MSNBC's Joe Scarborough Slams Boehner Work Ethic, Lauded Obama's Golfing as Trips to 'Happy Places'
MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on Thursday slammed John Boehner's work ethic, chiding the House Minority Leader for drinking and smoking cigars. This verbal assault came just ten days after the Morning Joe host defended Barack Obama's golf outing, asserting that he wants the President to have a "happy place to go to."
The former Republican congressman ridiculed Boehner, saying "Everybody on Capitol Hill knows about John Boehner, he's not exactly the hardest worker in the world. He's a guy that likes golf, and he's a guy that likes, you know, socializing."
Scarborough made sure to stress that even though he doesn't know John Boehner personally, he was just "reporting" what he heard on the Hill.
The host's version of reporting continued as he berated, "[Boehner] is what my mother used to term a good-time Charlie and that is not a negative term. He golfs, drinks, has a good time. There are a lot of people on Capitol Hill that do that and I don't judge any of them. I'm just reporting here."
In contrast, on June 21, 2010, Scarborough talked to former GE CEO Jack Welch and defended, "Jack, I want my leader, whether it's a president or a guy running my corporation or running whatever, to have a happy place to go to, where he or she can recharge. The President golfing every Sunday, that's not a problem, is it?"
A transcript of the July 1, 2010, "Morning Joe" segment is available here:
JOE SCARBOROUGH: It's exciting. So hey, John Boehner, my gosh. John Boehner getting hammered by the President.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Or - okay, sure, yes, by the President.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, some people, Mika, yesterday, yesterday, I simply reported on what scores of Republicans have been telling us on Capitol Hill about John Boehner. I think I made it very clear I don't know what John Boehner's work habits are. I don't know what his socializing habits are.
BRZEZINSKI: Well, you're not there with him every day.
SCARBOROUGH: No, Not only am I not there with him every day, I'm never there with him.. Even when I was in congress, John Boehner did it different things than me. I worked. He went to bars. I kid. I'm joking! But, John Boehner, you know, it's like - it's like - kids, sit down and get some popcorn. I'll tell you what it's like on Capitol Hill. No, seriously.
It's like a very small campus, right? So everybody knows everybody's work habits, they know their business, and so that's why getting all of this push back on something that everybody on capitol hill knows about John Boehner, he's not exactly the hardest worker in the world. He's a guy that likes golf and he's a guy that likes you know, socializing.
BRZEZINSKI: Well, he has a great tan.
SCARBOROUGH: He's got a great tan.
BRZEZINSKI: He is clearly outside a lot.
SCARBOROUGH: He has that going for him. He is very healthy. I am not sure what shade of orange that exactly is, but I don't think it's a spray-on type. Look at poor Eric Cantor, he is pale. He works.
BRZEZINSKI: Pale as a ghost.
SCARBOROUGH: Pence, Look at Pence. Pence works! I feel sorry-
BRZEZINSKI: Aww, withered and pale. Like he is in the coal mine.
SCARBOROUGH: Those are fluorescent lights on those guys. Look at me. I work. It's all spray-on. It's all natural. Actually, I'm Greek like Charlie Crist. Anyway, I just want to say that's fine when you're a back bencher, not working that hard. That is a view of your voters, but when you run, the Republican party on Capitol Hill and they want to take over the majority, it becomes an issue.
BRZEZINSKI: Well, and did you have- it is one now. All right.
SCARBOROUGH: It is on the record what has been saying off the record the past two years. Let's go and talk to our friends in New York City. First of all, the great Willie Geist. By the way, Willie, I think you and I should just clear the air that we don't really care whether people work hard or not, go out, party. I judge not that you be not judged. I did not judge Boehner. We are just reporters, Willie, damn it! That's what we do.
WILLIE GEIST: I don't even have to say that out loud. I lead by my actions by not working hard. Everybody knows that about me.
SCARBOROUGH: Everybody knows that. Let's bring in political analyst. Harold Ford Jr. is with us and also is political reporter from the Huffington Post, Sam Stein. We will get to Harold in a second. He is going to have three points to say about John Boehner's work ethics.
SCARBOROUGH: But, Sam, let me first go to you. This is the thing that is so funny about Washington, D.C. You state a fact that is obvious that nobody will state on the political record and then everybody is shocked that you state what everybody says when the cameras are turned off and it happens all the time. In '98 when we conservatives were ready to get rid of Newt Gingrich, everybody, he's the worst guy! We hate him! He's got to go!
Then you say, I think Newt Gingrich may need to leave. Then everybody's, oh, we're shocked! Why would you say such a thing? In 2006, George W. Bush, every Republican that would come into a green room and say Bush is killing us, we are going to lose the majority. He is spending too much and he was horrible on Katrina and this war is a mess. Then if you say that on the air, well they go crazy! How dare you say what everybody in Washington is saying! Now it's the same thing with Boehner. A lot of Republicans in Washington, have you not heard, are concerned that John Boehner, he wants to be the Speaker of the House. Doesn't have the work ethic or the focus to make Republicans the majority party.
