What a kick it was this morning to watch a Republican politician bob and weave on the topic of Donald Trump. It was a profile in cowardice, and we’ll see a lot more of that this year.
On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show, Florida Gov. Rick Scott showed up to shill for the Sunshine State, which is hosting tonight’s Republican debate (Lord help us, another freak show) and next Tuesday’s critical winner-take-all primary. He clearly he didn’t anticipate that he’d be asked to render an opinion on the Republican frontrunner’s latest discharge of toxic waste — although, in fairness, he may not have known what Trump said on CNN last night. Who can possibly keep up?
Once again, Trump blanket-libeled the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims as enemies of America — no exceptions made, not even for Muslim-Americans who die for this country. He said, “Islam hates us … and we can’t allow people coming into this country who have this hatred of the United States.” And when host Anderson Cooper twice asked him whether he was referring to radical terrorists or the entire religion, he refused to make a distinction: “You’re gonna have to figure that out.”
That kind of rhetoric puts Republicans in a tough spot. Do they side with Trump, their likely nominee, thus aiding and abetting his extremism? Or do they knock their likely nominee and insist that such talk is not fit for the Republican party — and that it’s tactically stupid besides? (As pro-GOP foreign policy expert Max Boot pointed out last night: “By setting up war on terror as struggle of West vs. Islam, Trump does what ISIS wants.”)
Or do they just dive for cover, accessing their inner coward? To wit, Rick Scott. What a classic exchange he had on the air this morning. I transcribed it for your entertainment and edification. In case I missed an occasional phrase, the video is here.
Co-host Joe Scarborough: “You’re a friend of Donald Trump. Will you tell your friend, Donald Trump, that he should walk back his statement that said that Islam hates America? That Islam hates us? Do you think that Muslims in the state of Florida hate America?”
Scott (after a lengthy pause): “Well. As you know, in Florida, we’re the best melting pot in the world. We love everybody coming to our state. After the Paris bombings I did ask the federal government to not allow any more Syrian refugees to come into Florida until we vetted them. I’m still concerned that the federal government is not vetting them. That’s what my concern is.”
Joe: “We could debate that issue. But I’m just asking, generally, do you think that Muslims hate Americans? That Islam hates Americans — like Donald Trump said last night?”
Scott: “Well, I can tell you what’s going on in Florida. We’re the home of— “
Co-host Mika Brzezinski: “No, no, no, no— “
Scott: “… our state, we’re going in the right direction … “
Joe: “No, I want to know what’s going on in your head, governor. We’re friends. I want you to answer the question. Do you personally think that Islam is a religion that hates America?”
Scott (after a longer pause): “So Joe, what I can tell ya, in our state is, we have a lot of Muslims that live in our state, we have a lot of Latin Americans, we love people moving to our state, coming here as tourists …”
Mika: “Wrap it —”
Scott: “… that’s what I can tell you about our state. Donald Trump — he can talk about the things he wants to talk about. Marco Rubio can talk about what he wants to talk about. Ted Cruz, John Kasich.”
Mika: “No no. Uh uh.”
Scott: “But but I’ll be there tonight I love that the debate is going to be Miami tonight, I’m going to be there—”
Mika: “Rick, Rick, Rick, Rick. I know you and Joe are friends, and this is kind of awkward. But. Can you answer the question? Or should we scoot?”
Scott (after another pause): “Heh heh. Well I can tell you that we’re glad everybody’s going to be in Florida, we’re doing well here, the debate’s going to be fun tonight. I hope they talk about jobs.”
Mika: “We’re going to move on now.”
Then, poof! They pulled the plug on him. Bye bye, coward. Whatever you may think of Joe and Mika — and they take heat, like all cable hosts — it was refreshing to see a politician get thrown off the air for failing to answer a simple question.
But that wasn’t the end of this episode. Because after the commercial break, they proceeded to tear Scott apart.
Mika said, “If you can’t answer that — it was like asking what one plus one is — I would suggest that if you’re a governor of that state, you should be able to answer that question. And if you can’t, you shouldn’t be the governor of a state. That was pathetic.”
Joe, a former Florida Republican congressman, said: “It was really simple [to answer], ‘Muslims across the world do not hate us. A lot of Muslim-Americans have fought for this country. Many have died for this country. A lot of Muslim-Americans are great contributors to the economy of this country — great entrepreneurs, physicians …’ It’s very easy to answer …. Do not conflate extremists with 1.5 million Muslims across the globe. It’s ridiculous. It’s time to shift into second gear here. Enough is enough.”
But the problem is, most Republicans are still stuck in first gear. They’re afraid to denounce Der Leader’s demagoguery — lest they alienate not only his credulous fans, but also the racists, xenophobes, and low-information whites who comprise a big chunk of the Republican base. Rest assured, Rick Scott speaks for many others. And that’s pathetic.
Hillary and Bernie jousted again last night, just four nights after their last debate. I took a pass. Once a week is enough, thank you very much. Though it was interesting when Hillary said, “I am not a natural politician, in case you haven’t noticed, like my husband or President Obama.” True that. By now, it’s fair to presume that either of those guys would’ve put away a 74-year-old socialist.