PoliticsJoe Scarborough Has Big Dreams (Including 'Trump: The Musical')
At the center of America's schizoid political-fame complex, there sits Joe Scarborough, a congressman turned TV star who somehow built the most influential show in Washington despite never wanting to be a mere morning-show host. Now, as he quests for something grander—he's turned his fraught relationship with Donald Trump into grist for a nutty new project, a Trump musical—the ample-egoed Scarborough is trying to prove there's no business like political show business.
"Play it for him, Joe,"Mika Brzezinski said. She lowered her voice to a husky whisper. "Just give him a little taste."
It was a recent morning in New York City, a couple of hours after Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough had signed off on yet another episode of MSNBC's Morning Joe, and now she was trying to get her co-host to let me in on a secret. It was a secret about Donald Trump.
You wouldn't know it now—after all, since late spring, Scarborough has been one of Trump's biggest critics—but in the ﬁrst eight months of the Trump candidacy, Scarborough often seemed to be an adjunct of the Donald's campaign, lobbing softball questions at Trump when he'd phone in to the show, and giving him tongue baths in absentia when he wasn't on the program. Trump, Scarborough told his viewers, was "a masterful politician," the veritable second coming of Ronald Reagan.
That sort of sycophancy didn't sit well with some of Scarborough's colleagues (various NBC employees I spoke with characterized it as "unseemly," "inappropriate," and "a disgrace"), but the ﬂattery certainly tickled Trump. "You have me almost as a legendary ﬁgure," he complimented Scarborough in February; on another occasion, he referred to Scarborough and Brzezinski as "supporters."
Of course, the affection was ﬂeeting. As Trump failed to moderate his message, Scarborough grew skeptical—and by the summer, when he talked on-air about a Trump presidency, he conjured visions of race riots and nuclear holocaust. Privately, he was musing on the meaning of Trump's political foray in stranger ways. And now, as we sat in his office at 30 Rock, I wondered what he had to reveal: A damning voice mail from the Donald? A clandestine recording about the nation's 47 percent? Scarborough had me on tenterhooks. Finally, he gave me his scoop. "I'm working on a musical," he said. "It's Trump: The Musical."
I laughed, but when I realized he wasn't joking, my amusement gave way to admiration for what Scarborough had glimpsed for himself: opportunity. A character he once imagined in the White House he now envisioned on Broadway. "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
He hit "pause," and I took out the earbuds. The snippet I'd heard was rough—just a demo, Scarborough reminded me, sung by a friend of his—but in a month, he'd visit a New York City studio to produce a more polished version. There, David Cook, Taylor Swift's band director, would man the soundboard, and Rory O'Malley, who currently brings down the house as King George III in Hamilton, would handle the vocal work. After that, Scarborough and his agent, Ari Emanuel, would have what they needed to start lining up ﬁnancial backers to stage a production. Scarborough's wide, expectant smile belied any insecurity, any sense that this might be a daunting ﬁeld to jump into.
I asked him if he was sure that people—not to mention Broadway audiences—would still be interested in Trump after November. "Oh yeah," Scarborough replied. "There's enough general-interest knowledge about this guy that I can write basically whatever I want to write." He got even more excited as images of ovations and Tony Awards seemed to ﬂicker in his eyes. "People are like, 'Well, what if he wins?' " Scarborough said. "I go, 'That's even better!' "
For all the damage Trump's presidential run has inﬂicted on the body politic, it's done something remarkable for Joe Scarborough. It's boosted his proﬁle on the political-media landscape, sure, but it has also enlarged some already gargantuan ambitions. If the insanity of our political age has induced anxiety in the vast majority of us, in Scarborough something else has been stirred: a renewed conviction that he's capable of feats far beyond a morning TV show. And at a moment when politics is hot and bizarre and very much alive in our culture, who can blame a guy for thinking big?
Scarborough, a former Florida congressman who spent the '90s putting a friendly face on some of Newt Gingrich's harsher Republican policies, birthed Morning Joe nine years ago. And with a rotating assortment of political hands and journalists, he's used the show, ever since, to stoke the curiosities of a tribe of inﬂuencers scattered up and down the Acela Corridor. "I've been on Morning Joe and gotten four-star generals who text me in the middle of the show with something surprisingly newsworthy," says The Washington Post's David Ignatius, a frequent guest.