SAM STEIN: Well, it's more he's not the right figure head. He, in that interview that has now been made famous by Barack Obama, he talks about this being another 1776 revolution type year. He's not a revolutionary figure. He's a guy, you mentioned, he goes out, he doesn't have a great work ethic but he fund-raises for people. His PAC has spent 90,000 this year alone, I think on golf outings.
I mean, this is not Thomas Paine we're talking about. This is someone who raises money for other Republicans and tries to build up the institutions but isn't exactly known as the sharper thinker or the hardest worker on the hill. Now, he serves a person but not the person you want the head of the party that is trying to barrel down the gates in an off-year election.
SCARBOROUGH: Again, Sam, you talk to a lot of people up on the hill. I think Republicans may tell me things they don't think other reporters. Because, I was a member there. But, you hear these complaints from Republicans, don't you?
SCARBOROUGH: This guy is not the hardest worker. He is what my mother used to term a good-time Charlie and that is not a negative term. He golfs, drinks, has a good time. There are a lot of people on Capitol Hill that do that and I don't judge any of them. I'm just reporting here.
STEIN: And, they like him because he is good at fund-raising. He does pass around money. He helps people out when it comes to election time. But, yeah, you're absolutely right. They don't think of him as the intellectual heavy weight of the party. That usually goes to someone like Paul Ryan or Eric cantor is the one that is really trying to make the party renewed with novel ideas and new institutions for re-election. But yea, Boehner is not considered from people I talk to on the Hill to be sort of the hard worker, grunt worker that you would want as a figure head.
BRZEZINSKI: I think what is interesting it's not necessarily that interesting that Sam is saying that. But it is apparently earth-shattering, no offense, and sweetheart. He's adorable. That's okay. My point is when you say something or someone else in the Republican Party says something true, but critical, there is a reaction that is unhealthy and I think that is your overall point. Let's get off Boehner and talk about really what the party needs to do if it wants to be honest with itself.
BRZEZINSKI: And productive.
SCARBOROUGH: What's so funny in Washington is this way and Harold Ford Jr. Knows Washington is this way. In 2006, I would go on my show every night and say George Bush is spending too much money, the debt is too high. He responded terribly to Katrina.
The war is a mess right now. And if we continue in this direction, Republicans are going to lose the majority. I had so many weanies out there attacking me. How dare you attack George w. Bush! And you're not a true conservative! While you have people on other shows go you're a great American. He's a great American. Republicans are great Americans. While Rome was burning I was telling the crew people got angry at me, Harold, but guess what? The second Bush left town, they said you were right, Joe, the second newt left town, they said you were right, Joe. You know what? If Republicans don't take the majority this year, they are going to say the same exact thing again. It seems Washington never learns, Harold. Washington never learns.
HAROLD FORD , JR: You know, it's easy when you're in that cocoon as you and I both remember to not only dismiss or find it easy to dismiss criticism but easier to ignore some of the concepts and structure of the criticism. I know you and I both know Eric cantor and John Boehner and Paul Ryan could take not only some advice from those in Washington, particularly people who have been there like you and understand what voters and in different parts of the country are wanting to hear.
I think Mika nailed it. The real issue here is whether or not your substance will appeal to voters. We have a history of people leading Democrats, Republicans in the House and the Senate who have representations for working hard and having a lot of charisma and not having a lot of charisma.
The real test is you're whether or not your caucus is offering substantive alternatives or real substantive ideas. Democrats have been criticized some of the last year and a half. Republicans have faced their share of criticism. It's no secret. John Boehner is a good guy but he's a darn good golfer, too.
SCARBOROUGH: By the way-
FORD, JR: the question will be whether they win a majority or make more progress they will be judged by that, rightly so.
SCARBOROUGH: And Harold, that's a great point. I like John Boehner.
BRZEZINSKI: I don't think he likes you.
SCARBOROUGH: It doesn't matter. John probably doesn't take it personally but, I mean, seriously, I don't know John Boehner personally. I really don't. I don't know him personally. I just have reported, over the past 24 hours, what I've been hearing over the past 24 months and as Harold says, John Boehner is a good guy. He is. John Boehner is one of the few guys in Republican leadership that we didn't try to overthrow because he wasn't conservative enough. And I've never had a cross word with John. I know this may come as a surprise to people, but seriously the only thing I was doing was lending a voice to the frustration I've heard when cameras are turned off the past 24 months. Now, Harold, people will ask why don't other Republicans go out there and say that. Maybe because the same reason Democrats don't go out and say they think Nancy Pelosi is acting like a tyrant. Which Democrats say, off the record, all the time?
BRZEZINSKI: Oh, here we go, Terrific!
SCARBOROUGH: But when you hear one after another after another. Republicans, Sam Stein are fighting to take control of the house. That is no easy task. I bring up Nancy Pelosi because Nancy Pelosi is hard worker. Newt Gingrich, hard worker. If you're going to bend history, if you're going to pick up 40, 45 seats, it's a 24/7 job, is it not?
-Rachel Burnett is News Analysis intern for the Media Research Center. You can follow her on Twitter here.