MSNBC host Joe Scarborough sounded warning notes about extremists within the conservative movement in a talk to major givers to the United Jewish Appeal of MetroWest NJ.
Speaking Sept. 24 at the Crystal Plaza in Livingston, the former Republican congressman from Florida distanced himself from right-wing talk-show hosts Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. He returned to Beck, a Fox News host, again and again throughout his talk.
“I think people like Glenn Beck are a danger to the country,” said Scarborough. “To have people go on the air and make money saying the president of the United States is racist, or the president of the United States hates all white people; to have people selling their books or getting ratings by [making] analogies between Nazi Germany and what President Obama is doing — that is dangerous. It’s dangerous for the country.
“I tell my Republican friends it’s dangerous for the conservative movement.”
Scarborough, host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe and a syndicated show on the ABC radio network, was the keynote speaker at the Major Gifts dinner for individuals or couples donating $10,000 or more to the UJA campaign. His cohost, Mika Brzezinski, also attended the event.
The audience of 305 donors gave Scarborough a warm greeting, although he made a few quips acknowledging that he was well aware that New Jersey’s Jews voted Democratic by a margin of three to one in 2008.
“I disagree with a lot of what President Obama is doing,” Scarborough said, “but we should fight this fight over ideals — it’s a great opportunity to have a debate on the issues. I think it is the responsibility of the leaders of both parties to be respectful and have a civil discussion.” He invited former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney “to stand up and campaign against Glenn Beck.”
He avoided specific issues on the domestic agenda, but struck a chord with the audience in his discussion of Israel and the threat posed by Iran.
He said he disagreed with the White House’s call for a freeze, since modified, on Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
“We are acting as if the road map to peace in the Middle East is only being blocked by Jewish settlers — that if we could only get the Jews to stop building settlements, we would have peace. Why, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” he said.
“Anyone who looks at the Middle East knows that as long as Israel has no partner to negotiate with in good faith, as long as its peace partner is seeking the destruction of the State of Israel — that’s what Hamas is seeking — why are we talking about settlements? Why not tell the Palestinians, ‘If you want peace, if you want help, you need to clean up your act first?’”
Scarborough called Iran, and its nuclear ambitions, a “critical issue,” and said there would be “tough days ahead.”
“Iran is a problem for the U.S.; for Israel, Iran is an existential threat to Israel’s existence,” he said. “Israeli leaders are going to have to make a decision — if [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, who has promised to obliterate the State of Israel, if they cross that red line, if we know they have taken the final step and have nuclear weapons, Israel is going to have to make a very grim decision.
“I have to say, I don’t know where the United States is going to be. I hope we’re standing shoulder to shoulder with Israel. At this time, in the fall of 2009, I just don’t know. It’s time to make our voices known. This is crunch time.”
Finally, Scarborough predicted Republican victories in New Jersey, where incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine is lagging in polls behind Republican challenger Chris Christie, and in Virginia, whose governor’s mansion is up for grabs.
“With Corzine it will be a tough race. And I’ll be shocked if Virginia does not go Republican. It’s a brutal climate for Democrats now,” he said.
The dinner, which kicked off the 2010 campaign year for United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ and its UJA campaign, was chaired by Peter Langerman, Lisa Lisser, and Jon Mann.
UJC MetroWest campaign chair Scott Krieger urged participants not only to continue giving despite a poor economy, but challenged them to raise their gifts by five percent to honor a $5 donation given last year by a youngster whose father had lost his job.
“If he can do it, I can do it,” Krieger said.