It’s Congress’ summer recess, so Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus is getting a shocking amount of traction from his silly campaign to rile up Republicans about the “liberal media.” It’s obvious that Priebus’ promise to boycott debates sponsored by CNN and NBC if the networks go ahead with planned Hillary Clinton projects is hot air, but it’s getting him lots of attention. He’s trying to suck up to his party’s right-wing base by going after two targets they hate: Hillary Clinton and the media.
But can Priebus go too far? He visited the belly of the beast today, “liberal” MSNBC – where I’m a political analyst – but stayed on the relatively friendly terrain of “Morning Joe,” hosted by former GOP congressman Joe Scarborough. He told Scarborough he only went on his show because he knew he’d be treated fairly – but then he went off on co-host Mika Brzezinski in a personal way, telling her, “I’m not going to have you moderate the Republican debate.”
Priebus went on: “Because you’re not actually interested in the future of the Republican Party and our nominees. That’s not a slam on you, Mika, but I have to choose moderators that are actually interested in the Republican Party and our nominees.”
There’s so much wrong with Priebus’ stance, as I argued the other day. His party’s problems derive in part from dwelling within the Fox-Limbaugh echo chamber. I would argue that Brzezinski may have more genuine interest in the future of the GOP than Limbaugh, who is mainly interested in his own wallet.
But the worst thing about Priebus’ slam is how nasty it was, singling out Brzezinski in a personal way. And he looked incredibly pleased with himself, like, “I really showed her.” In fact, Priebus looked like a bully, which doesn’t play well in most settings. But much of the GOP base is probably happy to see him bullying a woman who plays the role of “liberal” to Scarborough’s conservative, but who is in fact a journalist. (Actual liberals are often frustrated by her.)
Brzezinski can fight her own battles; she doesn’t need me to come to her defense. But I thought Priebus’ behavior was insulting, and deliberately so, and I have to say she looked a little sandbagged, although she recovered gracefully. Scarborough stuck up for his co-host – “I think Mika would be great [as moderator]” – but I hope he notes that he was used by the weaselly party chairman. First, to show he was fair enough to talk to the “enemy,” MSNBC, and then to show that he was brave enough to insult Brzezinski on her own show.
For a party that purports to care about its problems with female voters, the GOP sure has a lot of leaders who enjoy disrespecting women.