On the evening of Sept. 12, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski visited the Forest to kick off this years Drew Forum Speaker Series. Moments before the Forum started, Scarborough and Brzezinski were interviewed by The Drew Acorn's News Editor Mike McCurry. Read the interview transcript below and stay tuned for a coverage of the event next week.
Mike McCurry: You talked before about divisiveness in politics. I was wondering what are some of the things you think are contributing to what we have right now being different to 2001. In your op-ed yesterday you said we all came together then and now it seems like everything is falling apart.
Joe Scarborough: I think so much of it has to do with the economics of it all. You have cable news channels since 2001 that have really figured out how to narrow cast ideologically in prime time especially, and that’s on the right and on the left. You’ve got a social media culture that actually encourages divisiveness. I was talking [earlier] about the back and forth I had with a guy on Twitter. The guy was very thoughtful and we figured out how to agree... or how to disagree but be respectful about it. But that gets lost in the clatter. That gets lost in the hot takes. Nobody is going to retweet somebody a thousand times who is saying “hey you know what? Sometimes we have to be agreeable even when we disagree.”
MM: But it’s the shock value that gets that attention.
PHOTO COURTESY OF JULIEN HRYSHKO
MM: Speaking of shock value, with Donald Trump’s administration so far, it seems like scandals are a daily habit. Like lunch or something. I was wondering with “Fear”, [Bob] Woodward’s book and the New York Times Op-Ed... people had been saying at the start of the campaign, “Oh, it’s going to get better once he’s the President.” We’re two years in, is there any getting better now? Or has the ship sailed?
Mika Brzezinski: Gosh no. I mean, can this presidency get any better? It’s gone. I almost feel like something happened in the past two weeks where we crossed over. There’s no turning back for him. I don’t know if it’s the midterms and then ultimately impeachment or something else, but it just feels like too many people have actually forthrightly admitted to the fact he is totally incompetent. And I don’t know how you turn back from that. Especially given the things he has said and done during the course of his presidency. They’re not something you can turn back from.
JS: It’s interesting. You did say something though about how people believed that he would be more reasonable and rational as president. It’s so easy to forget how many people we spoke with during the transition, some of the most respected thinkers in American foreign policy, that quietly said to us “There’s only one president, the United States can only elect one at a time, and we’ve got to get behind him, figure out how to make this work and hope for the best.” And there were a lot of people who actually hoped for the best and people who were dead set against him being elected president that actually were willing to pitch in and do what they could to assist. But from day one all of his instincts. And I mean all of his instincts have just been….
MM: Almost immediately Spicer comes to the podium “its’ the biggest crowd of all time ever” and you’re off to the races.
JS: Immediately and I actually called and had both Spicer and Reince Priebus on the phone and said “you guys have got to be kidding me,” because we saw that Spicer was having the press people put out pictures of the crowds. I felt so bad.
MM: I remember actually reading in “Fear," they had brought up towards the start of the book, “What are they going to say on Morning Joe tomorrow?”
JS: You know Priebus told me at the time, “Joe, we’re doing everything we can. You wouldn’t believe what he wants us to say,” and he said, “We’re doing everything we can to hold him back.” That was Day one. I heard the same thing from everybody else. I actually called him, or he actually called me back because I’d raised so much hell with Spicer and Priebus on day 1 saying “Your first press… your first presser for the White House press room cannot be about crowd size.”
MM: He gave us a great SNL skit, but I’ll skip that
JS: *laughs* he did. It was unbelievable and I remember him calling me back and talking about how incredible the funds were and just the most extraordinary inappropriate insights for somebody who just became the 45th President of the United States, and I get off the phone and I turn to Mika and I said that guy is long gone. And we knew pretty quickly…
MB: And we knew it was going to be bad.
JS: We knew it was going to be bad. We did not know how bad it was going to be.
MB: We didn’t think it would be uncontainable bad.