When Trump jumped into the presidential race last year, Scarborough had been friendly with the businessman for nearly a dozen years, and he began talking him up as a contender when most pundits were dismissing him as a sideshow. Scarborough says he was simply predicting the political future—correctly, as it turns out. He boasts about a drive he took last summer to Scranton, Pennsylvania, for a family wedding, during which he stopped at a Target just west of Nyack to use the ATM. (He'd forgotten his E-Z Pass.) "I looked around at all the people there, and I immediately picked up the phone," Scarborough recalls. "I called Mika, and I said, 'Trump's gonna win the Republican nomination.'"
But people close to Scarborough say that his early enthusiasm for Trump was about something more than clairvoyance. "He was ﬂattered that Trump watched his show and would call him," says one person inside MSNBC. "I think he was seduced by that. This was becoming the biggest story in the world, and he was in contact with him every day."
Only Trump and Scarborough know for certain what the two men discussed in those frequent conversations. Trump maintains that Scarborough was even more complimentary in private than he was being in public at the time. "Joe called my cell phone at eleven o'clock after one of the debates," Trump recalled for me, "and he said, 'Congratulations, you have just become president! You killed everybody.' And then I watched the show the next morning, and he didn't say that. I called him and asked him why. He said, 'I don't want people to know how good friends we are.' "
Scarborough told me he mostly tried to persuade Trump to apologize to the various aggrieved targets of his ridicule or outrage—Mexican immigrants, John McCain, Roger Ailes, or whomever else Trump was offending. Finally, Scarborough says, Trump told him: "Joe, I'm just not that kind of person. I just don't apologize. I'm sorry. You apologize. I don't apologize."
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.
Perhaps the ﬁnal straw came when Scarborough casually mentioned on-air that Chris Christie and Bernie Sanders drew better ratings than Trump when they were guests on Morning Joe. Loose talk about something as important to Trump as television ratings was a knife to the back that prompted an angry e-mail to Scarborough. "He basically said we weren't his friends anymore," Scarborough recalled. "He said that he'd hired somebody to put together a spreadsheet that showed that he got consistently higher ratings than both Sanders and Christie." Intrigued, I asked Scarborough if he would share the spreadsheet with me. "He said he had a spreadsheet," Scarborough replied. "Do you think he had a spreadsheet? Do you think he had investigators looking for Obama's birth certiﬁcate in Hawaii? He didn't have a spreadsheet! That's Donald Trump."
As for whether he'd once hoped to join a Trump ticket, Scarborough was ﬁrm. "There was absolutely no time that I ever considered even being considered for any position in Donald Trump's administration," he told me. "Not only did I never think about it, but I'm sure he never thought about it, either."
In a rare instance of agreement between the two these days, Trump concurs. "I never even thought of it," he told me. "Why would I pick a low-rated TV host?" By late summer, any vestige of a warm relationship was gone. In August, after a particularly rough bout of on-air criticism, Trump issued a volley of tweets in which he declared Morning Joe "unwatchable" and proclaimed the show's hosts to be "Two clowns!" (For the record, Trump emphasizes that he himself no longer watches Morning Joe but, as he told me, has "spotters" who watch it for him and fill him on what transpires.)
For all the newfound acrimony, Trump's success has prompted Scarborough to re-assess his own political prospects. Although he's often toyed with the idea of making another run for office—ﬂoating his name for a Florida Senate seat or eyeing the race for Connecticut governor—Scarborough's ambitions have ratcheted up. Increasingly, he's grown convinced that if Trump can make a serious run for the presidency, so, potentially, could he. According to Scarborough's thinking, Trump demonstrates just how formidable a candidate with excellent media skills can be; imagine if such a candidate also possessed a proven understanding of politics.
"I'll just be really blunt. He actually does present an opening," Scarborough told me in one of our several conversations. "When I ran [for Congress] in '94, I ran as a conservative-slash-populist, and Republicans have been getting drubbed on the national level because they all talk like American Enterprise Institute policy wonks," getting in a subtle dig at, presumably, House Speaker Paul Ryan. Scarborough went on, "Conservative-populists like myself have never been accepted in polite political society, but Donald Trump makes me look absolutely mainstream."
