MSNBC's Joe Scarborough lambasted J.D. Vance for disavowing his criticism of Donald Trump and remaking himself as a caricature of the twice-impeached one-term president.
The "Hillbilly Elegy" author has apologized for since-deleted tweets criticizing Trump during the 2016 election as he campaigns for the Republican nomination Ohio's U.S. Senate primary, and the "Morning Joe" host and conservative contributor Charlie Sykes debated the wisdom of Vance's position.
"He's remade himself, not just remade himself in the image of Trump, but remade himself into one of the crudest, dumbest versions of it," Sykes said. "Really, it is extraordinary, and you know, as you say, you know, human nature is endlessly interesting. We think we've seen all of the various versions of people abasing themselves or, you know, losing their way, but we keep seeing new versions of it, and J.D. Vance is one of the more dramatic examples of that."
Scarborough pointed out that Vance enjoyed broad appeal until entering electoral politics, where he's already thrown away his credibility and alienated voters he'll need in the general election if he wins the GOP primary.
"This is a guy who wrote a book, and had a story that united people across political aisles," Scarborough said. "I had conservative friends, moderate friends, liberal friends, all reading this book. Mika [Brzezinski] and our children, many of them read this book, and this is a guy that could have had a future in really either party, and why in the world, it's just like you said, [Rep.] Elise Stefanik, why in the world would they completely twist and contort themselves to try to fit into this Trumpist sort of mold when this is a guy who's twice impeached. He lost the White House, he lost the Senate, he lost the House. He's not going to get re-elected again. Why would they do that? I just -- I don't understand it."
Sykes blamed their flip-flops on "raw ambition," saying Vance, Stefanik and others were aping Trump to appeal to his Republican supporters -- but Scarborough still didn't get it.
"It's stupid, Charlie," Scarborough said. "It's strategically -- if you're ambitious, this is the opposite of what you do."
Sykes wasn't convinced.
"Well, we'll see," he said. "I mean, I hope you're right about that. Elise Stefanik is looking around, thinking, 'Hey, I'm No. 3 Republican, and we're going to win back the House of Representatives.' Right now, there's no negative to being dumb, to being racist. [Rep.] Paul Gosar is openly consorting with white nationalists, what price has he paid for that? [Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, what price has she paid? The incentive structure now rewards the most reckless, irresponsible and some of the dumbest politicians out this, at least for the moment. I agree with you long-term, it seems like a terrible life choice, but they're caught up in the moment, and so we're seeing how far are people willing to contort themselves to get power, prestige, money [and] clicks in the age of Trump."
"You have J.D. Vance, Elise Stefanik, Nikki Haley, Tucker Carlson, these are all people who are smart people, who could have gone a different direction, who know exactly what they are doing," Sykes added. "I mean, you have guys like Sean Hannity, who's dumb as a box of rocks, but these other guys, they know, they understand the history, they know what they are doing. They understand the match they are lighting out there, who they are encouraging and what they're doing, and they're willing to do it anyway, and that's what's so sickening about it."