Morning Joe was my guest today, and analyzed the race to succeed Eric Cantor, and John Boehner’s best path forward:
HH: I can’t overestimate how important, overstate how important next week’s leadership election is for the Republican Party and for the country, because whoever becomes the majority leader is almost certain to become the Speaker. And whoever becomes the Speaker is going to negotiate with the President and the [Senate] Majority leader. This morning, I was on JetBlue, because I had the 6:30am flight from Washington, D.C. back to California, and had the treat of watching all of Morning Joe following by the Chuck Todd show. And it was a remarkably good show, and Morning Joe joins me now. And Joe, I normally don’t watch. I’m not normally up at that hour, but I had the cross-country flight. Congrats. That was just a terrific show this morning.
JS: Thanks so much. I appreciate it. It was a fascinating story.
HH: It is, and I want to make two points about what you did before I ask you some questions. First of all, you kept bringing it back to the idea that hey, hey, guys, if this was about immigration, what about Lindsey Graham? And I might add, what about Neel Kashkari in California who beat a Minuteman, and Mitch McConnell, who beat an anti-immigration…you kept pulling it back saying this is about a member not being in his district. And I thought, Joe, you owned that show.
JS: Well, not only that, though, also, I didn’t go into his voting record. I would not have voted for a guy, even if I knew him, and even if I liked him, that didn’t come back to my district, that voted for the bank bailout, that voted for the $7 trillion dollar Medicare drug benefit plan. You know, this is a guy that went along with big government Republicanism an awful lot. You can debate those issues, but if you’ve got that, and you’ve got a guy that doesn’t come back to the district, and you’ve got a guy that says one thing in Washington, D.C. about immigration reform, and another in the district, and runs these cheesy ads saying that his opponent’s for amnesty, I’m not going to vote for that guy.
HH: All right, I had to laugh, you know, I had the headphones on, on JetBlue, and I laughed out loud when you said if you were up in a primary, you wouldn’t be in D.C. three months before the primary, much less the morning of it. It was, that is sort of epic cluelessness about risk.
JS: I’m telling you, I held probably a hundred town hall meetings a year. And my staff knew that if an election were three, four months away, I was going to be in Washington up until the last vote, and then I was running to the airport, and I was coming home. The fact he was holding a fundraiser in Washington, D.C., he was sitting at a Starbucks at a fundraiser the day of the election, is beyond me. I was climbing walls the days of the elections. I was still shaking hands the days of the election. This is, you’ve got a lot of people, and you saw the show this morning, so you know there are a lot of people out there that want to talk about how this is us being anti-immigration, this is the Tea Party rising up and fighting against the establishment. No, this is what Pat Buchanan talks about, pure, sheer, political athleticism. And we had a guy who was a very bad candidate. He got disconnected, and he ran against a guy who actually knows how to talk about Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, and connected to the middle class. And you know what? Voters had a very, I think voters, conservative voters, had a pretty simple vote to take, and they took it.
HH: Yeah, I’m going to talk with your colleague, Chuck Todd, about the immigration issue at :44, but I’ve got you. Now I want to ask you, because you know these people, hugely important choice next week. It will drive a lot of the country’s policy choices, and certainly the party’s policy choices, and thus its future, who gets elected. And I think I’ll condense it from what I’ve been able to assess. We’re going to have either Jeb Hensarling or Pete Sessions running against Kevin McCarthy. And if one of them beat McCarthy, we’re going to have Congressman Scalise against Pete Roskam. Let me ask you on that basis, on that assumption, if you were a member of Congress, Joe Scarborough, again, and you wanted to elect the more conservative member, would you vote for Hensarling or McCarthy?
JS: Boy, you’re going to get me in trouble, but I’d vote for Jeb. He’s more conservative.
HH: If you were going to vote for the more able and enthusiastic committed communicator, would you vote for Jeb or McCarthy?
JS: I would probably vote for McCarthy, and therein lies the rub. We Republicans have got to figure out, and I’ve said it time and time again, I’ve been saying it for 20 years. It’s not enough to be conservative. We’ve got to get our message across. In 1964, we had the biggest landslide loss we’ve had in U.S. history with Goldwater. Two years later, Ronald Reagan delivered the same exact message. He won in ’66, he won the governorship of California, and he started the conservative revolution. You’ve got to have both.