Michael Weisman, who until earlier this year was the MSNBC executive in charge of Morning Joe, says: "I've given up on my dream of playing center field for the Yankees. I don't think Joe has given up on his dream of being president."
Or maybe, thanks to Trump, Scarborough will now chase other, similarly audacious dreams—like being a Broadway producer. Whatever the case, Trump has played a major role in improving the already-pretty-excellent life that Scarborough—who, little more than a decade ago, appeared to be a washed-up politician and third-tier TV personality—has built for himself.
From a studio on the third ﬂoor of the NBC News headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Center, Morning Joe is broadcast every weekday morning starting at 6 a.m. But that's no guarantee that Scarborough himself will be there. Some mornings he connects from New Canaan, Connecticut—from a studio the network set up for him in his home; occasionally, he beams in from a public-access station on Nantucket, where he likes to vacation. And on mornings when he's at 30 Rock, he's that rare host of an eponymous television show who sometimes arrives when that show is already on television.
That the show's creator plays by a different set of rules is proof of the enormous power he wields within the network. As one television insider put it to me, "There's no other show on broadcast or on cable right now where the host has more control or is more dominant than Scarborough."
Although the number of viewers who tune in to Morning Joe averages only about 500,000—Fox News's morning program Fox & Friends, by contrast, routinely pulls in more than 1 million—those viewers are sufficiently desirable to advertisers that the show fetches premium rates. "The show is a revenue driver and a big part of our success," says MSNBC president Phil Griffin. Accordingly, the show's creator is paid handsomely: According to a cable-news executive who spoke to me about the ﬁnancials of the show, Scarborough currently makes $8 million a year.
Despite the show's success, Scarborough's own perception of its inﬂuence is notably outsize. Serving daily as grand marshal to a parade of self-styled thought-leaders and power brokers, all of them desperate for airtime, can make a guy think pretty highly of himself. As when Scarborough recalled for me his encounters with Barack Obama: "The ﬁrst ﬁve times I saw him, he said, 'Well, you know, I don't watch your show because it's on too early.' I said, 'Mr. President, you know, if you hadn't told me ﬁve times you didn't watch my show, I actually would have believed that you were the one inﬂuencer in Washington that doesn't watch my show.'"
That one man's president is another man's "inﬂuencer"—"It might as well be called Morning Delusions of Grandeur," quips one of Scarborough's former colleagues—says a lot about how far the show has come from its humble beginnings. In 2007, after MSNBC abruptly dropped Don Imus, Scarborough was given the morning slot to serve as a mere placeholder after his own prime-time program, Scarborough Country, had ﬁzzled. But Scarborough resolved to build something that could last. He recruited Brzezinski, a newsreader who'd recently been let go by CBS, and Willie Geist, primarily a behind-the-camera producer, to sit alongside him. Mike Barnicle, a longtime Boston Globe columnist who'd been forced out amid allegations of plagiarism and fabrication, frequently accompanied them. "A lot of us had been ﬁred, had been washed-up, had been thrown off to the side," Brzezinski says now. "We were the Island of Misﬁt Toys."
And early on, the show was treated accordingly. When Scarborough asked if he could join the network's other anchors in Iowa for the 2008 presidential caucuses, Griffin, MSNBC's top executive, told him no. "Finally, I called him, like, two days before," Scarborough recalls. "I said, 'Phil, Mika and I are going to be in Iowa, in Des Moines. If you want a show, you might want to send some cameras out there.'" Griffin did, although he didn't allow Morning Joe to broadcast from the elaborate set MSNBC had rigged up for its other programs in the Des Moines civic center, instead relegating it to a coffee house. One morning, after appearing remotely on Morning Joe from the civic center, Tim Russert wandered over to the coffee house. "We always tell the story about how he came through the door, snow coming in behind him, and asked if he could be on the show," Scarborough says. "That was really sort of the first time the network blessed the show."
