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The metamorphosis of Morning Joe

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I’ll start this with a quick confession, though most regular readers are already aware of it. I’ve been a fan of Morning Joe for years… pretty much since the beginning. (Also, by way of full disclosure, I’ve actually met and spoken with Joe Scarborough on a number of occasions, though not so much with Mika, and even did the show once.) This has been the subject of many bizarre interactions with readers leaving comments and people I engage with on social media. The feedback ranges from the humorous to the incendiary, mostly from people who don’t watch the show and fail to understand why I always did. But that’s been changing over the past year or so.

I’ve found myself increasingly unable to simply sit back and enjoy the MSNBC morning gab festival while I work. Some days I sit through it anyway (often with the sound down so I can focus on writing but still keep an eye out for breaking news on the chyron). Other days I haven’t been able to make it through five minutes before changing the channel. I’ve actually gotten to know a lot more about Fox & Friends this year, though sometimes I flip over to CNN Headline News.

If you’d pressed me as to why my viewing habits shifted I would have been hard-pressed to effectively put it into words. But now, someone else has come along and done the job in a way which left me stunned when I came across it last night. Alex Castellanos, writing at the Daily Caller, has summed up the entire experience in a way which left me saying, “Oh… Wow. That’s really it.”

His essay has a title which is far more harsh than the actual contents of the piece. “IT’S OFFICIAL: The Ranting Anti-Trump Monotony Of ‘Morning Joe’ Is Now A Disastrous Failure.”

As I said… a bit harsh, but it does grab your attention. And we should be clear here that the “failure” part has nothing to do with ratings or commercial success. The show is actually doing better in the ratings, likely because they now attract a lot more fans of Maddow and Chris Hayes who no longer have to worry about hearing anything that might offend them. If there is a “failure” here it is of purity, not rankings in the key demos.

Alex starts with nine paragraphs of praise for Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski and the rest of the crew which made the show tick. He talks about how he too was a regular viewer for years on end and he describes all the elements of the program which made it so worth watching, whether you were a liberal, a conservative, or anything in between. The chemistry of the main characters in this play was fully as important as the policy discussions and reporting which unfolded around the table. And then he gets down to the meat of the matter and explains where the wheels came off the wagon during the age of Trump.

Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski used to represent the political battle of the sexes, daddy-bear Republicans versus the mommy-party Democrats. The couple simmered: Mika and Joe were a flesh-and-blood version of the age-old evolutionary conflict that drives human progress. They fought, embraced, and respected each other in smoldering discussions that left viewers envious of make-up sex. Matlin and Carville could not touch them.

Their clashing views gave show dramatic power. As their relationship grew stronger, viewers found Morning Joe was also their home: a safe space for political conflict. Now, that Morning Joe is no more. As our President might tweet, #Sad. #FailingMorningJoe.

The conflict between mom and dad is gone. The relationship that once ignited sparks has been dimmed and homogenized. Every cast member reads the same script, disowning differences and drama. Morning Joe has become a sea of sameness. The performers play indistinguishable parts, predictable bobble-head dolls that hate Donald John Trump.

Every morning, Joe trods the same path: “Can you believe what Trump has done? He does not respect the institutions that we, the establishment, have been running. He does not understand the principles that we, the establishment, have been upholding. He is disrupting the status quo that validates our superiority. When will Republicans in the Senate say “enough” and stand up to Donald Trump? And when will someone pass the Grey Poupon?”

You really need to read the entire article to fully appreciate this exploration of the metamorphosis we’ve witnessed. It’s the story of how Morning Joe spent years as the happy caterpillar of political commentary, chewing its way through the leaves of the Washington swamp. But last year it spun a cocoon, emerging as a sad, angry moth that now endlessly flits around the flame of the Trump presidency.

Castellanos isn’t a fan of Trump. For that matter, I couldn’t call myself a “fan” either. I criticize the President on this site on a nearly weekly basis when I disagree with him on this or that policy point, often on things like the Renewable Fuel Standard or privatization of ATC. I also praise him when he’s doing solid conservative work on issues such as immigration, law enforcement and eliminating wasteful regulations. But while Castellanos may not be wearing a MAGA hat, he actually is a fan of good political television coverage. I’ll just chime in and say that I feel the same way.

The Trump presidency offers the chance for both supporters and opponents to debate how the President is changing Washington. What needed to be changed and what might we miss when it’s gone? Those are the things that Joe and Mika used to do regularly and they would bring on guests from all across the spectrum of political opinion to fuel that discussion. But too many in the news business this year missed out on one fact which Castellanos drives home: “Donald Trump was a hand grenade thrown under Washington’s door. Millions of Americans saw Trump, with his gargantuan failings and excesses, and chose him anyway over the world Morning Joe continues to defend.”

It would have made for a great debate. (And out there on the web, that debate is actually taking place, though cable news cameras shy away from it.) Sadly, as Alex points out in closing, Morning Joe is now entirely predictable. If you miss one show this week, don’t worry. The same show will run again tomorrow. I seriously hope that changes because I remain a fan of Joe and Mika and I’d love to see the game afoot once again around that table.

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Reps. Meadows and Jordan Lash Out at Rosenstein For Demanding Special “Classified” Format to Testify on Capitol Hill

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Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH) lashed out at Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein Friday afternoon over his demands for a special format to testify next week on Capitol Hill.

