Joe Scarborough is so mad at “media elites”

It's unfair for pundits to call Republicans extremists just because they refuse to compromise

Topics: Joe Scarborough, Debt ceiling, Politico, Republican Party, Taxes, War Room,

Joe Scarborough is so mad at "media elites"Joe Scarborough, host of "Morning Joe", takes part in the NBC News Decision '08 panel at the NBC Universal summer press tour in Beverly Hills, California July 21, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser (UNITED STATES) (Credit: © Fred Prouser / Reuters)

Joe Scarborough has an opinion column for Politico today in which he excoriates those damned “media elites” who keep “abusing” Republicans for refusing to “cave in to President Obama’s demand to raise taxes.” It is just as smart and well-written a column as you are probably imagining, based on that summary:

The reviews are in, and it’s safe to say that most media elites won’t be voting for Republican candidates in 2012. Of course, most of them voted Democratic in 2010, 2008 and in every other election in modern political history. But if you’ve scanned editorial pages and news shows in recent weeks, you know that this time conservatives have really, really offended the national press corps by their refusal to raise taxes.

Memo to Joe Scarborough: You host a political morning show on a 24-hour cable news network. You are a rich former politician who lives in Washington, D.C., and you write an opinion column for POLITICO. If you’re not a “media elite” than I’m not sure who is.

What Scarborough is really upset about is the fact that Richard Cohen, Jon Chait and David Brooks said mean things about congressional Republicans who refuse to accept a deficit-reduction plan that involves actually reducing the deficit instead of raising the Social Security retirement age, a measure that is a longtime goal of the GOP but one that will not help the government right its fiscal ship, or whatever stupid metaphor deficit-obsessed media elites like Scarborough like to use.

Also, in their discussion of how the GOP is fanatically opposed to modest income tax increases or even the elimination of tax credits that are almost universally recognized as wasteful or actively harmful to the national interest, these pundits compared the GOP to other groups and organizations known for being fanatical. That really upset Scarborough.

Meanwhile, Chait — who once criticized mainstream Republicans for using an apocalyptical approach against their opponents — compared the GOP’s leadership to a terrorist organization that killed over 250 Marines in Beirut, tortured to death a CIA operative and a Marine colonel, kidnapped scores of Americans and hijacked TWA Flight 847.

I wonder why Chait and Democratic officials from past administrations feel the need to associate fiscal conservatives to bloodthirsty terror organizations. I also wonder how such inflammatory rhetoric does not qualify as the kind of politics that Chait himself criticized not so long ago.

Does anyone edit Morning Joe? He never quotes or even names any “Democratic officials from past administrations” in this column, unless David Brooks worked for Carter and I forgot about it. “Associate to” should be “compare to” or “associate with.” Even “apocalyptical” could be the simpler and more common “apocalyptic.” I know Scarborough isn’t a professional writer. That’s why newspapers employ professional editors. (Also: Politico apparently didn’t hire anyone to replace Michael Kinsley as Scaborough’s “liberal” counterpoint. No liberal is savvy enough to compete with Morning Joe, I guess.)

Cleaning up Scarborough’s prose would do nothing for his argument, which is utterly beyond rescue.

For 50 years, the federal government has grown at a sickening rate. Whether Republicans or Democrats run the White House, Washington’s establishment always gets its way — bigger budgets, bigger deficits and higher taxes.

Haha, no, the deficit began shrinking under a Democratic president. Remember? You were in Congress at the time. You were elected in 1994 based on your promise to be fanatically opposed to the modest tax increases that led to the government running a surplus for the first time since forever.

Here’s a paragraph that is just fundamentally dishonest:

Many Republicans now in Congress have been around long enough to see annual budgets explode from $500 billion under Reagan to $3.45 trillion under Obama. They have also seen the top marginal tax rate go from 28 percent under Ronald Reagan, to 31 percent under George H.W. Bush, to 39.6 percent under Bill Clinton, to 35 percent under George W. Bush. Considering that the size of Washington’s annual budget has doubled in the past decade, more than a few Republicans see no need to ask taxpayers for more money to feed the federal government’s voracious appetite for spending.

When was the top marginal tax rate 28 percent? “Under Reagan,” sure. In 1988, his last year in office. The rate was 50 percent from 1982 to 1986. (Clinton’s tax rate also produced that surplus thing.)

It’s all pretty simple simple: If raising taxes and cutting spending is a bad thing to do when the economy sucks, then we should just raise the stupid debt ceiling and then raise taxes and cut spending later, when the economy doesn’t suck as bad. If it is imperative that we tackle the deficit right now this very instant (and it isn’t, but idiots like Scarborough and his “media elites” think it is) than we need to raise taxes (or “close loopholes”) and cut spending. One party is very willing to do either of those options. (The Democrats would kill for a solution that looks “bipartisan,” no matter how awful it is.) The other party revolted against its legislative leader when he proposed compromise, because the rank-and-file would rather default than violate their pledge to Grover Norquist.

Of course, at the end of Scarborough’s column, he proposes that Republicans… raise taxes on rich people!

That doesn’t mean a grand bargain is out of reach this session of Congress. If Obama moves forward with specific cuts on entitlement programs and Pentagon expenses, Republicans must work aggressively to close loopholes that favor billionaires and multinational corporations. I am quite confident that even tea party members would be fine with Warren Buffett paying more than a 14 percent income tax rate and would be happy to see the world’s largest corporation, GE, pay more in taxes than their own household.

The thing is, Morning Joe, the Republican pledge that you are defending in this column forbids Republicans from asking Warren Buffett to pay more taxes. That is the entire point of it! Republicans refuse to “aggressively close loopholes,” because Grover Norquist and anyone with a brain knows that that counts as raising taxes. If Republicans refuse to cave in to Morning Joe’s demand that they raise taxes, will he say that they’re merely responsibly keeping their solemn vow to the voters who elected them? Or will he say they’re being unreasonable? Or maybe even a bit… extreme? I guess we’ll see, once America defaults because David Brooks said a mean thing about Eric Cantor.

Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at and follow him on Twitter @pareene

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>