"A lot of people who revel in the success of Morning Joe had to be brought there by Joe," says Chris Licht, who was the show's executive producer for its ﬁrst four years and is now in charge of Stephen Colbert's Late Show. Licht says Scarborough earned the latitude he now enjoys at MSNBC: "It's a very unique thing in television where you can say, 'No one believed me, now look where we are. I got us here, so I'll continue to call the shots, if you don't mind.' "
And Scarborough deﬁnitely continues to call the shots. "We have complete, extraordinary autonomy," he boasts. Morning Joe's offices are in a light-filled, wood-floored space two stories below—and a world away—from the dingy newsroom dwellings occupied by Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O'Donnell, and the rest of the MSNBC lineup. Visitors to the show's invite-only headquarters are immediately greeted by a giant Peter Max painting of Scarborough and Brzezinski strolling along a beach dune in Nantucket. "It's like Saddam's Iraq, with all the Joe and Mika iconography," one show guest has quipped of the Morning Joe offices.
Scarborough marks his territory in less literal ways as well. For a guy who's sometimes accused by colleagues of laziness—witness his occasional tardiness, for instance—Scarborough exercises a near fanatical control over his program, from bookings (during the Democratic primaries, he refused to let any Clinton campaign surrogates on Morning Joe until Clinton herself appeared) to on-screen graphics. Indeed, the show's air of nonchalance belies a remarkable amount of effort on Scarborough's part. "I've done a lot of television over the years, and I sit on sets with hosts who don't even notice that something's going wrong," says Mark Halperin, a frequent Morning Joe guest. "Joe doesn't coast."
Licht recounts an incident from 2010, when Morning Joe was being broadcast from NBC's studios in Washington, D.C., and Scarborough left the set mid-broadcast to visit the control room to reprimand Licht over the placement of the Steadicam operator. Their argument carried on after the show, in the NBC parking lot. A short time later, Licht suffered a near fatal brain hemorrhage. "We joke that he almost killed me," Licht says.
Scarborough is said to be especially hard on his boss Griffin—constantly demanding, and almost invariably getting, his way. So much so that some inside MSNBC complain about the rules that govern their behavior and then the more relaxed "Joe Rules" that apply to Scarborough. "Phil recognizes that part of what makes Joe work well is when he feels he has freedom—real and perceived," says one MSNBC executive, who defends Griffin's handling of the network's morning star. According to NBC insiders, Scarborough caused a headache for Griffin last year when, for an exclusive interview he and Brzezinski did with the controversial conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch, the pair traveled from New York to Wichita on a Koch Industries private plane. After an internal stink over this journalistic sin, those insiders say, Griffin had MSNBC reimburse the Kochs for the Morning Joe co-hosts' ride. About the only instance in recent years in which Scarborough didn't get his way with Griffin, according to two sources, was when the host, after searching for his name on the Internet and being displeased with the results, demanded that the network president "call Google" to fix it. Griffin had to inform Scarborough that, alas, Google's search algorithms were beyond his control.
For years, Scarborough complained—bitterly in private and not even all that cryptically in public—about the network's lefty slant. But since Andy Lack retook the reins of NBC News last year, he's demoted or jettisoned many of the more ideologically driven MSNBC hosts—from Al Sharpton to Ed Schultz to Melissa Harris-Perry. At the same time, Lack has elevated hosts like Chuck Todd, Andrea Mitchell, and Halperin and John Heilemann—or, as Brzezinski described them to me, "our people." Scarborough appreciates the changes: "I couldn't have said this for a very long time, but I like the people who are on MSNBC. I like the shows that are on MSNBC."
He's fond of plenty of other shows, too—so much so that he often seems to be angling for them. "He's tried to take every single job at this network," gripes one NBC veteran. For a time, Scarborough and Brzezinski vigorously lobbied to take over the Sunday Today show. Scarborough is also said to have eyed Meet the Press when the ratings plunged after David Gregory took over following Tim Russert's death. (Scarborough maintains that Meet the Press had been pitched to him by NBC News president Deborah Turness.)
