Scarborough repeatedly accused Obama campaign of highlighting McCain's age, despite their denials


On Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough insisted in eight different segments of the program that Sen. Barack Obama's campaign had a strategy to highlight Sen. John McCain's age, failing to note the denials of Obama campaign surrogates Susan Rice and Sen. John Kerry that their description of McCain as "confuse[d]" referred not to McCain's age but, rather, to numerous misstatements that McCain has made. Scarborough also asserted that Obama's claim that McCain had "los[t] his bearings" was evidence of a strategy to "mak[e] him out to be a doddering old fool" while failing to provide the context of Obama's comment -- a response to a smear by McCain in which he accused McCain of violating his pledge to avoid negative campaigning.

On the June 12 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, co-host Joe Scarborough claimed despite their denials that recent comments by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Susan Rice, both surrogates of Sen. Barack Obama, reflected a strategy by the Obama campaign to highlight Sen. John McCain's age. Kerry and Rice, a foreign policy adviser to Obama, asserted during a June 11 conference call that McCain had "confuse[d]" several facts about Iraq. Referring to Kerry's and Rice's comments, Scarborough -- in eight different segments of the program -- claimed Obama campaign representatives were drawing attention to McCain's age, at one point saying that they "seem to be trying to paint him as an old man." But at no point did Scarborough note that during the conference call, both Kerry and Rice reportedly said that "confuse[d]" referred not to McCain's age but to numerous misstatements that McCain has made about Iraq. Further, Scarborough aired Kerry's comment in its actual context in which Kerry referred to McCain's misstatements during only one segment, and Rice's comment in context during only two segments.

Scarborough also said that Obama's assertion during a May 8 CNN interview that McCain had "los[t] his bearings" was evidence of a strategy to "mak[e] him out to be a doddering old fool." But Scarborough did not note that Obama's comment came in response to a smear by McCain, nor did Scarborough provide the context of Obama's comment, in which he accused McCain of violating his pledge to avoid negative campaigning. Nor did he note that Obama spokesman Bill Burton denied that Obama was referring to McCain's age.

During one segment in the 6 a.m. ET hour of Morning Joe, co-host Willie Geist aired the following statement Kerry made on the June 11 conference call:

KERRY: It really is becoming more crystal clear to a lot of us that John McCain simply doesn't understand it. That he confuses who Iran is training. He confuses what the makeup of Al Qaeda is. And he has shown a series of contradictions in his statements that reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the conflict.

During the same segment, Geist aired the following statement Rice made during the conference call:

RICE [audio clip]: A real disturbing, even disconcerting, pattern of confusing the basic facts and reality that pertain to Iraq from John McCain over a series of months. He doesn't know how many forces we have there. He thought we were down to pre-surge levels. He's repeatedly, in the course of four days, confused Sunni and Shia. ... So this is troubling to say the least and it is reflective of a pattern of lack of understanding and lack of strategic depth that certainly runs counter to his claim of judgment and experience.

Scarborough aired the same statement while interviewing Rice during the show's 8 a.m. ET hour.

At no point during the discussion of their comments did Scarborough note that during the conference call, both Rice and Kerry denied that they were referring to McCain's age in noting he had "confuse[d]" facts. In a June 11 post to his Political Punch blog, ABC News senior national correspondent Jake Tapper reported:

Asked if the word "confused" was meant to invoke McCain's age, Rice said, "what I meant by that is very simple -- on critical, factual questions that are fundamental to understanding what's going on in Iraq and the region, Sen. McCain has gotten it wrong. And not just once but repeatedly."

Rice mentioned a recent incident when McCain mistakenly said troop levels had returned to pre-surge levels. "I'm not ascribing it to any particular function, I'm completely unable to do so," Rice said. "I'm simply pointing out a pattern."

She invited a reporter to offer another word to convey what she saw as McCain's "lack of understanding, misunderstanding, ...they all amount to the same thing. There is a gap. Between reality and sen McCain's characterization of reality and that's disturbing from somebody who has staked his candidacy on judgment and experience."

Kerry said to a reporter that it was "unfair and even a little bit ridiculous to assume that because you use a word that is used about every day in America life and people's policies and apply it to John McCain and you jump to the conclusion that is about somebody's age."

Kerry said there are plenty of senators and congressman older than McCain "who understand the difference sand don't make the mistakes he's made with respect to those policies," he said, citing Sen. John Warner, R-Virginia. "They know who the Sunni are and they know who the Shi'a are, and they know exactly who's training who. And they don't make those kinds of mistakes."