HH: Why do you think McCarthy, because McCarthy’s done this show once in four years, Jeb’s on quarterly or so. You’re on more than McCarthy, so I don’t think he likes to do it. Why do you think McCarthy’s the better communicator?
JS: You know, I’m just, I’m talking about the times that I’ve had him on the show.
JS: And it’s not that Jeb’s not a good communicator. I’ve got to tell you again, and I’m sure that Kevin wouldn’t come on my show again, if I had a vote, I’d vote for Jeb. In part, I’d vote for Jeb, because I don’t like what the House Republicans have been doing over the last several years. I don’t think we’ve delivered a message. Matt Kibbe is on Hardball tonight. We just finished doing a taping of Hardball, and he was exactly right. Another reason Cantor didn’t win is because he didn’t have an agenda. It’s not enough for us to be against Harry Reid. It’s not enough for us to be against Barack Obama. We’ve got to have our own message, and I think the House Republicans have been absolutely miserable over the past four years delivering a conservative message that goes beyond simply being against Harry Reid, simply being against Barack Obama, simply being against Obamacare. What are we for? How do the ideas of Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, how can they apply to a 17 year old Latino in South Central L.A., as much as a 65 year old hedge fund broker in Greenwich, Connecticut. We haven’t had leaders on the national level that have been able to connect those dots.
HH: You’ll understand this question more than probably anyone else in the commentariat. Who’s got more Jack Kemp in them – Hensarling or McCarthy?
HH: And then finally, on, I don’t know the answer to this, on Defense, I’m a hawk. But I haven’t studied these guys’ records, and you know, Iraq’s in meltdown, Joe. They’re going to have a Rwanda-like situation there soon, just like Syria.
HH: We have real problems everywhere. Who is the better hawk – Hensarling or McCarthy?
JS: I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that question. I know the Republican Party, I think in 2016, the most fascinating part of the presidential race is going to be where we end up on foreign policy, and getting somebody that actually supports a restrained foreign policy, but also supports a very strong foreign policy. And right now, we don’t have an answer. I mean, who is, who is the voice of Republicanism when it comes to foreign policy?
HH: Well, I was frustrated this morning, because Pete King, who is a good guy, and you obviously get along with him, is good television…
HH: But he started talking about the Cruz and the Rand Paul people, and banging on them, and I’m thinking, you don’t really win elections by dividing.
JS: No, you know, and I think, I understand. You know, a lot of us had bruised feelings after the government shutdown in October. But I’ll tell you what I did after the government shutdown in October. I went to Ted Cruz’ office, and we’ve met three, four times, and we’ve talked about it, and we figured out pretty quickly we’re on the same team. I didn’t like how he did it, but I think yeah, it would be good if we…
HH: You know, it’s interesting. After the immigration thing, but when the veterans issue, I went to Lindsey Graham’s office and had a sit down with him. And you can get to a lot of common ground. I wonder if King ever sits down with Cruz?
JS: I don’t know. We’ll ask him that question. It would be good for him to. I think there’s a lot of anger, there’s a lot of bitterness, but that’s not how we’re going to win elections in ’14. It’s not how we’re going to win elections in ’16. We’ve got to get together and talk.
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HH: One more kudos to your team, Joe. You went to break over a picture of you with Cantor and Boehner today, and I thought, God, I wish I had a producer that could do stuff like that. That was really neat. If only I had a producer. (Producer who is typing this and all of the endless transcripts the last few days sighs.) So Joe, if Sessions was running against McCarthy, would you vote for Sessions or McCarthy?
JS: Boy, you’re just getting me in trouble with Kevin McCarthy. It’s not that I don’t like Kevin McCarthy. I’m just, I’m sort of a conservative’s conservative. I’ve known Pete for a long time. I think he came in with me in ’94, ’96. Pete’s a conservative guy. And I would support him.
HH: All right, now let me ask you, this is the toughest question of all, and this is objective, not what, I know you’re friends with the Speaker, but would it be best for the GOP and the country if the Speaker were to announce now, before this election happens, look, I’m giving up the gavel at the end of this session. New leadership’s coming in. This is an important election, because this is about the next Speaker.
