Joe Scarborough was a guest today, and got very specific about the president’s disconnectedness and the weakness of his staff, as well as the avalanche of negative memoirs heading his way.
HH: At this hour, Russian trucks are crossing into Ukraine, Prime Minister Maliki has announced he’s stepping aside in Iraq, and another protest is underway in Ferguson. But the Governor of Missouri has gone and taken control of the crime scene, turning it over to the state highway patrol, and things seem calmer. I’m joined now by Morning Joe himself, Joe Scarborough. Welcome back, Joe, I hope your summer’s going well.
JS: It’s going all right. Kinda chaotic across the world, but personally going well here.
HH: Well, let me ask you for your relative importance ranking of Ferguson versus the Yazidi story out of Iraq.
JS: Well, I think Rand Paul stepped it up a little bit today, made it a far more important story I think for conservatives when he actually wrote an interesting piece in Time Magazine where he seemed to be trying to find common ground with African-Americans who haven’t been able to find common ground with the Republicans on a lot of issues, but talking about the militarization of our police, and talking about the size and scope of the federal government, what the impact is for the militarization of police in middle America. I think it’s, I think it’s a fascinating story, and I haven’t followed it as closely, we certainly haven’t, because you just don’t know the facts. It’s not, it’s not a simple issue to approach, because you just don’t know exactly what happened there. But certainly do, you can certainly look and see at the police presence and the militarization of it, and the fact that it’s concerning not only people like Rand Paul, but also Ted Cruz, and obviously a lot of Democrats. So it’s troubling. It’s about time the governor stepped up and started doing something. I’ve wondered where Governor Nixon’s been. I wonder where a lot of the representatives have been.
HH: At the same time, though, we’ve got Baghdadi running through Western Iraq beheading people. We’ve got an Australian taking his four sons there and having his seven year old hold up a severed head and tweeting it out as the barbarians…
JS: Yeah, right.
HH: …engage in genocide. Is the President disconnected, Joe Scarborough?
JS: Well, I mean, you asked me, I mean, obviously I’m a little more concerned tonight with what’s happening in Middle America tonight, but if you talk about what’s the greater long term threat, I think obviously what’s happening in Iraq is a threat that even people like myself that have called, you know, I’ve called for restraint in foreign policy, taken more of the Colin Powell approach, that go to war sparingly, but when you do, go there with overwhelming force. I think those that, of the libertarian bent that are looking at what’s going on in Iraq and thinking that we can just bury our heads in sand, they should move to Europe.
JS: I mean, it’s the Europeans who are on vacation from history. They’ve been on vacation from history since 1945. And that really stepped up in 1991 when the Soviet Union fell. We cannot hide from the threat that ISIS poses. It’s the greatest threat since Osama bin Laden in 2001. They will continue to destabilize the Middle East, and I must say if the Saudis sit back and do nothing, if Germany sits back and does nothing, if our other allies sit back and do nothing, we have no choice. We have to engage.
HH: Now Joe, you’ve got a…
JS: And it’s the same thing with stopping the Iranians from getting nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, being the lone responsible superpower on the world’s stage brings responsibility with it.
HH: You’re often, Joe Scarborough, the only lone responsible talking head on the set of Morning Joe, and I’m wondering if you look at Sam Stein or any of your lefty pals on the set there…
JS: I love Sam Stein.
HH: So…I would, I tried to book him on the show. He won’t come on, yet. We’ll get him on someday.
JS: I’ll talk to Sam. Sam’s a sweet guy.
HH: But when you look at him, and you say the President said Baghdadi was the jayvee squad putting on Kobe Bryant’s jersey…
HH: Does he not recognize what Krauthammer said last week…
HH: …that the President is strategically clueless on this show, or…
JS: Sure, you know…
HH: Vice President Cheney, do they not get that the President should not be at Martha’s Vineyard right now?
JS: Well, you know, we had Dana Milbank on who, again, not the most right wing columnist for the Washington Post, but Dana said it’s one thing for presidents going on vacation. We’re all big supporters of presidents going on vacation. It’s another thing to be in Martha’s Vineyard while you’ve got tanks rolling in Middle America, and all the Middle East melts down. This is a president that does go out of his way to show that he’s not paying attention to what anybody says. He’s going to do exactly what he wants to do, and he’s going to be stubborn about it. He is politically, he is either politically tone deaf or he just doesn’t give a damn. And I tend to believe based on everything I’ve heard from people who work inside the White House, and we’ve got a lot of friends there, and based on my friends who are senior Democratic senators, this president has checked out.
HH: He is.
JS: He wants to be the next, I hear it time and time again from his close political allies. This man wants to be an ex-president.
JS: He doesn’t want to be there anymore.
