Video: Scarborough to America: Open your minds

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updated 11/5/2008 3:02:13 PM ET 2008-11-05T20:02:13

Sixteen years ago, I remember slumping on my couch in Cordova Park as blue blots bled east to west across my television screen.

Bill Clinton was on the way to his improbable 1992 victory, and 12 years of Reagan-Bush rule was coming to an end.

I was inconsolable.

My then 5-year-old boy approached the couch carefully and offered reassurance.

"Don't worry, Daddy," Joey said. "Maybe Clinton won't raise taxes after all."

I realized then that it was time to turn off the TV, stop obsessing over the Clinton landslide, and instead read "Goodnight Moon" to my young son.

Despite Joey's assurances, Bill Clinton did raise taxes.

But despite my fears, America survived the Clinton Era.

A few years earlier, I had asked the head of my university's history department what he thought of Ronald Reagan.

I was shocked at his response.

After glaring over the rims of his glasses for a few seconds, he chose his words carefully before saying, "I think America is strong enough to survive even eight years of Mr. Reagan."

I wondered to myself how could any red-blooded American suggest that eight years of Reagan was anything other than morning in America.

I guess the same way I feared America might not make it through our two-term trip with Bill Clinton.

But we did. Like we survived the past eight years of the Bush administration — despite Democrats declaring weekly that America's collapse was imminent.

Enough.

It's time for us to have a little faith in the greatness of our land, and a lot of tolerance for fellow citizens who do not think exactly like we do.

Liberals and conservatives like to attack each other as closed-minded, but the truth is both sides have behaved badly over the past few decades.

The right declared political war on Clinton even before he was sworn into office. Clinton returned the favor and destroyed political opponents who got in his way.

Clinton was accused of undermining the military, selling access to the White House and ruining the moral fabric of America.

As Clinton was leaving Washington, George W. Bush made his way to the White House by launching vicious attacks on John McCain during a GOP primary. Once in office, it was Bush who had to withstand a torrent of hyperbolic attacks from the angry left.

He was accused of spilling blood for oil, for lying his way into war and of shredding the Constitution.

That politics has turned into such a blood sport over the past 16 years says less about the politicians who have run this country than the political commentators who launched such hysterical attacks.

These days, subtlety of thought is a scarce commodity in public discourse.

It took me a few years in Congress to figure out my party didn't own exclusive rights to the truth. That realization was liberating and allowed me to focus more directly on what was in the best interests of America instead of the Republican Party.

Had more GOP leaders thought that way, the party of Reagan would not be in shambles this morning.

But it is, so what's next?

A good start might be to stand for something and then to commit to disagreeing without being disagreeable.

It may sound radical, but I think we have no choice.

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