend it. ... This is a guy who is going to touch on the big themes. We have heard about some of the big themes that he is going to touch on today, the idea of freedom and not just expanding freedom abroad, but freedom here at home, particularly economic freedom, Social Security reform, tax reform, all of the things that he wants to expand here at home that he actually touched on in his first inaugural address four years ago that sort of got put off to the sidelines by the war on terror. Now he is ready to resurrect those themes.

So, even with a divided nation and lacking a veto-proof majority in Congress, Bush plans to spend his political capital. I suppose that's the kind of non-answer that poses for back-and-forth in the world of conservative journalism.

But Scarborough was in full journalistic mode. Turning to Kudlow, he said:

SCARBOROUGH: But, you know, Larry Kudlow, this president is talking about political capital. I have got bad news for him. I have been talking to Republicans on Capitol Hill for the past two weeks. You talk about Social Security. He does not even have political capital with his own party. Last night, I predicted Social Security would be dead on arrival. This morning, I wake up, read The Washington Post, and what does the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee say? He says the president‘s Social Security plan is — quote — “a dead horse. Let‘s stop beating it.” The guy hasn‘t even delivered the first line of his speech and his own party members are saying he is a lame duck.

But again, Scarborough's guests went to the play book, and looked up the "duck and dodge" play:

KUDLOW: I don‘t buy that for a second. That may be sort of conventional wisdom here.

SCARBOROUGH: You are just in the party spirit.

KUDLOW: I am. I am a real party animal. It took me 50 minutes to go one mile in Washington, D.C. It‘s darndest thing I have ever seen. But I want to say this. I agree with what a lot of Monica has just said. And I think message is really important. And, secondly, I think he has to show not just confidence. ... He has to show he is unyielding, unwavering in his belief that his vision of economic freedom at home and freedom and democratization abroad in the Middle East, he isn‘t going to budge one inch.


Conservative viewers at home must have cheered.

But wouldn't it have been more interesting if Crowley or Kudlow had answered the question? What compromises might Bush want to make to pass such sweeping changes to Social Security? What does he have to do to convince Congress such legislation isn't "dead on arrival."

And more broadly, what can Bush do to convince a divided nation that his agenda, his choices, are the right direction for this country?

Scarborough actually played journalist. He seemingly understood the reality of the situation. Crowley and Kudlow, however, were too busy showing off their pom-poms and reading their scripts to care.


Blogger Michael said...

"the idea of freedom and not just expanding freedom abroad, but freedom here at home, particularly economic freedom"

This statement is laughable on its face.

Any bets on how hard Bush will be working to expand political freedom abroad in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, China, or any of the 36 dictatorships on the continent of Africa? The answer depends on what we can get out of the deal - favorable trade? cheap oil? military cooperation? Bush is ready to negotiate!

And at home, who shall benefit from the economic freedom provided by the ballooning budget deficit? The answer depends on political priorities. I think it is safe to say that when it comes time to cut back, it won't be the tax-dodging, multinational corporations that experience less economic freedom. Might be the single working mother on welfare, though, when her childcare funding dries up.

And exactly which social freedoms have we been granted by this administration? Ashcroft's Patriot Act? Freedom from access to information about safe abortions? Freedom from having our votes counted?

Orwell might say that "all animals are deserve freedom, but some animals deserve more freedom than others."

7:58 AM  

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