Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, high atop the foamed crest of fame that traditionally appears when one half of a couple is accused by the President of the United States on Twitter of having a bloody facelift and the other half of the couple responds by loudly quitting the president’s political party, continued riding their wave on Tuesday night by appearing at the National Archives in Washington.
The affianced co-hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” it turns out, have also been named visiting fellows to Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics. Wednesday’s talk — an interview conducted by billionaire philanthropist David Rubenstein and attended by an auditorium full of Harvard types — was their first public event as part of this endeavor.
“Tomorrow I’m interviewing George Bush and Bill Clinton together,” Rubenstein shared, “and more people have asked me about this interview than that!”
Scarborough preened. Brzezinski shook her head in apparent disbelief.
“Do you still call him Donald?” Rubenstein wanted to know, about the president with whom the pair used to be chummy.
“Well,” Brzezinski said slyly. “Now I call him nothing. Because we don’t talk. Things have kind of devolved.”
Devolved? Come now. Only in the way things “devolved” for ousted acting Attorney General Sally Yates or ousted FBI head James Comey. Only in the sense that Donald Trump’s public vitriol can make one into the toast of the town. The night before, Scarborough and Brzezinski had appeared on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” and given the show its highest ratings in two months. We should all devolve so beautifully.
And — a boon to the salivating public — Scarborough and Brzezinski appeared to have no interest in re-evolving their relationship on Tuesday, perfectly content to lob casual insults and anecdotes that made the president look like a boundary-challenged middle school weirdo.
“He’s . . . he’s really into Joe,” Brzezinski confided. “It’s really like he watches our show and thinks it’s important to be considered positively.”
“We didn’t talk through most of the campaign,” Scarborough added. “They kept calling and saying, you need to come over. He always thinks that if he’s nice to you and invites you to lunch or dinner that somehow you’re going to give him favorable coverage. And it always ends the same, where somehow he’s shocked that — ”
“That you’re not Sean Hannity?” Brzezinski said.
[Uproarious audience laughter].
“It’s like when we went over to the White House, Donald said, ‘Hey, is this your first time in the Oval Office?’ ” Scarborough relayed. “Mika said no. He said, when was your first time? Mika said, when I was nine.” (Brzezinski’s father was a diplomat and President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser). The president then said, according to Scarborough, “But, Joe, I guess this is your first time,” at which point the former Republican congressman reminded the president that he was a former congressman and had been in the Oval Office plenty.
[Uproarious audience laughter].
Brzezinski and Scarborough, with the tele-friendly pitter-pat perfected over a decade on the air, offer a preview of what the lecture circuit will look like in the frenzied months after Trump’s administration ends: gaggles of politicos and talking heads who used to be in Trump’s circle, now racing for the nearest podium to share just how craaazy it all was.
Sure, Scarborough had offered Trump advice, encouraging the then-candidate to apologize for his remarks on Mexicans, and to make amends to John McCain (Trump thanked him for his advice but told him, “I just don’t apologize,” according to Scarborough). Sure, the pair had accepted invitations to the White House and Mar-a-Lago, and sure, if Trump invited them again, they would go.
“Wouldn’t you?” Brzezinski asked Rubenstein, who demurred that he had “never been invited.”
Sure to all of that — but let them tell you, the Trump milieu was craaazy.
“I actually had called — I think it was Sean Spicer or Reince Priebus — the day [Trump] had been inaugurated and put up those pictures about crowd size,” Scarborough said, pulling the audience back to the time when the country was forced to look at endless White House pictures of ambiguously sized crowds standing on the Mall.
The couple played coy about their wedding plans in a way that moderate celebrities must when they suddenly have become maximum celebrities.
“Can we give the location?” Scarborough asked his fiancee.
“No, no!” she protested. (It is Nantucket. They went ahead and told everyone it is Nantucket).
But mostly it was all Trump, all the time, in the way that so much of America has become all Trump, all the time.
“Joe, you have announced you are an independent. Mika, have you announced what party you are in?” Rubenstein asked.
“I’m a Democrat.”
“But you’re not going to announce you’re an independent?”
She suppressed a snicker. “No. I’m good.”
Uproarious audience laughter, lots and lots of it.