JS: Yeah, you know, I like John Boehner, and I’ve known him for a very long time, but John Boehner was never my kind of guy. He wasn’t my kind of Republican. He liked golfing a lot, he hung out with lobbyists a lot. I mean, I know Cantor did, too, but he wasn’t an idea guy. He never was, going back to ’94. He always, when Newt started wandering off the reservation and trying to strike spending deals with Democrats, you know, Boehner always went along with him. So I think it would be great to get fresh blood from the top to the bottom in the House leadership. Again, I don’t think they’ve helped the cause. I don’t think they’ve helped the conservative cause. I don’t think they’ve helped the Republican cause over the past four or five years, so new leadership would be great.
HH: And an announcement now would add the energy for the fall.
JS: Oh, sure.
HH: Yeah, so now down to the level of real inside baseball, if Hensarling or Sessions is the leader, can McCarthy actually hang on as Whip? Or are we going to have that Scalise-Roskam run-off anyway?
JS: No, I think he could hang on as Whip, but you know, usually, though, when somebody loses, when somebody loses a race as they try to go up to higher office, they’re usually pushed out. But I’ve got a feeling, if it looks, if they count the votes quietly beforehand, who knows, maybe he’ll sit tight. But again, a lot of palace intrigue going on right now, but the most important thing is that we get an idea guy or a woman in these positions that actually have a vision of where they want to take the party.
HH: And that brings me to my last question. Eight years ago when it was Shadegg-Boehner, they both came on the show for an hour. It was before Morning Joe, actually, and they took questions, serious questions, not ambush questions, and I put out an open invitation. Any GOP House member seeking to be Leader or Whip, I’ll spend an hour with them, and I’ll bring in Guy Benson, we’ll talk seriously.
HH: I already got one answer back, I won’t tell you from which of the five that I’ve mentioned, saying no time for this. We’ve got to do member contact, we can’t do public stuff. I think that’s 100% wrong, Joe. Do you think they ought to be out there giving interviews to the Republicans, especially whom they would presume to lead by leading their representatives?
JS: Well, no doubt about it. they need to. You talk about John Shadegg, I mean, Shadegg’s a guy I came in with. He’s an idea guy. That’s exactly my model for the type of person that we need running the Republican Party, and running the caucus. And if you can’t come on a radio show and tell people what you believe in, or you can’t come on TV shows, if you’re scared to do that, then you don’t need to be leading the Republican Party in the House of Representatives, because you’re not going to be able to…
HH: Yeah, I think they all ought to be on Morning Joe. Would you make time for those five guys on Morning Joe if they all said they’d come up?
JS: Yeah, we’ve actually, we started inviting them this afternoon. So I certainly hope they will. I’d love to have every single one of them on. Most of them have been on before.
HH: I wouldn’t put them on with Sam Stein. Would it just be you and Mika, because I think it is important that it be fair, and I think Stein, man, he’s clueless about some stuff, Joe. You know that, don’t you?
JS: Be nice to Sam. Come on. Be nice to Sam.
HH: He’s, I mean, he’s interesting on Democrats, but he doesn’t understand anything. You had a New York Times reporter today, I can’t remember, who did not know that Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin had been in the district.
JS Nick Confessore. Well you know, if they were to come up, it would probably be Mika, Willie and myself talking to them.
HH: And it would be an extended couple of segments, serious talk?
JS: Well, I think that’s the most important thing. You need to have people come on for ten, fifteen minutes, tell us where do you stand on Defense issues, where do you stand on Obamacare, what’s your alternative to Obamacare, what do we do moving forward? We know Hillary’s calling. What’s the response to Hillary? And I could just say really quickly about what happened also with Cantor, he ran against a guy who I think gives us a very good blueprint for where we go over the next two years. Hillary Clinton is a product of Wall Street. She’s a product of Goldman-Sachs. She and Bill Clinton are so tied to them, culturally, that having candidates running that have a populist strain in them, they’re conservative populists who are not only anti-big government, but anti-big business, I think that’s a good way forward, and I think that’s another thing that got Cantor in trouble last night, and we need to think about. Hillary presents Republicans a lot of targets.
HH: Joe Scarborough, a great show today, also the Four Ages guy, a good book. Good show and good interview. Thank you, Joe Scarborough.
End of interview.