Morning Joe has a mission: Take down the President. Watch the show—if you must—and you will get the idea rather quickly. Every story and every guest are carefully crafted to create a sense of chaos and inevitable failure around the Trump White House. And they have allies. Scarborough and company are actively aided and abetted by the coterie of D.C. media stalwarts who regularly appear on the show.
We shouldn’t be surprised. The destruction of Republican presidents has been the white whale of almost every Washington journalist since 1974.
Scarborough warned President Trump in February, “And as I always say, don’t fight the press, the press always wins. Ask Richard Nixon. The press always wins!” In the face of an impressive set of Trump achievements—Neil Gorsuch now sits on on the Supreme Court, the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines move forward, illegal immigration is down 67% through March, and job creation is on the rise—Scarborough uses his show as a redoubt of Trump opposition in a transparent attempt to assert the primacy of permanent Washington over elected officials who want to reassert the power of voters.
It may not fit the media narrative, but there was an election less than 6 months ago and Donald Trump won. Before the election Scarborough repeatedly warned Republicans to cut and run from their nominee. In August, he gravely warned that for Republicans the election is “about saving the Senate, it’s about not getting wiped out in the House, it’s about not getting wiped out in the state legislatures and governorships. We have a lot to lose.”
Morning Joe has become the avatar of the political class in the same way that Steve Bannon—who says little in public—has become the representative of the voters who supported Donald Trump when the bipartisan political establishment vigorously opposed his candidacy and his platform.
Instead, Republicans won big in 2016 with Donald Trump. Not only did Donald Trump beat down the Democrats’ vaunted Blue Wall of states from Wisconsin to North Carolina and win the White House, Republicans also retained control of both Houses of Congress and expanded their already impressive dominance at the state level—leaving wise men like Joe Scarborough with egg on their faces. As a result of last year’s election Republicans now control 32 governorships and 67 of 98 partisan state legislatures and have a trifecta (control of the governor and both state houses) in 25 states. In the year of Donald Trump, Republicans even won the governor’s mansion in deep blue Vermont. So much for Scarborough’s insight into the American electorate.
But he stills wants us to take him seriously when he says that Steve Bannon is stupid and can’t implement the putting together of a ham sandwich. Yet Scarborough’s only claim to authority is that he had a brief stint as a Congressman and now has a show on MSNBC. That show is, presumably, built around his alleged insights or practical wisdom. That is, at best, a tautology.
Let’s review the bidding: Steve Bannon was instrumental in building Breitbart into one of the most influential media organizations in the country. He went on from there to become Donald Trump’s presidential campaign manager and is now a trusted advisor to the President. It may have escaped the notice of folks who appear regularly on Morning Joe, but Bannon and Co. won. What’s more they tapped into an innate political sensibility that bridges the Right-Left political settlement that has ruled for the past 30 years and, in so doing, they threaten the established political order.
But in Joe Scarborough’s world Bannon, who got the election right, is “stupid.” The 2016 election was about one thing: Who rules? Will it be the permanent political class or the people.
Morning Joe has become the avatar of the political class in the same way that Steve Bannon—who says little in public—has become the representative of the voters who supported Donald Trump when the bipartisan political establishment vigorously opposed his candidacy and his platform. Those voters supported Trump before Bannon became his campaign manager and they continue to do so. But the constant media attacks on Bannon have made him the personification of what was at stake in the campaign. Bannon is attacked by the same people and for the same reasons that Trump himself has been attacked for the past 2 years. As a result he has become a symbol of the agenda that propelled Donald Trump to victory and that is characterized by three basic themes:
- A high view of citizenship demonstrated by enforcement of immigration laws and enactment of pro-worker trade policies
- A foreign policy that prioritizes the security of American citizens above the moral imperialism that has led to “absurd wars generating gigantic humanitarian crises and large strategic gains for the enemies of the West,” and
- A return of power to the people and their representatives at the expense of the administrative state and its clients.
The crowd that regularly appears with Scarborough and Brezinski are eager to feed the narrative that those ideas lack support, that they are, to use the media’s favorite scare-word “extreme.” And so are the moral imperialists who have been looking for a way to regain influence in the Trump-era. No wonder we have seen everyone from anti-Trump gadflies like John McCain, Bill Kristol, and Elliot Abrams to Chuck Schumer and Fareed Zakaria attempt to spin the Syria strikes into a return to business-as-usual American interventionism in the Middle East.
We should not be surprised. The foreign policy advanced by Donald Trump during the campaign and supported by a broad cross-section of the American people does not threaten the “established international order,” as the recently dethroned but long discredited bipartisan foreign policy establishment would have you believe, but instead threatens the D.C. pecking order of sinecures and preferences. Their sotto voce praise for Trump’s action in Syria is an attempt to regain credibility—and make the best of the circumstances for themselves. They’ve been mostly frozen out of government, television appearances, and speaking gigs and they want back in.
Iowa Congressman Steve King had it right: “Steve Bannon is the lynchpin to your energized base.” This is not because Bannon is more important than the president—he’s not. It’s because the constant stream of media hits have made him representative of Trump’s battle to drain the swamp. The forces arrayed against the president have been taking scalps: Mike Flynn resigned, KT McFarland was sent to Singapore, and Devin Nunes was forced to temporarily recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Now they want bigger game—they want Bannon.
Morning Joe has become a dressed-up, self-regarding version of TMZ for the D.C. crowd reporting anonymous rumors that feed MSNBC’s anti-Trump narrative. For it’s viewers it’s a multi-million dollar exercise in confirmation bias built on nameless, faceless, baseless gossip—the inevitable texts that Scarborough gets from “top White House insiders” and “sources close to (Ryan/Kushner/Ivanka/Whomeverisinthenewstoday)” and reads to his viewers with a sense of awe and reverence last seen on Moses’ face after he descended from Mt. Sinai.
Scarborough seems unaware of what most of his viewers must intuitively know: that his interlocutors are using him as a conduit to conduct their own palace intrigues for personal benefit. Or maybe he thinks he’s pulling a fast one and that they’re not smart enough to see through the greasepaint pantomime.
The attacks on Bannon are an assault on the President himself. They are an attempt to separate the President from his base and thereby isolate him in the White House, hobble his administration, and stop his agenda in its tracks. The President’s friends should see it for what it is and close ranks. An attack on one is an attack on all.