Politics Takes A Break With Joe Scarborough

Congress is on recess and the Obamas are on vacation, but the pundits are still flapping over lots of political news this week. Host Scott Simon talks with former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC's Morning Joe, about President Obama's dipping approval ratings, the upcoming primaries in Florida and other political issues in this week's news.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

Congress is on recess - sounds like something kindergarteners do - the Obamas are on vacation, but the pundits are still flapping. Lots of political news this week. And for more, we turn to Joe Scarborough. Author, former Republican congressman, and host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe" joins us from New York. Joe, thanks for being with us.

Mr. JOE SCARBOROUGH (Host, "Morning Joe"): It's great to be with you, and what a week it was.

SIMON: Well, let's begin with the president's approval rating, which doesn't look good - 51 percent of the American people say they disapprove of the job he's doing. But as I don't have to tell you, there's this old axiom in politics: You don't beat someone with no one. And just because somebody has a bad approval rating doesn't mean they necessarily approve of anybody else any more.

Are Republicans taking advantage of that? Are they providing new ideas?

Mr. SCARBOROUGH: Well - no, they're not providing new ideas, and they have made a conscious decision not to put any ideas out there because they know that Democrats will be able to use it against them. So the Republicans have made, I would say, the cynical choice of trying to beat something with nothing.

And while you can't do that in presidential elections, you can often do that in midterm elections, and I'm living proof of that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SCARBOROUGH: I won a midterm election in 1994, and I ran against Bill Clinton, who had low approval ratings as well - but not quite as low as Barack Obama's right now.

SIMON: Have Republicans been trying to make a link between legislation most of them oppose, like health-care overhaul or financial reform, and the unemployment rate, which seems to be the prevailing issue in politics now?

Mr. SCARBOROUGH: Well, they have. But you know, Scott, when you go into vote for midterm elections, if you have to choose between showing disapproval for the party out of power or disapproval for the party in power, you usually choose the latter. Here's the wild card this year, though: A Pew poll came out last week that showed that Democrats had the lowest approval rating as a brand in the history of the poll. Unfortunately for the GOP, they had an even lower approval rating. They were in the 20s, which was their lowest number registered ever as well.

So it's usually a zero-sum game. The party in power sees their poll numbers go down; the party out of power sees their poll numbers going up. That's not happening here.

SIMON: Let me ask you about the whole raft of primaries coming up on Tuesday, but let's concentrate on Florida because as you note, you used to represent the Greater Pensacola area. On the Democratic side in the Senate race, you have Kendrick Meek, a congressman, against a businessman, Jeff Green; and the Republican side, the Tea Party-backed Marco Rubio; and then, of course, the wild card, Charlie Crist, the Florida governor, formerly Republican, now an independent. What does this look like to you right now?

Mr. SCARBOROUGH: Well, certainly Crist had read all of his political obituaries back in the spring, when he decided to become independent. And it looked like Rubio was going to move ahead. Then the BP oil spill happened, and Charlie Crist saw his poll numbers go up. People liked how he responded as governor and he's still holding a six-, seven-point lead over everybody.

And if you can have a candidate winning as an independent in one of the most important swing states, I think it might be the beginning of a trend.

SIMON: Speaking analytically, Joe, who do you see as a stronger statewide candidate in Florida on the Democratic side between this businessman, Jeff Green, and Kendrick Meek?

Mr. SCARBOROUGH: Well, I've got to say with Kendrick Meek holding steady, it looks like he may be a stronger candidate in the long run. But it's going to be such a long shot, because I think in the end, this race comes down to Charlie Crist or Marco Rubio.

SIMON: Let me ask you before we go, Joe: Town hall meetings seem to be a lot quieter this summer.

Mr. SCARBOROUGH: They do seem to be a lot quieter. You had so much anger rise out of health-care reform. I would like to think that the anger has been drained from the swamp of politics. Unfortunately, the last week's been very depressing for me - to watch a former speaker and possible future presidential candidate engage in fear-mongering among Muslim-Americans, comparing...

SIMON: This is Newt Gingrich you're talking about.

Mr. SCARBOROUGH: Newt, yeah Newt - a guy I worked with and a guy that I had respect for - but a man who said that building an Islamic cultural center a couple of blocks from Ground Zero would be the equivalent of putting a swastika on the Holocaust Museum. That's really frightening, dangerous talk. So this has been a very angry week and a very angry chapter in American politics. And I just hope we turn the page soon.

SIMON: Joe Scarborough, author, former Republican congressman, host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe." Thanks so much for being with us.

Mr. SCARBOROUGH: Thank you so much.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: