The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, January 23, 2009. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's blog at The Huffington Post website.
As a Psychologist, Examining Gender Dynamics on Morning Joe
Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski have both discussed family dynamics on MSNBC's Morning Joe, which they co-host. In many ways, these dynamics seem to repeat themselves in interactions on the show. Scarborough often browbeats and intimidates Brzezinski, which his wife has text-messaged him about. For her part, Brzezinski expresses trepidation whenever her father, old-worldly Zbigniew, is scheduled to appear.
Scarborough is a former Florida congressman and an extremely aggressive, largely-conservative host (he did question that Iraq War early on -- although he now calls the surge a major success and praises the Bush Administration for its anti-terrorism efforts). Co-host Brzezinski's father, Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, was National Security Advisor to Jimmy Carter.
Scarborough's views have broadened somewhat since he served as a rank-and-file member of the Contract-with-America crowd under Newt Gingrich. But he's an ironclad conservative in defending Bush's policies on wire-tapping, Guantanamo, and torture -- indeed, he usually takes the Bush Administration one step further in simply claiming any actions in these arenas are justified since they protect America.
Views like these inevitably provoke Mika to some form of inchoate objection -- but she can barely utter a sentence of disagreement because, (a) she herself is so hesitant, (b) Joe instantly jumps on her lines, asking provocative, sarcastic questions -- often in an angry tone -- concerning her willingness to allow a repeat of 9-11, which Bush et al. prevented in Scarborough's view. Scarborough's attitude towards Brzezinski is demeaning, often approaching abusive.
On Thursday, Scarborough wouldn't allow Brzezinski to finish half of a sentence in support of President Obama's order for the closing of Guantanamo within the year. As if Joe's aggressive interruptions weren't enough, Pat Buchanan was also present to ask Brzezinski if she would be willing to justify her policies to the parents of children killed on a plane blown up by one of the released Gitmo detainees. As is her wont, Brzezinski scurried for cover, uttering, "That's the difficulty Obama faces." Viewers could almost see her whimpering, "Stop berating me!"
Adding to the backstory for these interactions, the elder Brzezinski appears from time to time on the program. His daughter visibly quakes at the prospect. The old-line Brzezinski brooks no disagreement -- he recently called Scarborough "stunningly superficial" and followed up with "it's almost embarrassing to listen to you" when Joe claimed "you cannot blame what's going on in Israel on the Bush administration," instead blaming it on the Clinton Administration. After her father left, Mika pulled the curtain open around the Brzezinski family by noting that such interactions often characterized her family gatherings, and had ruined at least one Christmas.
These experiences with her father have prepared her well for co-hosting with Scarborough. He not long ago mentioned that his wife texted him, "I love you deeply. But you've got to stop interrupting -- it makes you look bad." Scarborough seemingly cannot control himself -- and Brzezinski plays into his behavior. These two highly visible media figures don't paint a pretty picture of inter-gender relationships.