From the June 12 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:

MIKA BRZEZINSKI (co-host): There's a lot going on in politics today.

SCARBOROUGH: And a lot going on. John McCain yesterday catching --


SCARBOROUGH: -- catching a lot of heat --


SCARBOROUGH: -- for basically saying that the most important thing is not when the troops come home, it's, you know, whether, you know, we don't have high levels of death, whether there's security over there, but boy, he got pounded.


SCARBOROUGH: And we have seen a peek at the Obama campaign's strategy for the fall.


SCARBOROUGH: And his strategy is this: He's a doddering, old, confused fool.

BRZEZINSKI: Well now, that's not quite nice. Is that what they're saying?

SCARBOROUGH: He needs to go to Miami Beach and just play checkers because he's confused by fast movement.

BRZEZINSKI: That's not what they're saying.

GEIST: It's almost like he's disoriented.

BRZEZINSKI: Now, stop it.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, that's actually Barack Obama a couple weeks ago was talking about how, oh, he must be confused. Yesterday, you'll notice, Susan Rice, who's going to be on today, was talking about how he must just be confused; John Kerry, he used the same word, he's confused. So, John McCain is old and confused and scares easily. So --

BRZEZINSKI: Yes, but if you look at the --

SCARBOROUGH: That's his strategy. But this is -- this is also, though, Mika -- if you look at John McCain saying what he said before about 100 years in Iraq, even though [New York Times columnist] Frank Rich said the Obama campaign was twisting and distorting that -- you take that and then you take this, which is also being wrenched from its proper context. But that's politics.


SCARBOROUGH: If he has another one of these doozies, then guess what? There's a 30-second ad against him, Mika. That will be devastating.

BRZEZINSKI: Uh, maybe. But there's also a doozy on Barack Obama side of things with Jim Johnson.


SCARBOROUGH: Obama's campaign would have us believe that John McCain stepped away from the checkers board in Boca --


SCARBOROUGH: -- got out of his jumpsuit and got on the Today show yesterday --


SCARBOROUGH: -- and had a couple of comments. He was confused and disoriented.

GEIST: This is where at all started. On the Today show yesterday, John McCain talking to Matt Lauer, Matt Lauer asking him when American troops will come home. The key word you're listening for here is "not too important."

[begin video clip]

LAUER: Do you have a better estimate of when American forces can come home from Iraq?

McCAIN: No, but that's not too important. What's important is the casualties in Iraq. Americans are in South Korea, Americans are in Japan, American troops are in Germany. That's all fine. American casualties and the ability to withdraw. We will be able to withdraw. General [David] Petraeus is going to tell us in July when he thinks we are, but the key to it is we don't want any more Americans in harm's way.

[end video clip]

SCARBOROUGH: And of course, they just took the first 2 1/2 seconds of it, cut it off and then suggested that at the end of the interview he told Matt he had forgotten his name and lost his car keys.

BRZEZINSKI: Now, stop.

GEIST: They absolutely killed John McCain yesterday.

SCARBOROUGH: They jumped all over him.

GEIST: It was ugly.


BRZEZINSKI: I think they were diverting from another issue. I think we need to talk about that as well.

SCARBOROUGH: No, no. That's not an issue. [Obama campaign manager David] Axelrod told us it wasn't. But anyway --

BRZEZINSKI: Oh, come on.

SCARBOROUGH: So, anyway, so he was confused. So --

GEIST: Let's start from the campaign itself.

BRZEZINSKI: Please, take us through it, Willie.

GEIST: This is Susan Rice, the foreign policy adviser to Barack Obama who will be with us later to explain this confusion that the campaign is talking about. Here is what she said about John McCain yesterday.

RICE [audio clip]: A real disturbing, even disconcerting, pattern of confusing the basic facts and reality that pertain to Iraq from John McCain over a series of months. He doesn't know how many forces we have there. He thought we were down to pre-surge levels. He's repeatedly, in the course of four days, confused Sunni and Shia. ... So this is troubling to say the least, and it is reflective of a pattern of lack of understanding and lack of strategic depth that certainly runs counter to his claim of judgment and experience.

BRZEZINSKI: What -- what --

GEIST: Uh-oh. Joe?

BRZEZINSKI: Honey, are you OK?

GEIST: Joe's chasing a butterfly.