Last year, Scarborough even appeared to set his sights on NBC Nightly News. At the height of the scandal involving Brian Williams, it didn't go unnoticed that Scarborough began guest-hosting Way Too Early, the 5:30 a.m. lead-in to Morning Joe. Wearing a coat and tie, instead of his usual ﬂeece or sweater, Scarborough read from a teleprompter and delivered the news straight. "He was role-playing as if he were a nightly-news anchor," recalls one NBC insider. (Scarborough denies he was ever interested in Nightly News.)
And yet, just as it's unlikely that Scarborough will ever be president or ever truly supplant Lin-Manuel Miranda on Broadway, there are many who think it's unlikely he'll ever escape the grind of morning cable news, of waking up before dawn to offer political analysis as viewers scarf down breakfast in their underwear. "He has all these delusions of grandeur, but he belongs at 6 a.m. on MSNBC with ﬁve viewers," says one former NBC executive. "There's an economic model that works for that. He gets very signiﬁcant compensation for reaching a tiny number of viewers."
Mighty as his personal ambition may be, Scarborough makes a point to always include Brzezinski. "Mika really has been my manager and sort of been my agent, internally, whenever people are attacking me," Scarborough says. "And I have been the same for her, too." Brzezinski is even more effusive about Scarborough. One morning, as we chatted in the office she shares with him—adorned with photos of the pair, as well as of Scarborough's four children and Brzezinski's two—she recalled for me the origins of their partnership nine years ago. "I could tell right at the beginning," she said, "that we both were at a place in our lives where we'd been through enough to know what rough waters feel like, and lost a lot and gained a lot and seen enough to be able to give really good analysis from the gut, from the heart, with no fear." The setting and the sentiment made it seem as if she were talking less about an on-air partner than a midlife one.
For years, Scarborough and Brzezinski's closeness has led to romantic speculation. When Morning Joe began, Scarborough, who has two adult sons from his ﬁrst marriage, was married to Susan Scarborough, a former aide to Jeb Bush, with whom he has a son and a daughter; Brzezinski was married to the investigative reporter Jim Hoffer, with whom she has two daughters. In 2011, Scarborough, ﬂush from his show's success, bought a $4.6 million, 7,550-square-foot home in New Canaan and moved Susan and their two children there from Manhattan. Though Joe would ﬁle for divorce in September 2012, he and Susan agreed to continue living in separate parts of the home in order to be near their children. Then, this past year, Brzezinski divorced Hoffer.
For the record, Scarborough and Brzezinski will neither conﬁrm nor deny that they are romantically involved. When I recently put the question to the pair, Brzezinski replied, "I really don't want to talk about my personal life. I mean, I think you can understand that." Scarborough added, "And, as always, I defer to Mika."
But inside MSNBC, and even on the set of their own show, it's widely assumed that they are a couple. They are frequently spotted outside 30 Rock, traveling together on Nantucket and in Charleston, or sitting at tables for two over cozy dinners in Manhattan. Last December, when Scarborough hosted a Christmas party for friends and colleagues at his home in New Canaan, it was Brzezinski who welcomed guests at the door. Visitors also couldn't help but notice that the giant Peter Max painting of the pair—the one that greets visitors at the Morning Joe offices—also hangs in Scarborough's home.
Even Trump has tried to capitalize on the rumors. In August, responding to on-air criticism from the two, he threatened on Twitter to "tell the real story of @JoeNBC and his very insecure, long-time girlfriend, @morningmika." When I asked Trump to tell me that story, he demurred. "I don't want to get into that," Trump said, before adding, "I know that whole thing better than they do, and they know it."
But if indeed they are romantically involved, it's unclear why Brzezinski and Scarborough don't publicly own up to their relationship. One potential stumbling block, television insiders speculate, is concern over how the show might be impacted. "If you know they're a couple, does it change their ratings?" asks one cable executive. "Does it change the way viewers take in their banter, if they know they're sleeping together?"
In June, the New York Post's Page Six broke the news of Brzezinski's divorce and reported that she and Scarborough "could soon go public as a couple." It was widely assumed by friends and colleagues of the pair's that the leak had been authorized. "It had all the hallmarks of a planted story," says one news executive. "It had to be either NBC PR ﬂoating a trial balloon or they themselves ﬂoating a trial balloon." Either way, people close to Brzezinski and Scarborough noticed that neither seemed particularly perturbed by the item. "Let's just say they weren't upset about it," one told me. "They weren't displeased that they'd been elevated to the front page of the New York Post."