HH: He wants to get to his Carter Center phase, but he’s got two and a half years. I also wonder, Joe, you know how important staff is, whether it’s a Congressional office or all the way up to this staff that you don’t see on the set of Morning Joe.
HH: He’s down to Valerie Jarrett. Everyone else is gone. And his national security team looks like they’d be about 16-18 years old. What, do you think that people won’t work for him? Or is he simply refusing to ask people of stature and competence to come and work for him?
JS: The Obama administration and Valerie, I’ve got to say, I’m good friends with Valerie, too, but you know, Valerie and a lot of people around the White House said early on we don’t want to make new friends. I think it’s one of the biggest mistakes that any president can make. I think George W. Bush in large part made a lot of mistakes, because he was insulated. He had a lot of Yalies around him, and he didn’t want outsiders around him. I always looked to Ronald Reagan, who had James Baker trying to beat him in 1980. The second he beat George H.W. Bush, the first thing he did was hire James Baker and had James Baker run his campaign. And then he had James Baker on his White House, because he wasn’t afraid to have people around him who weren’t inside his bubble. This president wants yes men around him. And again, I hear that from my Democratic friends, I hear that from his own former chiefs of staff. If anybody steps out of line, they’re immediately insulated and pushed out. You know, I said this on set after the cameras were turned off to a couple of people who I knew wouldn’t say it on the air. I said guys, you know as well as I do that the second this administration is over, the books are going to come from former secretaries of state. The books are going to come from former chiefs of staff. The books are going to come, and this president is going to have to deal with 20-30 years of disparagement from his own side, calling him one of the least effective presidents, because he’s one of the most insulated presidents.
HH: Joe, you’re prophetic there. And I want to pause, though, for a moment. You’ve stunned me a little bit. You are good friends with Valerie, you said. Now she is a graduate of my law school. We’re both University of Michigan Law School grads…
HH: And so she obviously had book smarts. So is Ann Coulter, Larry Elder, all the good conservatives, and Valerie Jarrett were there at the same time.
HH: Now here’s my question. She’s obviously got book smarts. Does she have any depth to here strategic thinking? I mean, if you sit down with Valerie Jarrett, I don’t think she has a clue about how the world works.
JS: Well, I said she’s a good friend. Do you expect me to trash a good friend on your radio show?
HH: I expect you to say she might be limited in her reading patterns.
JS: No, no, no, I don’t think that’s the case. I think Valerie’s extremely intelligent. I do think, though, she was brought into the White House because the President needed somebody who was loyal, and somebody who was a friend, and somebody that he could turn to when he needed a friend to speak truth to power. That would be fine if the President also had a strong chief of staff and other people that could tell him no.
HH: You know, but Joe, let me press on this.
JS: But the President doesn’t have anybody in the White House who will tell him no.
HH: Well, there’s, I’m asking a different question, because Valerie Jarrett is obviously smart. Again, University of Michigan Law School.
HH: But that doesn’t mean that they’ve read like Nixon read, or they’ve read like Reagan read. She just doesn’t strike me, no one in the White House strikes me as conversant with the threat that the Islamist State poses, that they just don’t understand radical Islamist jihadism. Do they?
JS: Well you know, that’s different from being, you know, having a strategic mind like Kissinger and Nixon, or reading like Nixon or Kissinger or Churchill. I mean, Ronald Reagan didn’t read like Churchill or Nixon or Kissinger, but he had a gut understanding and a gut instinct about the world, and what a dangerous place it was. I think this White House has come to that realization very late. And this President understands that he has to be in Iraq, he has to stay in Iraq.
HH: Oh, I hope you’re right, but I think he doesn’t.
JS: And let’s hope when this over…
HH: He doesn’t get that.
JS: I will say it, let’s hope we keep a military base in Iraq, and a footprint in Iraq, because that’s the least that we should get out of a decade, 4,000 lives, and $2 trillion dollars going down a rat hole in that country for people that don’t want to even take care of their own country.
HH: Last question, Joe, who had a better grip on how the world really works – W. or President Obama?
JS: Oh, W. That’s not even a, I mean, listen. I have a lot of problems with George W. Bush’s foreign policy. But George W. Bush is another guy that got it on a gut level. The President doesn’t. As Mark Halperin said last week, he’s a Constitutional law teacher who tries to dissect every single problem and every single issue looking at it from all angles. You just can’t do that. You know, it reminds me of Michael Dukakis when he went away for vacation in 1987. We heard summer vacation, he read books on Swedish land use planning.
HH: Yeah, Joe Scarborough, it is always a pleasure to talk to you. I hope your candor penetrates the thick mist at Martha’s Vineyard.
End of interview.