Tuesday, August 26, 2008; 12:52 PM
DENVER, Aug. 26--Joe Scarborough and David Shuster didn't quite come to blows Tuesday morning, but their anger really boiled over.
Scarborough is the former Republican congressman who has broken with the GOP over the war and now hosts MSNBC's "Morning Joe." Shuster is a feisty MSNBC correspondent who often appears on the program.
They were talking here at the convention about a report that the Iraqi prime minister wants a specific deadline for a U.S. withdrawal, and man, it turned ugly.
When Scarborough said he'd be happy with a pullout right now, Shuster seized the offensive, saying: "Tell that to the McCain campaign. Tell that to the White House, which mocks anybody who comes up with the idea, 'Oh, maybe we should have a timetable.' "
"Hey Shuster, are you Rip Van Shuster?" Scarborough countered, suggesting he had slept through recent events. Growing madder by the minute, he said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki would probably be killed if American forces withdrew and that he, Scarborough, didn't care.
"Why are you so hateful?" Scarborough demanded. "Why do you want to keep American troops in Iraq even longer, David Shuster?"
Shuster began to respond: "Your party, the Repubican Party--"
That boosted Scarborough's blood pressure further. "Just stop right now," he demanded. The host said the Repubicans loathe him "much more than your party, the Democratic Party, loathes me."
When the reporter protested that he was an independent and had no party, the host's voice dripped with sarcasm. "I feel so comforted by the fact you're an independent," Scarborough said. "I bet everybody at MSNBC has independent on their voting cards--'oh, we're down the middle now.' " He accused Shuster of a "cheap shot."
They weren't done, even as the other guests looked on mutely. When Shuster said Scarborough should tell the McCain campaign to stop criticizing the war's opponents, the former Florida lawmaker dropped any pretense of cordiality.
"Do you ever watch this show? We attack [John] McCain all the time . . . Oh, that's right. You usually sleep through this show, because you didn't show up three times in a row." He was not smiling.
They ended their exchanges without the usual fence-mending that often follows a heated debate. There have been angrier arguments on television, I suppose, but it was only 5 a.m. here in Denver.