MSNBC's Brzezinski: Barack Obama Above the 'Fishbowl of Idiots' in the Senate

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough blasted Barack Obama’s decision to run for president in 2008 on Thursday’s Morning Joe, claiming Obama was “only in [office] for about two minutes before he decided he was bored with the Senate and wanted to be president.” Co-host Mika Brzezinski pushed back throughout the segment, suggesting that then-Sen. Obama was above “that fish bowl of idiots that nobody likes” – presumably veteran senators on Capitol Hill – when he announced his candidacy.

Scarborough was unrelenting in his criticism, though, contending that Obama’s tenure in the Oval Office is like “me running the chemistry lab, you know, at Princeton.” Unsurprisingly, the liberal panelists on Scarborough’s program came to the president’s defense and sought to demean three potential 2016 contenders for the GOP in the process.

Former Obama car czar and disgraced financier Steve Rattner argued that Obama was “in the mainstream of the Democratic Party” when he ran in 2008, while Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) are “not even in the mainstream of the Republican Party.” Some may contend with Rattner’s claim, though, as Obama was one of the earliest and fiercest critics of the Iraq War – considered a key factor in his primary defeat of Hillary Clinton, who voted to authorize the Iraq War as a New York senator in 2002.

MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts also defended the president, pushing back on Scarborough’s assertion that governors make better presidents than senators:

THOMAS ROBERTS: So, it’s governors that make a better president?

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah! Like who’s more prepared right now to – literally, who’s more prepared? Chris Christie or Rand Paul or Ted Cruz? 

ROBERTS: So why don’t we have Rick Perry? Why don’t we have Rick Perry or Governor Romney? I mean, if governors naturally ascend –

No one on the panel, including Roberts, acknowledged that four of the last six presidents were governors, including two Democrats: former Jimmy Carter (Georgia) and Bill Clinton (Arkansas).

Of course, some might contend that the argument is a moot point: some governors might make better leaders than certain senators, and some senators might make better leaders than certain governors. But the argument itself was notable for Brzezinski and Robert’s insistence on defending the president from Scarborough, who called Obama’s election a “fluke of history.”

See the full transcript below:


MSNBC
Morning Joe
August 1, 2013
6:13 a.m. Eastern

JOE SCARBOROUGH: There are a lot of people in middle America that don't see Ted Cruz or Rand Paul or Marco Rubio out of the mainstream. A lot of people. As many people don't think they are, as people don't think Barack Obama is. I mean, Barack Obama –

STEVE RATTNER: But they [Cruz, Paul, and Rubio] are not even in the mainstream of the Republican Party. Barack Obama was in the mainstream of the Democratic Party. He may have been inexperienced, but he was in the mainstream.

SCARBOROUGH: I think if you look at when these guys came in 2010, they are in the mainstream of the Republican Party. Look at the fact that, in 2010, it's not like there were a couple of people that snuck into office. Republicans won the largest legislative landslide on the state and national level, I think probably in the 20 – in a century. It was a remarkable victory for them. The problem that some of them don't understand is that, in American politics, you know, life rolls on really, really quickly.

So I just – I want to push back and say, and drain ideology from this argument on them, in part because I'm the only Republican in this zip code. But also because Barack Obama won, because – in part because he was against the Iraq War and that was a very big ideological driver for him, and Hillary Clinton wasn't.

(...)

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: You talk about these guys, just getting there or being there for an hour – I'm not sure that matters. Are they distinguished characters?

SCARBOROUGH: Yes! It does matter. It matters, Mika, because Barack Obama, almost six years in – and I'm going to get tweets the rest of the day.

BRZEZINKSI: Right.
       
SCARBOROUGH: The guy, six years in, still doesn't know how to run the office. Why doesn't he know how to run the office? For the same reason that you wouldn't want me running the chemistry lab, you know, at Princeton. Because I didn't do it. He doesn't know –

BRZEZINSKI: So the litmus test for being a great leader is going in that fish bowl of idiots that nobody likes?

SCARBOROUGH: Mika, actually knowing how things work. Understanding the calls to make. You look how Lyndon Johnson did it, you look how FDR did it, you look how Ronald Reagan did it, you look how leaders did it. Mika, Barack Obama, I know this is – shatters everything you've ever believed –

BRZEZINSKI: I'm not talking about Barack Obama! I'm talking about Rand Paul and Ted Cruz.

SCARBOROUGH: It's the same exact thing.

BRZEZINSKI: Are they distinguished characters?

SCARBOROUGH: It's the same exact thing.

BRZEZINSKI: Are they leaders?

SCARBOROUGH: It's the same exact thing. Barack Obama was only in for about two minutes before he decided he was bored with the Senate and wanted to be president. He came in, ill-equipped to be the leader of Washington, D.C. Rand Paul, if he ran for president and won, would be ill-equipped. Marco Rubio, ill-equipped. You know what? Stay there for more than a few minutes. It's – Mike [Barnicle], six years in, who wrote the op-ed today? Ron Fournier, asked the question this morning.

MIKE BARNICLE: About leadership.

SCARBOROUGH: About leadership.

(...)

SCARBOROUGH: It should terrify you that all of these people now think, as Gail Collins said this morning, because Barack Obama as a fluke of history became president of the United States, now everybody thinks they can get sworn into the Senate and start running for president. It’s dangerous.

BREZEZINSKI: Now stop it right now. This is – you keep making this about the president.

THOMAS ROBERTS: So, it’s governors that make a better president?

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah! Like who’s more prepared right now to – literally, who’s more prepared? Chris Christie or Rand Paul or Ted Cruz?

ROBERTS: So why don’t we have Rick Perry? Why don’t we have Rick Perry or Governor Romney? I mean, if governors naturally ascend –

RATTNER: Some governors make a better –

SCARBOROUGH: I mean, you want governors that can complete sentences and can remember their middle name.

ROBERTS: Got it.

BARNICLE: How do you lead – when you’re trying to lead people – a certain percentage will never accept the fact that he's president. They won't.

SCARBOROUGH: You know what? You know what? I hear this all the time. We will see when we get a strong leader back in the White House, how they do it. Democrat or Republican. We'll see if it's Hillary Clinton or Chris Christie or whoever it is. I always go back to George W. Bush –

BRZEZINSKI [sarcastically]: Well, he [Chris Christie] hasn’t spent any time in Washington --

SCARBOROUGH: George W. Bush had Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House in 2007 and 2008. Go back and look at what George W. Bush did. When 80 percent of Americans, and probably 95 percent of people in the House, were against the surge in Iraq, you know what George bush said? We're going to do a surge in Iraq. And guess what? He got it through. He pushed it through.

BARNICLE: He had a relationship with them [Congress].

SCARBOROUGH: He browbeat them.

BARNICLE: And he talked to her [Pelosi].

SCARBOROUGH: They talked to them, but they also pushed it through. It's not easy.

ROBERTS: You think that was his relationships, or Cheney’s?

SCARBOROUGH: I think Cheney said things to members of the United States Senate that did not –