GEIST: He is in his slippers wandering around.

BRZEZINSKI: It's OK, take your meddies.

SCARBOROUGH: I was looking for some milk and crackers before I get the Ben-Gay and the liniment and rubbed it on and went to sleep. So -- you know, it's funny, I had my dinner at 4, and --

GEIST: Early bird special.

SCARBOROUGH: -- they brought in the creams and ointments, and I should be on top of the world today. Did you hear what she said? A disturbing -- and again, I love what they're doing here. This is just so Clintonian of them. You would -- they've learned. Susan Rice says, "Well, you know, it's a disturbing, disturbing pattern of confusing basic facts and reality." They are painting him as a doddering old fool.

BRZEZINSKI: She is going to be on the show today, so I look forward to hearing more.

GEIST: How about the guy who ran for president the last time for the Democrats? John Kerry even piling on the confusion. Here's what he said.

SCARBOROUGH: Oh, did he use the same word? OK.

KERRY [audio clip]: It really is becoming more crystal clear to a lot of us that John McCain simply doesn't understand it. That he confuses who Iran is training. He confuses what the makeup of Al Qaeda is. And he has shown a series of contradictions in his statements that reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the conflict.

GEIST: Ok, so Joe, seriously, I don't come from a world of politics. How does this work? Is there a conference call where they say "drop the word confusion"?

SCARBOROUGH: Yeah, there's a conference call or you have the communication director just saying, "We're going to hammer this point." And Republicans do it all of the time. You saw a couple of weeks ago when Scott McClellan's book came out, what was their word?

BRZEZINSKI: "This isn't the Scott I know."

SCARBOROUGH: They were saying, "This isn't the Scott I know," "bizarre," all of these other things. "Disgruntled." They have these catch words. So the Obama campaign -- and this has been at least a month long in the making where Obama was talking about how McCain was confused and so you're going to hear confused, confused, confused, because people start thinking, "Well, God, is he old and confused?" And John Kerry, a guy who served with John McCain a long time, saying he's confused and he's mixing up basic facts. He doesn't remember where his car keys are.

BRZEZINSKI: OK, now. He didn't say that.

SCARBOROUGH: He forgets the name of his grandchildren. No, I know he doesn't, but that -- that is the suggestion. That's the suggestion. And listen, it's fair.

BRZEZINSKI: Well, let's hear from him.

SCARBOROUGH: It's a fair attack. Of course, they're being very unfair at how they are cutting up the words but all is fair in politics.

GEIST: John McCain responded. He didn't like this.

SCARBOROUGH: He shouldn't like this.

GEIST: He got mad like the angry old man he is --

BRZEZINSKI: Oh, now stop.

GEIST: -- or so they have you believe.

SCARBOROUGH: You kids get off my lawn!

GEIST: Here is what he said yesterday.

McCAIN [video clip]: Instead of the sound bite, instead of taking someone's comments out of context and flashing it around on the cable shows, why don't we hear complete answers and complete thoughts?

SCARBOROUGH: See? That -- and they have awakened a sleeping giant, and when you hear John McCain talk moving forward, then it makes the Obama camp look like politicians. Now the bloggers, they love this second and a half, and they're going to chop it up and they're going to chop up the other thing. Again, his 100-year deal was also wrenched from its context. That being said, that's what happens in campaigns.

BRZEZINSKI: He's been around, he knows.

SCARBOROUGH: He needs to be more careful what he says. He's being honest. This is the Straight Talk Express. Mika, we'll see how smart those voters are, because you say voters -- I will say, Willie, there's a fascinating NBC/Wall Street Journal poll that suggests that voters actually agree with McCain on this.


SCARBOROUGH: And instead, let's talk about -- let's talk about a couple of events yesterday. First of all, the Obama campaign was talking a great deal about John McCain's Today show interview. Is there anything there -- John McCain saying, you know, how long the troops stay not important, and then they cut it off?

CAPEHART: Well, I think there's something to be said for -- it seems to me that Senator McCain might not have his finger too closely on the pulse of the country. To say that it doesn't matter when the troops come home? Try telling that to some of the families out there who are desperate for their sons and daughters and nieces and nephews to come home from Iraq.

Now, Senator McCain -- it was sort of a riff on what he's been saying for months now, which is, as long as our troops are not being fired at and not being killed, how long we stay in Iraq is inconsequential. We're still in South Korea, we're still in Japan, we're still in Germany, so --

SCARBOROUGH: Right, and -- right --

CAPEHART: -- our long-term strategic interest are there, so --

SCARBOROUGH: -- right, right, so that's his point. Right.

