MSNBC's Morning Joe scored an interview with Charlie Crist on Friday, but only co-host Mika Brzezinski seemed interested in asking the newly independent governor tough questions. Joe Scarborough spun Crist's defection from the Republican Party as one of conviction. [Audio available here.]
Brzezinski grilled the senatorial candidate with this hardball: "Tell me why this isn't just politically expedient? Why this isn't just sort of a desperate attempt to win because you were losing?" Technical difficulties forced Brzezinski to ask her question again.
Attempting to get an answer to something that apparently didn't occur to Scarborough, she reiterated, "On February 22nd you were actually on this show and you said, 'I am in this race as a Republican.' We asked, "Might you become an independent?' So, how is this not politically expedient?" Scarborough joking referred to his co-host's query as "hateful."
Crist's answer included a quote from Abraham Lincoln about government being "for the people." Seemingly making a comparison to the man many consider to be America's greatest president, Crist then continued, "Well, by doing this, by going to November, all people will be able to make a choice."
Rather than call the governor on this, Scarborough played along and kidded, "I guess, Mika, you just don't like the people. You don't like Abraham Lincoln."
The divide between the two hosts became most clear with this exchange early in the 6am hour:
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Charlie Crist, again, he's not my kind of conservative. But you cannot say, these people going on say "This is not about ideas, this is not about ideology, it's about political expediency." I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Just like Joe Lieberman, who was independent on the war, you knocked him because he didn't blindly follow a party till the end? I'm sorry. These people are actually independent. We need more people -
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: [Mocking tone]: You think he's doing this because he has some deep conviction about an issue that finally decided deep inside, "I knew it all along? I'm an independent." Please.
A transcript of the later exchanges, which aired at 7:30am EDT, follow:
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Joe wants me to make sure I get this right. [Makes quotes signs.]
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Oh, just stop it.
BRZEZINSKI: So, I'll try my best. Tell me why this isn't just politically expedient? Why this isn't just sort of a desperate attempt to win because you were losing? And you made the move to become an independent in order to still have a chance in this race.
[Crist feed cuts out. They come back to Crist later.]
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Wait a minute. I want to hear the answer to my question.
SCARBOROUGH: What was it? Oh, it was a hateful question.
BRZEZINSKI: My question was, again, Governor- you're unbelievable- On February 22nd you were actually on this show and you said, "I am in this race as a Republican." We asked, 'Might you become an independent?' So, how is this not politically expedient?
CHARLIE CRIST: It's- [pause] you have to listen to people. And I have done that. And it really began in earnest about a month ago, Easter weekend, I went with my wife Carol down to Useppa Island, a place we love to go. And every since that time, all I have heard from people throughout the state of Florida, in Miami, in Jacksonville, in St. Petersburg, in the Panhandle is, "Please run as an independent. Give us a choice. Give us the opportunity, all the people of this state, who want to vote in the November election, to make this choice ourselves." Abraham Lincoln said it best, "Government should be of the people, by the people and for the people." Well, by doing this, by going to November, all people will be able to make a choice. Not just some in one club or another, frankly, for a club within a club, as it would relate to a primary.
CRIST: Let's go straight to the people. Let's be unafraid to do that. And give them the power of choice. It may work, it may not. But, it will work for the people, regardless.
SCARBOROUGH: I guess, Mika, you just don't like the people. You don't like Abraham Lincoln. We need to talk. I mean-
BRZEZINSKI: Look at Charlie! I'm a little bit cynical of Charlie. This is like Mayor Bloomberg's third term.
CRIST: You're allowed to be. That's fine.