Assuming the sourcing on this upcoming GQ story is solid (and it looks pretty good, at least in part) then it will make for one of the more amusing sidebar tales from the 2016 election. The relationship between presidential candidate Donald Trump (as opposed to his previous incarnation as a business magnate) and Morning Joe has been a rocky one to say the least. The Donald got a lot of airtime on the MSNBC morning show throughout last year and straight through the winter. While he received his fair share of criticism from the panel, including getting hung up on at one point when Joe couldn’t get him to stop talking, he still enjoyed a relationship with Joe Scarborough and the MoJo crew which could be described as anything from professional to downright cozy.
But things changed over the summer and the relationship seemed to go sour. He doesn’t really call in to the show anymore, and Scarborough has been pretty firmly in the camp of disqualifying him for the Oval Office, going so far as to say that he won’t be voting for him. The GQ article alludes to a break in their relationship which they attribute to rumors (and these can’t be classified as more than the impressions of others) that Joe fancied himself to be Trump’s VP pick if he got the nomination.
People who talked with Scarborough about his conversations with Trump say they concerned more than mere etiquette. Scarborough told others that he was providing Trump with everything from policy advice to debate pointers. More important, Scarborough left others with the impression that he believed Trump was seriously entertaining the idea of tapping him as his running mate. “When he was in his ‘Love Trump’ phase,” says one person familiar with Scarborough’s thinking during this period, “he thought he could or should be Trump’s veep.”
But after months as Trump’s cable-news hype man, it became clear to Scarborough that what worked in a Republican primary wouldn’t work in a general-election campaign—and when Trump failed to pivot, Scarborough says, he had no choice but to begin criticizing him. Their phone calls, Scarborough told me, became less frequent and more hostile.
Again, there’s nothing solid from anyone willing to go on record that Joe ever expressed a serious interest in being Trump’s veep. In fact, based on my own interactions with him, I was guessing that it never happened as I read the article. One of the first times I ever met Scarborough was at an event in New Hampshire where he was a guest speaker (in addition to promoting his last book) and I asked him the inevitable question about whether he was “testing the waters” for a presidential run of his own. My take on it is that he enjoys hearing the question and doesn’t mind people speculating (which is never bad for ratings) but he’s got other things on his mind and a lot keeping him busy in his personal and professional life.
The story was interesting enough, but as I noted, it’s relying on the usual unnamed sources for the juicy bits. I did some checking of my own and one NBC employee described the material about the VP aspirations as being, “filled with blind quotes and off the record remarks by two bitter former network executives who were forced out.”
That didn’t seem to be quite enough so I decided to cut out the middle man and get hold of Scarborough myself. He was nice enough to respond and had this short remark to offer about his supposed Trump VP aspirations.
“As I told the reporter, anyone who says they heard me talking about it is lying. I never considered it and never would under any circumstances. The feeling is mutual with Trump. Anyone suggesting otherwise has as troubled a relationship with the truth as Trump and Clinton.”
So what about a Presidential run? I asked Joe about that and, as usual, it seems to be more in the eye of the beholder. I don’t doubt that he’d consider it in the future if the tea leaves were giving positive signs, but all Joe told me today was that he’s “not actively working on a presidential run at this time.”
The truly interesting part of the GQ piece, however, is the one that’s accurate (and Scarborough confirmed this for me). Joe is a musician in addition to being a morning show host and plays weekly gigs in the city. On top of that, GQ is quoting him as saying that he’s writing a musical about Donald Trump. Yes… really.
“It’s actually Hamilton meets The Book of Mormon,” Scarborough gushed, pitching his conceit for the comic romp. With Brzezinski egging him on, Scarborough, whose ego is as healthy as his head of hair, reached into his briefcase and pulled out his iPhone. He wanted me to have a listen. “I hope you have no problem putting in my earbuds,” he said, giving them a perfunctory wipe on the hem of his shirt. He pressed “play,” the music swelled, and soon a male voice, the titular character, was belting in my ears:
I’m just a simple man
Blessed with this orange tan
I’m simply titanic
Beloved by Hispanics and Jews
Losers don’t understand
The genius of my border plan
They call me a fool
Then they dare ridicule my huge hands
Is it really something he’s planning on putting on Broadway or is it a fun side project that Joe’s playing round with in league with some of his musically oriented friends and getting GQ to raise some buzz? Good question. But if he produced it and it showed up on Broadway, I’m guessing they could fill some seats just by having “Trump” in the name.