CAPEHART: That's his bigger point, but to say that "it doesn't matter" -- I can understand why some folks out there in the rest of the country might see -- hear that as sort of, you know, a banging, clanging gong.

SCARBOROUGH: Right. Now, the Obama campaign jumped on this, once again suggesting that Senator McCain may be confused. They went back, of course, the Sunni and Shia issue, said he was confused --


SCARBOROUGH: And they seem to be trying to paint him as an old man. Some might suggest that 71 is old. Is that fair game? Are we going to have that sort of code talk about McCain's age?

CAPEHART: We are having -- we are having that code talk about McCain's age. You know, individually, on their own, each one of those slips, missteps that Senator McCain has made don't mean a whole lot. But when you put them all together and then you start throwing in words like "confused," or what was the other word that Senator Obama used in an interview --

SCARBOROUGH: That's what --

BRZEZINSKI: "Troubling."

SCARBOROUGH: I'm trying to remember because he was saying the same thing. It was he's disoriented, or --

BRZEZINSKI: Here. "Disconcerting pattern of --"

CAPEHART: There was some word that he used --

SCARBOROUGH: Couple weeks ago.

CAPEHART: -- we talked about it.


CAPEHART: We talked about it, and I said, "Eh, come on." But now, when you start looking at it, the trend of these things, that might be something the Obama campaign is trying to put out there subtly --


CAPEHART: -- that, you know, Senator McCain, he's 71.


CAPEHART: Hey, my grandma's 71, and she's doing great in the nursing home. I ain't --

BRZEZINSKI: Oh, stop it.

CAPEHART: I'm just saying, that's all.

BRZEZINSKI: First of all, 70 is the new 60.

CAPEHART: That's what I say.

SCARBOROUGH: but anyway, so Jonathan, I think you're right; I think they're speaking in code and they'll continue. Let's talk, though, about the news that's on the front page of The Washington Post, the lead story, about this aide that --

BRZEZINSKI: Here's The New York Times.


SCARBOROUGH: We have two stories that are, that are competing.


SCARBOROUGH: It seems on TV, the McCain story --


SCARBOROUGH: -- plays very well, where you can cut out the part of his interview and saying that it doesn't matter how long our troops are staying in Iraq.

BRZEZINSKI: I think that's fair; I think you have to point out that can be done.

SCARBOROUGH: It can be done. It happens in politics all the time. And the Obama campaign basically coming back with an attack that he's a doddering, old fool, he's confused. Hey, Chris, again, the talking point yesterday for the Obama campaign was that he's confused, he's confused, old, confused guy. What was the statement, what was the term that Jonathan and I were trying to remember?

CHRIS LICHT (producer): Lost his bearings.

SCARBOROUGH: He's lost his bearings --


SCARBOROUGH: Barack Obama himself a couple weeks ago said I think McCain has, quote, "lost his bearings." This is, again, they have a very -- they have a definite plan to make him look confused and old, and, quote, that he's "lost his bearings."

BRZEZINSKI: And I think also to divert attention from the other story.


SCARBOROUGH: Let's now move onto the other story, and that is John McCain saying on the Today show what's important is not how quickly the troops come home, it's keeping casualties down and stabilizing Iraq. The Obama campaign jumped on him quickly -- did they have a point?

BARNICLE: You know, I think it's a cheap shot. They have a point. We all understand, you know, the back-and-forth, the instantaneous back-and-forth of politics today. I got a sense of what McCain meant, that the logistics of withdrawal will take care of themselves, that the low casualty rate is much more critical at this juncture, at this point in time. I think it's tough to put it on John McCain, that he doesn't care about the troops, but that's the way politics is played today.

SCARBOROUGH: That is, that is. And, you know, it's the Straight-Talk Express, he speaks his mind. But sometimes when he speaks his mind, he allows himself to be cut up. You have John Kerry talking about how he's confused. Susan Rice went and said, boy, there's a troubling pattern of him being confused and disoriented. You have Barack Obama talking about -- what was it? Did he talk about, "He must not have had his crackers and milk last night" --


SCARBOROUGH: He said he "lost his bearings." And again, they're making him out to be a doddering, old fool. Let me show you how John McCain responded, and see how confused he looks.

