Would It Kill Morning Joe To Let A Republican Comment On The Republican Race?

News & Politics

Jonathan Lemire Jen Palmieri Eugene Robinson MSNBC Morning Joe 7-7-23Morning Joe‘s opening half-hour on Friday included a segment devoted to handicapping the Republican presidential primary. Just one small omission: no Republican—not even an “MSNBC Republican!”—was invited to participate in the chat fest.

Instead, with Willie Geist hosting in the absence of Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, the panel consisted of: 

  • Jen Palmieri: Obama’s comms director, who fulfilled the same function for Hillary’s 2016 campaign.
  • Eugene Robinson: liberal Washington Post columnist.
  • Jonathan Lemire: MSNBC host with a book on Republicans and The Big Lie – nuff said.

So we were treated to the bizarre spectacle of these three ultimate outsiders from the inside baseball of Republican politics, offering their thoughts on the GOP primary. 

What ensued was an offering of conventional wisdom, as seen from the Democrat perspective. Thus, Jen Palmieri opined that Ron DeSantis being content to stay in second place for the time being without directly attacking Trump is no way to win the primary: “He’s doing a great job being the runner-up, right? I mean, and it’s as if his campaign is designed not to beat Trump, but to be the heir to Trump.”

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Except that no other frontrunner has ever before been under multiple criminal indictment. DeSantis’s strategy can be seen as logical: without alienating the Trump base. positioning himself as the logical heir should Trump stumble badly.

And then there was Lemire’s false modesty, claiming that he really didn’t want to promote his latest book—but then proceeding to do just that: ”I don’t want to get into the habit of quoting myself, but I’ll say, like, I wrote the book entitled The Big Lie, but the final sentences are, the final sentence of the book are the idea that the Big Lie is dogma now for the Republican party. It’s who they are.”

We get that, as a general matter, MSNBC wants to feed red meat to its largely liberal audience. But would it kill the network to permit an actual Republican to comment on the Republican race? Wouldn’t that provide useful insight and information to the MSNBC audience?

Even CNN, for gosh sakes, occasionally invites on real Republican Scott Jennings to comment on matters GOP.

Today’s bizarre spectacle was enough to make you, if not exactly yearn for, at least settle for MSNBC Republican Elise Jordan. Or even former RNC Chairman Michael Steele. Come to think of it, scratch Steele. The Lincoln Project member is just too far gone.

Morning Joe hosting a panel devoid of Republicans to comment on the Republican presidential primary was sponsored in part by Consumer Cellular, Ring, and Amazon

Here’s the transcript.

Morning Joe
6:01 am EDT

WILLIE GEIST: Good morning. Welcome to Morning Joe. It is Friday, July 7th. I’m Willie Geist. Joe and Mika off this morning. With us, the host of Way Too Early, White House bureau chief of Politico, Jonathan Lemire. Former White House director of communications to President Obama, Jen Palmieri. And, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist, associate editor of the Washington Post, Eugene Robinson.

. . . 

EUGENE ROBINSON: Sure, [Trump’s] base has rallied behind him, and these indictments, in terms of fundraising, have been a boon to the former president. You know, this is, this is the counterintuitive, crazy way that, that Trump and MAGA work. And so, this is  going to be really something for somebody like Ron DeSantis to try to overcome.

. . . 

GEIST: Jen Palmieri, as you reminded us yesterday, it’s still very early going in this campaign. Governor DeSantis is right about that. But he has had some time here to introduce himself, and at least within the Republican primary, many voters have said, eh. And in fact, Donald Trump’s support has increased over the last few weeks.

JEN PALMIERI: He’s doing a great job being the runner-up, right? I mean, and it’s as if his campaign is designed not to beat Trump, but to be the heir to Trump. And that’s not — I guess his assumption being that, at some point, the indictments become too much. That people that, that Republican voters become concerned that Trump can’t get  elected, and he’s there to inherit the Trump base. Bu that is not how you, that’s not how you win a presidential primary.

. . . 

JONATHAN LEMIRE: Are you seeing any movement, is there any momentum within the party, even if it’s not registering with voters just yet, as to who that next Republican, the next person up might be?

PALMIERI: No. I mean, there is Christie. Chris Christie has a wee bit of momentum behind him. He is taking Trump on. He is taking Trump on where he’s very vulnerable, in terms of him being able to win an election. That is having a small impact, because there are Republican voters that, that are very open to that argument.

I’ve heard people say, you know, Tim Scott is sort of interesting to me. Or I’ve always heard people say, in Iowa, Nikki Haley is interesting to me. But is there anyone that — there’s no one who is putting all the pieces together.

. . . 

GEIST: [Pence] has that one strike against him, Eugene Robinson. And that seems to be the sense of the voter there, the woman in Sioux City, Iowa, who sat and listened to Vice President Pence patiently explain why he didn’t have the power to do what she suggested he had to do.

But it speaks to the power of everything voters like her, and supporters of Donald Trump, and people who watch certain news networks, listen to certain podcasts and read certain websites have been told, that he let them down that day. That Donald Trump has told them that it was, in fact, Mike Pence’s fault that Joe Biden is president.

ROBINSON: Yeah. The interesting thing is that it’s almost not just a matter of fact for that voter. It’s a matter of faith. And it’s like trying to, to change someone’s faith. Trying to convince her of something that, you know, she simply does not believe at her core. And that is an enormous challenge!

. . . 

LEMIRE: You know, I’ll just, I don’t want to get into the habit of quoting myself, but I’ll say, like, I wrote the book entitled The Big Lie, but the final sentences are, the final sentence of the book are the idea that the big lie is dogma now for the Republican party. It’s who they are. They either firmly believe it, or at least they pay lip service to it. And it shapes everything they do. And it is clearly going to shape this year’s election, too.

PALMIERI: It’s a big lie that started with a lie back in 2015. That, you know, may be a good bookend to the line from your book.

I remember, I remember the escalator, when Trump came down that day that day in June of 2015, announced for president. And he said, talked about immigrants coming in. About Mexican immigrants. He’s like, some, they’re rapists, they’re murderers, and some, I suspect, are good people.

I heard that and I thought, wow, what a craven, political thing to say. To do that kind of, you know, gross race-baiting. And I spoke with a Republican strategist later, at the end of the election, from another campaign, not Trump, and he said that they realized in retrospect that they lost the primary on that day.

Because what they heard from a lot of voters was, wow, Donald Trump was willing to tell the hard truth about something. He was willing to say that some of these immigrants that are coming over are rapists and murderers. No one else has the courage to do that. And if he’s willing to say that, which is on my mind too, I’m going to hang in with him for anything.

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