Winding up the 8pm EST hour of election coverage on MSNBC, “Scarborough Country” host Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman from Florida, indignantly lectured Chris Matthews about how he has “spent the past two years trying my best to be very critical of my party. In fact, if you look at my transcripts you will see that I have been bashing my party more than the Democratic party because I want to make sure that I am fair and down the middle.”
So “far and down the middle” means hitting Republicans harder than Democrats? Too bad Matthews, a former staffer to Democratic President Jimmy Carter and Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, doesn’t routinely attack Democrats to prove how “fair and down the middle” he is.
After Scarborough pointed out how frequently and often he attacks the GOP, Matthews turned to NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell, whom he called “not partisan” to settle the issue. Mitchell quipped that “I think that Joe has been too pro-Democrat myself.”
While the rest of the panel laughed, Scarborough unsmilingly interjected: “So do all my Republican friends.”
What brought on Scarborough’s defensive lecture was an earlier exchange after MSNBC declared Democrat Bob Casey the winner in Pennsylvania. Matthews asked whether Casey’s victory would mean that Hillary Clinton might have an easier time carrying Pennsylvania if she was the Democratic nominee. Scarborough opined: “There is a big difference between Bob Casey and Hillary Clinton. You know, Bob Casey really is, and I think this is the headline here, Bob Casey is the new breed of Democrat.”
He added, “You know, like I have said for sometime, Democrats used to be so easy to pick off in the Southeast and even in states like Pennsylvania, because they would get these people who were ideologically aligned with Hillary Clinton and the far left wing of the Democratic Party. That's not the case this year, and you’ve got to give a lot of credit to Chuck Schumer,” referring to the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
A few moments later, Matthews asked Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean if they were giving too much credit to Schumer and not enough to Dean. Dean replied, “No, my concern was calling Hillary Clinton a member of the far left. I don't know who’s making those comments but he certainly isn’t anywhere close to neutral. I mean, the fact is-”
Matthews agreed: “Well, he isn’t, actually. [Laughs] Go ahead. You aren’t either, so let's go on here.”
Twenty minutes later, Scarborough took an opportunity to complain about how Matthews had agreed with Dean’s bias complaint, but he also made it clear that he sees Hillary Clinton as an “excellent” U.S. Senator and not on the far left, saying he should have named someone like Barbara Boxer.
Here’s the relevant transcript:
Chris Matthews: "Let's go to our panel. Let’s start with Joe Scarborough. Joe, it seems like the evening is following a pattern long predicted: easier victories in Pennsylvania and in Ohio for the Democrats, more questionable results in the other five states.”
Joe Scarborough: “No doubt about it, Chris. Obviously we just — the question is, how big of a wave is it going to be this year? And it looks right now like it’s going to at least be a wave that will give the Democrats a nice, a nice victory in the House, not so on the Senate.
“I do have to say something, just a point of personal privilege as they say in the House. Howard Dean accused me of not being fair and down the middle. You agreed with Howard Dean. I just want to say, Chris, I have spent the past two years trying my best to be very critical of my party. In fact, if you look at my transcripts you will see that I have been bashing my party more than the Democratic party because I want to make sure that I am fair and down the middle.
“If you look at an op-ed I wrote for the Washington Post, I actually said that George Bush should not be followed. If you look at a column I wrote for the Washington Monthly, I actually said that the Republican Party did not deserve to regain control of the United States Congress because they have done such a miserable job. Look at my transcripts, night after night, and you will see that I go after my own party more than the Democratic Party. That's all I want to say.
“Now, one correction I do have to say, I actually did identify Hillary Clinton with the far left of the Democratic Party. Actually, Howard Dean was correct, I was wrong on that point. I was playing more to image to her voting record. She’s been a centrist, and that's something else I’ve said time and time again on my program, that Hillary Clinton has been an excellent United States Senator. I misspoke, I should have said Barbara Boxer [panel chuckles]. It's not an insult to say somebody is liberal. I like Barbara Boxer very much also. We agree on some things. We don’t agree on others, but the terminology that I affixed to Hillary Clinton is not an accurate term, and even though you play ‘Hardball,’ Chris, sometimes you throw the ball a little bit outside, and that time I think you did.”
Matthews: “Ok, Joe. I’ll put your uniform on and it will be an umpire's uniform from now on-”
Scarborough, testily: “That’s my job.”
Matthews: “I think it will get quite boring, but we’ll put that uniform on you. I agree with that assessment of my coverage of your coverage as confirming Howard Dean’s coverage of your coverage. I’ll try to keep it straight next time. Fair enough on that point. I think I was responding to your reference of Hillary Clinton as far left, and I thought that might be an interpretive assessment of her ideology rather than a generally accepted one. However, most people would accept your interpretation of her ideology, so I stand corrected.”
Scarborough: “And most people who watch my show would say that I do my best to be fair.”
Matthews: “You’re definitely a maverick, Joe Scarborough.”
Scarborough: “Thank you, Chris Matthews.”
Matthews: “You have always been such, and should be regarded in the highest, the highest way.”
Scarborough: “Thank you.”
Matthews: “I’m running out of positive adjectives here. Let's try and go to — who can we find is that not partisan on the board. Of course, Andrea Mitchell. Andrea Mitchell, do you want to break that tie? Would you say that Joe Scarborough is generally a maverick but in this case was wrong, as I was reviewing it, was wrong in this case to call Hillary Clinton — what did he call her? — very far left?”
Andrea Mitchell: “I think that Joe has been too pro-Democrat myself.”
Scarborough, unsmiling: “So do all my Republican friends.”