Joe Scarborough Defends Obama's Speech, Gives Soft Interview to Axelrod

MSNBC "Hardball" host Chris Matthews felt a "thrill" up his leg when Obama spoke at the Democratic National Convention in 2008. Keith Olbermann's leftist bias was great enough to merit a Saturday Night Live parody of his show "Countdown With Keith Olbermann."

And yet both trashed President Obama's Oval Office speech on Tuesday. "Maybe I missed something. I thought it was a great speech if you've been on another planet for the last 57 days," Olbermann remarked. Matthews said that he didn't "sense executive command."

But Joe Scarborough, who has repeatedly thrown his support behind President Obama's handling of the crisis, thought the speech "struck all the right notes," and was in disbelief on his morning show over the media's general distaste for the speech. Scarborough then hosted David Axelrod for an interview that can only be described as a barrage of softballs.

"I just wonder if this is a season, that, no matter what the President's doing, he is going to get hit by both sides right now?" Scarborough asked Axelrod, senior advisor to President Obama.

"He gives a speech that you guys thought struck all the right notes, as did we," he said to Axelrod. "Gets hammered. What's the next step? What is the knitting process? What do you do now?"

Donny Deutsch, advertising executive and chairman of Deutsch, Inc., chimed in later to pledge his affection for Obama's speech. "I thought it was a great speech, by the way," he assured Axelrod. "I don't know what I would have done different."

He then decided to give the administration some advice, in the form of a question. "If I was in your inner circle, I would say the 20 minutes today with BP is the opportunity," he told Axelrod. "There is a clear bad guy here. With everything that goes wrong in the world, we need the perp-walk. I would say he can't spank them hard enough."

Axelrod delivered his answer. But Deutsch wasn't satisfied. "David, even your answer to me was very methodical. I want to see anger in your eyes. That's what the American public wants."

The overall interview lasted eight minutes. The segments including Joe Scarborough and Donny Deutsch are included below.

The transcripts of the segments, which aired June 16 at 7:21a.m. and 7:26a.m., EDT, are as follows:

JOE SCARBOROUGH: David, I just wondered–you've been in politics a long time. This happens to every politician. I just wonder if this is a season, that, no matter what the President's doing, he is going to get hit by both sides right now.

DAVID AXELROD: Yeah, I think that that's probably true, Joe. And you know, one of the things that we've learned over a long period of time through a very long campaign and in this building, is that you just got to stick to your knitting. You got to keep doing your work, you got to keep moving forward.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Keep your head down, yeah, keep your head down. So what does the president do? He follows up on a speech. He follows up, as I was saying last bloc, on the very successful Gulf Coast tour where a lot of conservatives were very pleased with the President, liked what he was doing. He gives a speech that you guys thought struck all the right notes, as did we. Gets hammered. What's the next step? What is the knitting process? What do you do now?

DAVID AXELROD: Well, first of all, I think as to the speech, I think he imparted the information that needed to be imparted to the American people about where we are, what we are going to do to make the people in the Gulf whole and hold BP accountable, how we are going to clean this thing up and how we are going to deal with the problems that led to it. And he made a strong pitch for a new energy policy. It was an important presentation. In terms of what we're–I mean, we have a meeting with BP today to deal with the issue of claims and putting money in an escrow account so that–independently administered–so that people have some confidence that they can–down there who have been hurt by this–that they can get some recompense for the money that they've lost. We're going to  talk to them about some of the containment strategies, and what we need to do to make that–to accelerate that process. Obviously, he's going to follow up with members of the senate on the Energy–on the Energy bill.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Okay.

DAVID AXELROD: So we've got a lot of work ahead of us. And then there's the day-to-day work of trying to intercept this oil and protect the coast and protect the people as best that we can.

(...)

(7:26 a.m. EDT)

DONNY DEUTSCH, chairman of Deutsch, Inc.: David, you know, I'm one of the–I thought it was a great speech, by the way. I don't know what I would have done different. If I was whispering in your ear, and tell me if you'd say 'Donny, I agree with you'–

DAVID AXELROD: You are whispering in my ear!

DONNY DEUTSCH: If I was in your inner circle, I would say the 20 minutes today with BP is the opportunity. There is a clear bad guy here. With everything that goes wrong in the world, we need the perp-walk. I would say he can't spank them enough. Wherever you're going to kick them–he's going to kick ass–kick harder. I'd say, "David, tell them to do that." What would your response be to that?

DAVID AXELROD: Well my response is we have one mission, and one mission–and that mission is to make sure that the people of the Gulf are made whole, that BP pays every dime they owe, that this–that there's an independent administrator to make sure that that happens, that they do everything they need to to collect as much oil as they can. And it'll be clear, I think, to them and to the country that that is–that that is not a negotiable–those are not negotiable issues.

DONNY DEUTSCH: David, even your answer to me was very methodical. I want to see anger in your eyes. That's what the American public wants.

(Crosstalk)

DONNY DEUTSCH: Everything you said is right. It's like, "There's a bad guy out there. There's a bad–there's somebody with a black hat out there. This oil company–

(Crosstalk)

DAVID AXELROD: You're a–I know you're not just a creative genius but you're a great businessman. And you understand that the best way to express yourself is to take from the company what they owe and put it away, and make sure that people are taken care of. That is–you know, that is much more important, I think, to the people of the Gulf than sort of contrived expressions.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Kicking ass.

DAVID AXELROD: I think that everybody down there–everybody down there who met with the President understood his sense of connection, his sense of advocacy. But they weren't asking him to get angry, they were asking him to get results. They were asking him to get the money from BP that they are owed, and to restore the Gulf.




Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014