The Spectacle Blog

Civility, Scarborough Style

By on 12.2.10 | 10:36AM

You have to wonder.

What in the world has turned smiling Morning Joe Scarborough into Snarling Joe?

What is it with so-called conservatives who profess to be big on civility… then launch an absolutely over-the-top, snarling and not least of all decidedly anti-Reagan attack on a conservative political figure of the day? Did I mention silly as well?

Case in current point: MSNBC's host of Morning Joe fame.

It seems Joe is not a Sarah Palin fan.

OK. Fine. There are all manner of potential GOP presidential types out there, all with records and distinct personalities. We are, post-2010, already entering the run-up to the 2012 GOP nomination struggle. To be a fan of one or not a fan of another is par for the course. If in fact Governor Palin runs for president she is willingly putting herself out there with all the rest to suffer the inevitable slings and arrows.

What amazes are the high-intensity, snarly attacks that come her way, like this most recent one from Scarborough. Made with not the slightest sense of irony from somebody taking a prominent role in a campaign called No Labels -- which is designed to promote…wait for it…civility.

Ahhhh civility. Scarborough-style. In which the ex-Florida Republican Congressman and professed centrist attacks Palin's personal life, mothering skills, professional abilities, and politics. All the while making up out of whole cloth a presumed personal attack by Palin on -- are you ready? -- Ronald Reagan and the Bushes.

Having seen these Palin statements, one has to wonder: what's in Morning Joe's Morning Joe that produces such an incredibly nutty analysis?

Sarah Palin mocks Ronald Reagan?  Hello? Earth to Joe.

Palin most assuredly did not use her recent appearance on Sean Hannity's show to, as Scarborough foamingly insists, dismiss Reagan as "an actor." Clearly, as any sentient person watching could see, Palin was relating the modern, 21st-century TV reality show in which she stars (to huge ratings) to Reagan's acting experience. Palin, like Reagan, is proud of her show -- as Reagan was with his work both in film and television. Scarborough can't seem to hide his contempt for Palin's show (or is it her success?) and tries to twist her remark into, incredibly, an attack of some sort on Reagan.

Not to put too fine a point on this, but aside from the snarling nature of this decidedly uncivil attack the point Scarborough is stretching for -- that Palin is just like some left-wing Reagan critic -- is nuts.

Then he goes after her for her response to a tart-tongued take-down from the 85-year-old and life-time tart-tongued Barbara Bush. The former First Lady, well liked still, told Larry King on CNN that she wished Palin would stay in Alaska. Mrs. Bush is beloved by millions today for a lifetime of such remarks -- as when she also tartly once said of her husband's 1984 vice-presidential opponent, Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro, that Ferraro reminded her of a word "that rhymed with rich." 

Palin, like Ferraro, quickly fired back at Mrs. Bush, although certainly respectfully. She did indeed refer to the Bushes as "bluebloods" -- saying as well that she loved them but pointedly making the observation as to where Mrs. Bush's criticism appeared to be coming from perspective-wise. This observation sent Scarborough off into a tizzy defending George H.W. Bush's war record, a legendary record of heroism that no one, particularly Palin, has ever attacked.

But Scarborough's response is telling. He is apparently clueless that in terms of the famed 1980 Reagan-Bush showdown, a fight which in many respects is still taking place today, he has signed up with the anti-Reaganites.

The criticism of then Ambassador George H.W. Bush in the 1980 primary season in which he took on Ronald Reagan was precisely the attack Palin surfaced with Mrs. Bush the other day. To wit: Ambassador Bush was not a Reagan-style conservative but rather an old-fashioned Establishment or Country Club Republican.  Ronald Reagan himself repeatedly made the point. "A political party is not a fraternal order," Reagan said. It isn't about who was born where or when or to whom. It wasn't about country clubs or Establishments. A political party "is something where people are bound together by a shared philosophy."

Bush, who famously called Reaganomics "voodoo economics," later proved the salience of Reagan's point when he broke his own pledge not to raise taxes and nominated the decidedly non-conservative David Souter to the Supreme Court. After getting elected in 1988 as Reagan's heir, he promptly got himself defeated in 1992 by abandoning conservative principles in search of some felt-Establishment GOP need to "compromise" and "work together" with rabidly partisan Democrats in Congress. Having violated principle in search of civility, the Bush presidency imploded. Governor Palin's mini-tangle with Mrs. Bush is merely an echo of that episode and the lines that were drawn by Reagan and Bush at the time.  

Joe Scarborough, as evidenced by his participation in a so-called "centrist" group that proudly proclaims its guiding philosophy in its name -- "No Labels" -- and chest-beats about its search for "civility" is, in 1980 terms, a Bushie and not a Reaganite. .

That's his choice.

But the only one who needs to "man up" here (as Scarborough snapped of the GOP in terms of Palin's potential candidacy) -- is Scarborough. Quite obviously he opposes the Reagan view -- now the Palin view -- that the Republican Party "is not a fraternal order." He just appears not to have the courage to say so.

Instead, he snarls in a distinctly non-civil (and also non-Reagan) fashion that Sarah Palin is not a member of his non-Reaganite fraternity. In contrast, Reagan was constant is his classy ability to set philosophical markers while being ever the gentleman throughout.

But give Scarborough credit. He is accusing Palin among other things of believing , with Reagan, that the GOP is not a "fraternal order."

And he's right.

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