McCAIN [video clip]: Instead of the sound bite, instead of taking someone's comments out of context and flashing it around on the cable shows, why don't we hear complete answers and complete thoughts?

SCARBOROUGH: You know, McCain is one of those guys that you just don't want to tick off. Doesn't it seem, Mike, that when they make him out to be a doddering old fool and confused and a guy that loses his bearings, they make him angry, and then he goes out on the attack like that, and it ends up backfiring?

BARNICLE: Well he's much better, Joe, when he's angry.


BARNICLE: Especially in those town hall forums with the hand-held microphones. I've seen him on several occasions over the years in different states where a question -- and there's a part of John McCain that will look and sense the antagonism in the audience, the antagonistic questioner, and go right to that questioner because he likes the back-and-forth. And he's very effective when he is like that. Everyone knows a few things about John McCain in this country; I would think that one thing everybody knows about him more than every other element, is that he's 71 years of age. But he's a very young 71, and he's very specific on things. And Senator Obama is a terrific candidate and he's got music in his voice and music in every appearance when he appears before these phenomenally huge crowds, he's a terrific candidate -- but he's not exactly the most specific candidate we've seen.


SCARBOROUGH: Help us out here, because the Obama campaign is suggesting that he's old and he's confused --

BRZEZINSKI: We're confused.

SCARBOROUGH: John Kerry came out yesterday and said, "Oh, McCain's just confused." Susan Rice says he's confused.

BRZEZINSKI: Lost his bearings.

SCARBOROUGH: Barack Obama, he's lost his bearings. Makes him sound like he's playing shuffle board on a Carnival cruise.


SCARBOROUGH: Is he confused? Is he a doddering old man?

CRIST: No, not at all.

SCARBOROUGH; Hey, what's going on here?

CRIST: This is -- well, I don't know. Sounds like negative campaigning to me. And it's disrespectful.

SCARBOROUGH: No, no. They're a new type of campaign.

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah, right. Change.

SCARBOROUGH: Change, yeah. Not that negative stuff.

CRIST: Well, yeah, while we're talking about age, I'd like to do a personal shout-out to my father and wish him a happy birthday. My dad is 76 years old today --


GEIST: All right.


CRIST: And happy birthday, dad.

SCARBOROUGH: All right, dad.


SCARBOROUGH: So are you -- talking about John McCain, obviously, the Obama camp is trying to make his age an issue. Should it be an issue?

CRIST: I don't think so. Not at all. You know, this one of the most energetic people I've had the pleasure to be around. He is strong. He is sharp. He is on his game. He gets it. He understands that we need to cut taxes. He understands that climate change is an important issue. He understands that the American people are suffering at the gas pump. I mean, John McCain gets it, and I'm honored to support him.

SCARBOROUGH; So, he's not confused.

CRIST: Not in the least.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, they suggest -- John Kerry suggests, and Susan Rice with the campaign suggests that he's confused, and Obama has said that he has "lost his bearings," that he's confused because he's said it doesn't matter how long our troops stay in Iraq. Talk about that.

CRIST: Well, you know, we have bases and troops that are around the globe, in Germany, in South Korea, other places, in order to make sure that we maintain the security of those places, that we respect those countries, and it's a long-held tradition that we have in America to help our friends, to be good neighbors, to make sure that our allies are supported by the United States of America. That's just good foreign policy, and John McCain understands it, I think, much better than the other side.

BRZEZINSKI: Is there a pattern here, though, that the Obama campaign is pointing to, in terms of, perhaps, maybe he is overselling his national security knowledge? I mean, you see and you hear what Kerry and Rice are saying --

CRIST: Sure.

BRZEZINSKI: -- and they're definitely honing in on this on their Today show interview.

CRIST: I don't think that Senator McCain oversells anything. I think he is truly a straight-talk candidate, and his record speaks for itself, after all. I mean, this is a genuine American hero. John McCain is a man who has served his country not only in the military but, obviously, in his public service, served incredibly well. He's a very bright guy, he cares deeply about people. I mean, this is a man who's campaigned in this general election to where a lot of presidential candidates didn't even go, from Appalachia to Alabama. All over the country, he's got great energy, great enthusiasm, and he's a great candidate and he'll be a great president.


SCARBOROUGH: Susan, you also suggested that it may be a bigger problem with John McCain. Let me read your quote to you, back to you, where you talk about how John McCain is confused. Of course, Senator Kerry also talked about how John McCain was confused. That was the word of the day yesterday, and Barack Obama himself said a couple of weeks ago that Senator McCain had lost his bearings. First of all, this is what you said yesterday. Let's play it back.

