Joe Scarborough made a puzzling comment today that, to put it generously, could use some clarification.
On MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Scarborough argued that Rep. Paul Ryan's 2012 budget plan will fail because "fundamentally changing" Medicare is too extreme.
But in a previous show, the morning host sang a remarkably different tune.
Just last month, in an interview with Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Scarborough, questioning why, if the Ryan plan is so "extreme," observed that it "would still add over $5 trillion to our national debt over the next decade." Lamenting the ability to really make cuts, he wondered, "Why is it that there's no way to actually cut spending?":
Now can you explain something to me? We're told that the Ryan budget is so extreme and it cuts so much, and yet even if we passed Paul Ryan's budget as is, we would still add over $5 trillion to our national debt over the next decade. Why is it that there's no way to actually cut spending?
In contrast, interviewing Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson this morning, Scarborough contended that the "fundamental restructuring" of Medicare is "frightening" to most Americans:
Eugene, it seems to me – whether it's the Republican Party this year or President Obama a couple years ago – when you move beyond math and you start talking about a fundamental restructuring of a program like Medicare, or like the health care system, that's when you get in trouble. If Paul Ryan had said, "we're going to allow Medicare grow at three percent a year instead of six percent a year, that's not as frightening as saying "we're going to change the entire way this program is delivered."
Moments later, Scarborough reiterated his objection, adding that House Republicans are "going to lose" the budget battle because of their extreme plan:
I've always said, and we say it in speeches, this argument has to be about math. If it is about fundamentally changing an entitlement program or a health care system, you're going to lose.
Attempting to set the record straight at the end of the segment, the former Republican congressman noted that the journalists "around this table" has always been "skeptical" of the Ryan blueprint:
What we've been saying around this table, since Ryan's plan came out, is thank you for putting Medicare on the table, but we've always been skeptical about changing the fundamental delivery of Medicare.
Which is it, Joe? Do you believe the Ryan plan's "fundamental restructuring" of Medicare is too bitter a pill to swallow? Or do you wish the Ryan plan contained more ambitious reforms that "actually cut spending" to solve the debt crisis?
Scarborough's comments today did more to obscure than clarify his position on the House Budget Chairman's plan. Hopefully he'll take this opportunity to reconcile his conflicting views on this serious issue.
--Alex Fitzsimmons is a News Analysis intern at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.