Scarborough: A Republican Take On Obama

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Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman from Florida, joins Scott Simon to discuss Obama Cabinet nominees' tax problems, the economic stimulus package and other events in Washington this week.


We're now joined Joe Scarborough. He is the title Joe in "Morning Joe" on MSNBC, and of course, a former Republican congressman from Florida. Mr. Scarborough, thanks so much for being with us.

Mr. JOE SCARBOROUGH (Host,"Morning Joe," MSNBC; Former Republican Congressman, Florida): Thanks for having me with you.

SIMON: You were a member of Congress. Any reaction on the compromise on the stimulus bill that apparently was reached overnight?

Mr. SCARBOROUGH: Well, it's been an amazing week. As you all were referencing before, a week ago, Barack Obama was reaching out to Republicans, and they were having cocktail parties at the White House, and he was inviting Republicans over to the White House to watch the Super Bowl. And a week later, the Associated Press has a headline that - this morning that says that Barack Obama, quote, shows the GOP a clenched fist, and I guess as somebody that's been around Washington a little bit now for a while, it just shows how difficult it is to be bipartisan in this city.

Remember, George Bush campaigned saying he was going to be a uniter, not a divider. That didn't last very long. And George Bush's father talked about ushering in the age of the extended hand to Jim Wright. That didn't last long, either. There's just something about Washington, D.C., unfortunately, that divides parties.

You know, I saw it, actually, in Congress. It was so strange to me that - you know that aisle the president walks down in Congress during the State of the Union? Most of my friends were Democrats, so I'd walk across the aisle and talk to them, and when I came back and sat down, Republicans would come up to me like I had just journeyed to the other side of the Berlin Wall in 1961.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SCARBOROUGH: There's just something about this town, and it ain't good.

SIMON: Well, is it Washington, D.C.? It is a media environment? I mean, I'm just sort of dissatisfied by explanations that it's, you know, something in the waters of the Potomac, or somebody put something in the ventilation system.

Mr. SCARBOROUGH: Well, I think it's probably a president that goes into the White House, he extends his hand to the Republicans, and then the second the Republicans basically push him away and say, this is a genuinely bad bill, he is reminded by people who have been in Washington for a very long time - and I do think this happens because I heard people saying it all the time when I was in Congress - that, hey, you've got to choose sides. These Republicans will try to beat you. They will try to defeat your allies in Congress, and if they're not going to jump on board, you've got to get aggressive.

And you could tell about midweek that those conversations were going on in the White House because around Tuesday or Wednesday, Barack Obama started going out and actually openly mocking the Republicans who would criticize the stimulus bill as being a spending bill, and you've heard the clip where he laughed and said, hey, that's what stimulus bills do. They spend money. So I don't think there's anything in the ventilation system.

I will tell you, I am surprised how quickly President Obama has moved to using the type of language he used Thursday and Friday, and then again this morning in his radio address. I - and we'll see what happens moving forward, but a calculation was made in the White House this week, and it was that bipartisanship was not the way to move forward, at least on this first stimulus bill.

SIMON: Let me ask you a Tom Daschle question, if I could, Joe. Mr. Daschle withdrew his name from consideration for Health and Human Services secretary. Tax questions, but there were also some questions accumulating and columns in other places about how somebody who's not even a lawyer winds up earning millions of dollars at a law firm. Can you make the argument that Tom Daschle is still going to be what they call a major player in reworking America's health-care system, but he'll be doing it for a private company?

Mr. SCARBOROUGH: I think so, and I personally wasn't as disturbed by Tom Daschle's mistake as I was by, let's say, Tim Geithner, who is running the IRS and the Treasury Department. And I guess it's more personal for me because working for NBC, when you go up to New York or - I now live in Washington and go around Washington, to go from one job to another, there will - sometimes you'll get a car service. And I had a friend tell me, hey, when you negotiate your next contract with NBC, make sure that they cover the taxes for your car service. And I said - being the astute lawyer that I was - what do you mean? I had no idea.

(Soundbite of laughter)

But apparently, people will write into their TV contracts that the people they work for will deal with the tax consequences of these car services. As a lawyer, as a trained lawyer, I had no idea that there were...

SIMON: Sorry we didn't send the car for you, now, Joe.

Mr. SCARBOROUGH: That's the great thing about - there are no tax consequences to lying on my couch in Northwest Washington.

SIMON: Joe Scarborough, thanks so much.

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