PHOTO COURTESY OF JULIEN HRYSHKO
MM: Right. It certainly seems like people are agreeing with you. I remember yesterday on your show you brought up it’s a 4 point on average drop in his poles since last month. His poll rating is at 36 now is the average. I believe it’s actually 37.3, I don’t remember.
JS: Yeah, it’s bad…
MM: Yeah, it’s not great. Um, I was wondering how you guys think that will play in the midterms. You have an unpopular President and typically in the first midterms after an election, the president’s party doesn’t do well anyway.
MB: The exact answer is we have no idea.
JS: If you look at the data, if you look at history, if you line up every single piece of data with how midterms have played out over the past generation, then it’s going to be a devastating election for Republicans. That said –– nobody believed Donald Trump was going to get elected President of the United States. For a lot of really good reasons.
MM: And Manafort didn’t really do anything when he was there.
JS: And even with Manafort was there, he didn’t do anything. It was like that scene, did you ever see, was it Flight with Denzel Washington?
MM: Oh yeah, I’ve seen it.
JS: And he’s flying the plane upside down, drunk. And Don Cheadle takes him back to the simulator and says, “how’d you do it, man? We had like 20 pilots and they’ve all crashed. How’d you do it?”
MiM: It doesn’t seem like we’ve landed a plane yet.
JS: Denzel landed the plane. But no… Well, I’m just talking about the actual campaign itself. As far as his campaign goes, Donald Trump got elected.
MM: Makes sense though. He landed that plane.
JS: Let’s just state something very obvious – he did something in getting elected President of the United States that nobody else has ever done before. He basically got elected without a campaign structure.
MM: Without a platform.
JS: Without a platform. Without support of the party. It is shocking he got elected president. If you look at history, Republicans should get absolutely trounced this fall. If you look at what happened a year and a half ago, the entire political universe humiliated itself by underestimating Donald Trump.
PHOTO COURTESY OF JULIEN HRYSHKO
MM: So you said history is showing it’s going to be a devastating election but so does the present. Five-Thirty-Eight, their house watch index – is showing 83.7% chance that Democrats take control. Is there any foreseeable strategy where Republicans can get success bucking the president? Maybe staying away from his endorsement? Or is that what they need regardless?
JS: Well, it’s such a terrible position. I ran in 94 and I was running against Bill Clinton and no Republican had ever been elected in my district before. The poor Democrat…
MM: Was that Florida One?
JS: Florida One. The poor Democrat I was running against if he embraced Clinton, I attacked him for that. If he ran away from Clinton, I attacked him for that. I mean, it is so hard to run against an incumbent president because when you’re a Congressman or when you’re a congressional candidate, you are connected to whoever is in the White House at the time.
MM: One last thing –– about your Op-Ed in the Washington Post yesterday (September 11). You said, Donald Trump is more dangerous to the dream of America than any adversary before. But you also listed how we move past the adversaries. Where do we go past Donald Trump? What do we do now? Does someone fill his void?
JS: Well, it depends. If the institutions keep standing up to Donald Trump, if we have Americans standing up in the next election and electing more diverse candidates than ever before, more women than ever before, elect a black progressive in Georgia, elect a black progressive in Florida.That’s not just a message that will be heard in Atlanta Ga. and Tallahassee, Florida. That’s a message that will be heard around the world. That Donald Trump’s embrace of and basically his apologies for white nationalism and neo-Nazism backfired. Politically it blew up in his face. I have faith that the American people are going to stand up to some of the more extreme aspects of his first two years in office. A lot more faith in the American people than in the 538 projections. Are the New York Times projection that sort of on election night would like spin around in circles?
MM: As I’m doing my assignments, I keep that on in the background.
JS: Everybody does.
MB: I would just say, we’ve got our eyes wide open for great candidates to counter Trump.
MM: It’s almost the reverse Tea Party now.
MB: Yup. For sure. A great way of putting it actually.