RICE [audio clip]: A real disturbing, even disconcerting, pattern of confusing the basic facts and reality that pertain to Iraq from John McCain over a series of months. He doesn't know how many forces we have there. He thought we were down to pre-surge levels. He's repeatedly, in the course of four days, confused Sunni and Shia. ... So this is troubling to say the least, and it is reflective of a pattern of lack of understanding and lack of strategic depth that certainly runs counter to his claim of judgment and experience.

SCARBOROUGH: You do actually talk about experience there, but everybody that we've had on, all the political analysts we've had on this morning, are saying that you all are speaking in code, suggesting that John McCain is an old man who gets confused easily.

RICE: Well Joe, there's no code here. What I was saying yesterday and what I will say again today is when it comes to understanding the facts about what's happening in Iraq, and indeed in the region, John McCain, who touts his judgment and experience, has gotten it patently wrong. There are not 130,000 troops, pre-surge level, in Iraq. There are about 150,000 troops. He got that wrong and argued with the reporter --

SCARBOROUGH: Isn't it -- isn't it playing gotcha politics?

RICE: No, no, no --

SCARBOROUGH: You know as well as I do that people are out on the campaign trail every day. Susan -- I would say the same thing if somebody played gotcha against your candidate -- that sometimes you slip up.

RICE: It's more than just slipping up, though, Joe. He argued with the reporter about what the force levels were in Iraq. He argued with another reporter about who was the supreme leader in Iran. He multiple times got Sunni and Shia mixed up. I think this is a legitimate question --

SCARBOROUGH: So is he confused?

RICE: -- about whether he has the right facts to make the right judgments, and then, of course, his actual judgments have been wrong.

SCARBOROUGH: So, he's been up there for a quarter of a century. Is he stupid? Is he confused? Is he getting old?

RICE: No. No, he's not stupid.

SCARBOROUGH: Is he having a hardening of the arteries?

RICE: He's not stupid.

SCARBOROUGH: What's going on here? What are you suggesting?

RICE: I think that's a question for the McCain --

SCARBOROUGH: That sounded like a Chris Matthews question, by the way. Sorry, go ahead.

RICE: I think that's a question for the McCain camp to answer, Joe. I was very clear yesterday. I wasn't ascribing any explanation to his mixing up of the facts, but I am pointing out, and I do think its important for the American people to realize, that whether we're understanding the difference between Sunni and Shia, how many troops we have on the ground, the impact of our -- of whether we stay indefinitely in Iraq, as John McCain suggested again yesterday he was prepared to do if casualties aren't too high, or whether he recognizes the need to draw down, to reset our military and to deal with Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. These are critical issues of policy and judgment, and repeatedly, John McCain has got them wrong, and I think the American people ought to ask what that suggests.


SCARBOROUGH: Mika is shocked and stunned and deeply saddened that the Obama campaign is engaging in politics. Can you explain to Mika why it's a smart move for them to hammer away at McCain, to suggest he's old and confused, to suggest that he doesn't have the experience? It sounds shocking that you would say that a guy that got beaten up in a POW camp doesn't have the experience required. But they've got to put a question mark -- I mean, I am shocked by that, but they've got to put a question mark over his head, don't they?


SCARBOROUGH: But it happens.

HAROLD FORD JR. (Democratic Leadership Council chairman): I think Mika appreciates the thought. I've listened to the last back-and-forth in the conversation. I think Joe is spot-on in this regard. They have found a narrative that irritates John McCain. John McCain, throughout his political career, has shown a temperament that at times can be excited. And it's obvious that he is irritated --

SCARBOROUGH: He's my kind of man.

FORD: -- by Senator Obama and his campaign's raising this point. This is not the first time he's made a mistake in commenting about Iraq. He was in Iran, had to have Joe Lieberman correct -- or in Iraq and had to have Joe Lieberman correct the statement that he made.


FORD: So to have Senator Obama and his team stay on message as they are and to continue this narrative, as Joe said, I think is something not only will remind voters, but it will irritate John McCain and maybe get at that infamous temper that he has.

SCARBOROUGH: Now, it is dangerous, though, isn't it, to suggest that a guy that got beaten up in Hanoi as a POW, that can't raise his hands over his head or comb his hair because he got abused so much for five years as an American patriot, isn't it kind of dangerous to suggest that that guy doesn't have experience in foreign policy?