This summer, on the ﬁnal night of the Republican National Convention, Scarborough made his first trip into the actual convention hall. He was, for once, without Brzezinski, but he was hardly alone. As he ambled down a Cleveland street toward the arena, he was surrounded by a scrum of three security guards, a Morning Joe producer who doubles as his Boy Friday, his "chief of staff," an MSNBC publicist, and his personal photographer. When Scarborough would approach a curb, one of his security guys would helpfully caution, "Step."
Scarborough's gaggle of attendants is the source of much amusement inside and outside NBC. "Matt Lauer is a $25 million-a-year broadcaster and he doesn't have any of the accoutrements Joe has," notes one news executive. "It's like he's the King of Liechtenstein."
Inside the arena in Cleveland, Scarborough's hangers-on assured that he was noticed. And then mobbed. Soon, he was posing for selfies with fans; the encounters appeared to lift Scarborough's spirits. Until then, he'd seemed unusually subdued in Cleveland. "Joe doesn't understand why he wasn't giving the acceptance speech in Cleveland," one person who knows him well told me. But now, as Scarborough worked the ﬂoor he was met with reaffirmation. "You really need to run for governor in '18," a Connecticut delegate told Scarborough. He bumped into Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and they quickly disappeared for a private confab while their entourages (McConnell's was one person smaller!) waited outside a closed door. As Scarborough exited, the Nation writer John Nichols stopped him on the sidewalk to say hello. "I'm sorry you're not the vice presidential nominee," Nichols told Scarborough, "but maybe next time." As he bounded off for his hotel, I watched Scarborough's imagination paint a contented grin upon his face. How bright the future can seem.
I saw it again, that smile, this time only bigger, on a stormy summer night in New York, as Scarborough stood on a tiny stage in an Upper West Side bar called Prohibition. Crammed behind him were the various members of a nine-piece rock band, uncreatively named Morning Joe Music. Assembled before him were many of Scarborough's employees: producers and factotums from the show. I was squeezed with Brzezinski, Barnicle, and Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, into a small booth. The other 100 or so people in the bar were, presumably, fans of Scarborough's TV work. After all, the band's gigs are promoted on Morning Joe. About 11 hours earlier, the teleprompter at 30 Rock had reminded Barnicle to "MENTION PROHIBITION."
Scarborough, who plays the guitar, has been in garage bands since he was a teenager. But his ﬁnancial success has now allowed him to take his music to another level. He pays the eight other members of Morning Joe Music—all of them full-time professional musicians, many of them two decades his junior—"enough to make this our priority," one of them told me. At times, it feels like Scarborough's, too. The band played Des Moines on the night of the Iowa caucuses, performing adjacent to the MSNBC set, where Scarborough angered some colleagues with his cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity"—an extended tribute jam he didn't wrap up until 30 seconds before the network needed to begin its election-night coverage.
Scarborough himself harbors desires to turn his hobby into a full-ﬂedged career. In an e-mail inviting me to attend the studio session for Trump: The Musical, he wrote, "If I have my way, in the future, I will be doing much more of what you will see me do on Tuesday than what you
covered in Cleveland."
For now, in the cramped Manhattan bar, Scarborough played rock star. He had his own backup singers, his own horn section, his own catalog of tunes with titles like "L.A. Song" (Well, the freak show hit the road / With a pound of hash and a stash of blow) and "Downtown" (Everybody loves my body / Loves to drive it like a Maserati).
Nearby, Brzezinski sipped a couple of Campari and OJ's and danced on the banquette. Barnicle and Haass nodded their heads to the beat. The crowd screamed for more. After an hour-long set, Scarborough hopped off the stage. He gave a few high-ﬁves and, with a security guard at his side, exited through the kitchen like James Brown might have. Outside, in the drizzle of a summer night, the real world—or at least some simulacrum of it—beckoned. He had a cable-news show at six the next morning. And he'd need to be there by 6:05…6:10 at the latest.
Jason Zengerle is GQ's political correspondent.