WaPo's Eugene Robinson and 'Morning Joe' Hosts: Conservative Leaders 'Embarrassing' on Egypt Policy

Liberal Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson trashes conservative leaders in his latest column – for not taking a clear stand on the Egyptian crisis and for not supporting the populist protests. "Why don't conservatives love freedom?" he provocatively asked, concluding that if conservatives think 1.2 billion Muslims cannot be trusted to rule themselves, "that's not what I call loving freedom." His logic is deafening.

Robinson accused conservative leaders of opposing Obama's Egypt policy simply because they are thinking "heaven forbid the that the president get any credit."  He used their "ambivalence" at CPAC – which he characterized as either silence or a vague shot at the Obama administration – to condemn what he thinks is their opposition to freedom in the Middle East.

"Mitt Romney went to CPAC and didn't mention Egypt at all, which was, you'd think he'd be paying attention," Robinson noted. He questioned other conservative leaders for being "so kind of silent, and/or grumpy throughout the CPAC gala, and even beyond, in the case of some conservatives. What we're talking about is freedom, which everybody wants and loves."
 

 

Robinson was joined heartily on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Tuesday by co-hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, who opened fire on the conservatives. "I completely agree with you," Brzezinski told Robinson. "I just think some Republicans...were just taking cheap shots for no reason and they were talking out of both sides of their mouths."

"It was embarrassing," Scarborough lamented of the conservative leadership at CPAC. "A lot of conservatives embarrassed themselves this weekend. Newt Gingrich gave something – just an inane answer on 'This Week,' talking about why he opposed the President's Egypt policy. I still can't see what he or Sarah Palin – what their criticisms are based in."

The comments came a day after Harvard History professor Niall Ferguson provided "Morning Joe" with an articulate, detailed, and biting critique of Obama's handling of the Egypt crisis. The panel was left rather speechless for about ten minutes, offering little substantial opposition to Ferguson's arguments. However, on Tuesday, they blamed conservatives for failing to provide clear opposition to or solid support for Obama's agenda.

The panel at least agreed that Speaker of the House John Boehner performed admirably in his support of the President's Egypt policy. But he was the only Republican or conservative they had nice words for.

Near the end of the segment, Mika Brzezinski desperately wanted the panel to give President Carter credit for his peacemaking in the Middle East. "While we're at it, wouldn't we argue, Joe, couldn't you say, Joe, that thirty years ago President Carter owns that cornerstone of peace when it comes to the – I just, this is a good opportunity. C'mon."

Scarborough and Robinson had been discussing the link between the Bush and Obama administration policies that helped ensure the possibility for democracy in Egypt. Scarborough scoffed at Mika's suggestion, however, as did the rest of the panel.

A transcript of the segment, which aired on February 15 at 8:21 a.m. EST, is as follows:

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: (to Eugene Robinson) You write in the Washington Post today "The GOP Loves Freedom – But Not for Egypt."

"Why don't conservatives love freedom?... Boehner at least has come out forcefully on the side of freedom. But why the ambivalence from so many prominent conservatives? For one thing... there's the fact that all of this is happening on Obama's watch. If everything turns out well, heaven forbid that the President get any credit."

I completely agree with you. I think that some Republicans – specifically Newt Gingrich, and a little bit Pawlenty there – were just taking cheap shots for no reason and they were talking out of both sides of their mouths.

EUGENE ROBINSON: Well that's the way I saw it, Mika. Mitt Romney went to CPAC and didn't mention Egypt at all, which was, you'd think he'd be paying attention. But I just kind of wondered why they were so kind of silent, and/or grumpy throughout the CPAC gala, and even beyond, in the case of some conservatives. What we're talking about is freedom, which everybody wants and loves.

BRZEZINSKI: I couldn't agree with you more. I thought John Boehner was fair, and (to Joe Scarborough) – what, you're not talking, are you?

ROBINSON: He was very fair.  

MARK HALPERIN, Time magazine: You know, Republican leaders are remarkably silent. You go back to right after the election when Mitch McConnell was asked about China policy and basically said "I have nothing to say about China policy." In part they agree with the President; in part, they know at an event like CPAC that if they come out and say they agree with the President in a full-throated way, the base doesn't like that. They want opposition to the President, no matter what he's doing.

BRZEZINSKI: So why can't they agree on things going well? This is both sides, by the way.

(...)

JOE SCARBOROUGH: It was embarrassing. A lot of conservatives embarrassed themselves this weekend. Newt Gingrich gave something – just an inane answer on "This Week," talking about why he opposed the President's Egypt policy. I still can't what he or Sarah Palin – what their criticisms are based in.

BRZEZINSKI: He said the President shouldn't speak out so forcefully about something like this happening in Egypt. At the same time, he should speak out forcefully for democracy.

ANDREW ROSS-SORKIN, New York Times financial columnist: Eugene, what did you want them to say?

ROBINSON: Well, I wanted them to say, you know, that we support freedom and democracy in Egypt and, um, and if they didn't have any real criticism of the President, just to – just to say "We support what the administration's trying to do, period. (Crosstalk) But clearly we knew the direction that the United States ought to be pushing, I think. Now there's some people who disagree. There's some people who think we should have backed Mubarak because he was – he upheld the peace treaty with Israel, and he's been an ally for thirty years. And so if they believed that, they could have come out and said that. But instead it was just kind of this grumbling that was, at times, incoherent.

SCARBOROUGH: Now Gene, Republicans would, I'm sure many would say that Democrats didn't always line up rationally behind the President on his foreign policy. What would you say to those conservatives?

ROBINSON: Oh, well they would have a point about some people – although there is a difference between supporting demonstrators in the street who are clamoring for freedom, and supporting the invasion of a country to bring democracy to the country. I mean, it's not an equivalence there. But sure, I'm sure you could find instances of when democrats were reflexively against something that George Bush did. George Bush has never gotten credit that he deserves for what he's done to combat AIDS in Africa, for example. He did more than any other President. I've written about that and I've praised him for that, and a lot of people haven't.

SCARBOROUGH: Gene, what about Egypt particularly? Could we not say...that George W. Bush's freedom agenda, Condoleezza Rice's speech in 2005, Bush's speech to Egypt in 2008, when he sounded some of the same themes that Barack Obama did in 2009 – can we not say that Bush did pretty well, considering that Mubarak couldn't wait for him to get out, as well as Obama, that we actually may have had an enlightened policy toward Egypt over the past five years, with Republicans and Democrats?

ROBINSON: You draw that line all the way through Obama's Cairo speech, and I think what you have is a fairly consistent policy that finally has borne fruit. So George Bush and Condoleezza Rice stood for freedom in the Arab world and around the world, and as a philosophical stance that's absolutely right.

BRZEZINSKI: Well couldn't we – wait, wait, wait, wait, wait – sorry, while we're at it, wouldn't we argue, Joe, couldn't you say, Joe, that thirty years ago President Carter owns that cornerstone of peace when it comes to the – I just, this is a good opportunity. C'mon.

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