House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte announced Thursday that Rosenstein will appear on Capitol Hill October 24th for a closed-door, transcribed interview.

Rosenstein is demanding the interview be private and held in a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility) with multiple Republican lawmakers excluded.

Unfortunately only the House Judiciary and Oversight Chairs and ranking members will be present for the grilling.

According to the House Judiciary announcement, only 4 members from the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees will be present:

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) announced Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will appear on October 24, 2018, for a transcribed interview conducted by Chairmen Bob Goodlatte and Trey Gowdy and Ranking Members Jerry Nadler and Elijah Cummings.

JIM JORDAN: Rod Rosenstein wants a SPECIAL format to testify: only 2 Rep and 2 Dem members of Congress asking questions in closed door classified setting.


Another example of the double standard. One set of rules for regular folks, a different set for the politically connected. Unacceptable.

MARK MEADOWS: Rod Rosenstein declines to show up before Congress and then asks for special treatment. He wants his interview to be private, in a SCIF, with multiple members excluded.

There should be NO double standard. Show up and tell the truth under the same conditions as everyone else.

Meadows and Jordan want to ask Rod Rosenstein about his plot to wear a wire and oust Trump from office.

Former FBI lawyer James Baker appeared on Capitol Hill earlier Thursday for the second time to testify about Rosenstein’s plan to wear a wire and and the use of FISA warrants to oust President Trump from office.

Rep. Meadows emerged from the testimony Thursday calling for Rosenstein to “resign immediately.”

This is yet more proof that there is a two-tiered justice system in this country.

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Caravan reaches Mexican border, breaks through fence on Guatemalan side

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The migrant caravan reached the southern border of Mexico Thursday night and NBC News reports some have already crossed the border. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal described the situation along the Mexican border as tense:

Tension was palpable in Ciudad Hidalgo, a tiny tropical village in Mexico surrounded by rain forest and banana plantations that borders Tecun Uman in Guatemala, with the two towns separated by a muddy river. Late Thursday, some 300 Mexican federal police officers equipped with antiriot gear were deployed to the border crossing ahead of the caravan’s expected arrival…

Many migrants marched along the river banks on Thursday afternoon. “Let them know that we are going to cross to Mexico!” shouted a man clad with a cap in front of the crowd.

The border between Mexico and Guatemala (at this location) is the Suchiate River. Here’s what that looks like from the bridge spanning the river:

There are gates on both sides of the bridge to control traffic. Buzzfeed’s Karla Zabs is there covering developments this morning. A short time ago the caravan began massing at the Guatemalan gate:

And that led to a standoff. The AP reports that “young men” eventually tore open the barricade and swarmed onto the bridge:

Migrants in a caravan traveling through Central America have broken down gates at a border crossing and are streaming toward a bridge to Mexico.

After arriving at the tall, yellow metal fence Friday, some clambered atop it and on U.S.-donated military jeeps.

Young men began violently tugging on the barrier and finally succeeded in tearing it down.

Men, women and children then rushed through toward the bridge, about 150 yards (137 meters) away.

This tweet translates as “Bombshell! Thousands of Hondurans manage to enter Mexican territory!”

The Noticias video below helps explain the sequence of events. This is a live stream but you can scroll back. First people were massed at the yellow gates on the Guatemalan side of the bridge. Then they broke through those gates and streamed onto the bridge as seen in that clip above. The migrants made their way to the Mexican side of the bridge and, at first, it appeared the gates were open, but they were pushed closed by police with riot shields.

A shoving match ensued between the police and the migrants trying to re-open the gates. Some migrants are throwing things at the police and the police appear to be using batons to keep people’s hands off the gates. Finally, when the gate is shut, you see some men jumping off the bridge into the water where they swim to a nearby raft.

Stalemate, at least for the moment:

I’ll update this post when the situation changes.

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BREAKING: Nellie Ohr Invokes Marital Privilege Preventing Her From Answering Questions About Talks With Her Husband Bruce Ohr

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Nellie Ohr, wife of twice-demoted DOJ official Bruce Ohr appeared on Capitol Hill Friday to face lawmakers in a closed-door grilling.

Mrs. Ohr was supposed to appear for a deposition last month but she was refusing to cooperate with lawmakers.

Now this…

Nellie Ohr invoked marital privilege on Friday preventing her from answering questions about her husband Bruce Ohr.

MANU RAJU: Very rare bipartisan agreement: Both sides say Nellie Ohr interview has been led to nothing. She invoked marital privilege preventing her from answering qs about talks with her husband. @MarkMeadows sees no reason to bring her back. @CongressmanRaja calls it a “nothing burger”

Rep. Mark Meadows confirmed Nellie Ohr invoked spousal privilege. 

The House Judiciary and House Oversight Committees sought to question Nellie Ohr after her husband Bruce Ohr gave an explosive testimony to Congress.


The former Associate Deputy Attorney General told Congress the FBI knew his wife, Nellie Ohr worked for oppo research firm Fusion GPS yet failed to disclose that information to the FISC [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court].

Nellie Ohr was paid multiple large payments by Fusion GPS, the oppo research firm that commissioned dossier author Christopher Steele.

Mrs. Ohr also previously worked for the CIA and was a corrupt Communist sympathizer who spoke fluent Russian.

This story is still developing…please check back for updates.

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