BRZEZINSKI: Especially --

FORD: But I don't think -- I don't think that's what they're doing. I think their point is different. Susan's point this morning and John Kerry's point were different. It's that there's a strategic understanding -- a lack of a strategic understanding what's happening on the ground in Iraq.

BRZEZINSKI: Understanding.

SCARBOROUGH: They say he's confused. He's confused.

FORD: No, no. I don't think --

SCARBOROUGH: He's appearing confused and he's lost his bearings.

FORD: No, but Susan didn't say that --

SCARBOROUGH: That he can't -- no, no they said that he can't, that sometimes he has trouble finding his way back to the shuffleboard court.

BRZEZINSKI: "Disturbing, even disconnecting, pattern of confusing the basic facts." This is Susan Rice.

FORD: Well, these are basic facts about Iraq.


FORD: But that has nothing to do --

BRZEZINSKI: OK, so here's the thing --

FORD: No one is going to question this man's heroism, his patriotism, John McCain's.

BRZEZINSKI: I know, but here's the thing, here's the -- I mean, you know --

FORD: These are three fundamental mistakes now about his understanding about what's happening on the ground in Iraq.

BRZEZINSKI: I agree. I'm just saying that do they need to do this, or can they stay focused on what they have been and that is the philosophy towards the war in general and the direction of this country? Why do they need to go here?

FORD: But I think Senator McCain, in fairness to Senator McCain, his support for what's happening in Iraq and his approach to what should be happening in Iraq is based on a lot of the statements that he's making. I don't think it's unfair for the Obama campaign, who has a different approach, to surmise that maybe Senator McCain believes what he believes about Iraq because of these statements. Some of these statements just happened to be fundamentally false. So for them to raise this point, I would agree -- I wouldn't go overboard with it, but at the same time, I don't think there's anything wrong with raising these facts.

SCARBOROUGH: But they're also raising the specter that he's old and confused and he's, quote, "lost his bearings."

FORD: Well, I think there will be those who will comment on it and provide some outside -- but he made these comments. If he was 29 years old or 39 years old or 49 years old and said this, he would still be wrong. It's just he's not 49. He's 23 years older --

SCARBOROUGH: My question is, Harold, do you believe they're trying to make an issue of his age by talking about him, quote, losing his bearings --

BRZEZINSKI: I mean, look, we got Kerry and Rice --

SCARBOROUGH: I mean, come on, [unintelligible]. I know you're with the DLC, but come on, be real.

FORD: I've been -- I've been honest on this show --

SCARBOROUGH: So let's be honest again.

FORD: -- I don't believe -- I don't believe --

SCARBOROUGH: Would you say a 29-year-old is losing his bearings like Barack Obama said about 71-year-old John McCain --

BRZEZINSKI: And confused.

SCARBOROUGH: -- and confused?

FORD: You may recall about almost two years ago now, Senator McCain sent Senator Obama a harshly written letter about campaign reform, and he basically challenged Senator Obama's integrity and character.


FORD: When he said "lose his bearings," I think Senator Obama was referring to that moment two years ago when it seemed as if Senator McCain kind of overreacted to a situation. I think -- if the campaign tries to play the age issue, it will backfire on them. I will say -- that's my advice to Senator Obama's campaign. However, Senator Obama has every right, and every one of those advisers and ever surrogate has every right to say, if he believes that we are at a certain troop level in Iraq and we are not and he is basing his formulation and his suggestions and recommendations for the country on these issues, then he's wrong, and he may be wrong because he has the facts wrong. It took Joe Lieberman to correct him in his ear on the ground in Iraq.

BRZEZINSKI: I remember that.

FORD: I mean, we sat on this show and talked about that. That has nothing to do with age, he's just -- he's just wrong.

SCARBOROUGH: He's just confused.

FORD: He's just wrong.

BRZEZINSKI: Now, stop it, Joe. You just stop it.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, that's their word. I wanted to give Harold had a chance. The word of the day is "confused."

BRZEZINSKI: It's like the Sesame Street show. All right, well, I see a pattern. I see talking points in these statements, and that does not seem like the Obama campaign. I could be wrong, but they claim not to be like this.

SCARBOROUGH: It's politics. It's politics, Harold.


Joe Scarborough
Morning Joe
Barack Obama, John McCain, 2008 Elections
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