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A reason to be thankful


A reason to be thankful (Joe Scarborough)

When it comes to holidays, our family is about as traditional as it gets. But there was nothing traditional about the Thanksgiving we spent last week on Mississippi’s ravaged Gulf Coast.

A group of faith-based organizations decided to serve Thanksgiving dinner for hundreds of Hurricane Katrina victims. And because Scarborough Country viewers had contributed over half a million dollars to their recovery efforts, the organization sponsoring the event asked if we would come and share in the day.

I thought it would be a great chance for my family to see firsthand just how much we had to be thankful for.

September in Mississippi had changed the way I looked at life. It changed the way I looked at our political leaders. And it drove home the responsibility I felt to help those hurt by the storm.
I knew a trip to the hurricane zone wouldn’t touch my 17-year-old son the way it hit me, but I wanted him to see these people’s strength in the face of suffering.

But on the ride over, I was feeling anything but strong.

Tires, trash and cracked trees still littered the landscape as we raced across I-10 heading toward Waveland. The land looked like it had been raped. The prospects of recovery seemed helpless. As I pulled off the interstate and turned south toward the Gulf Coast, the scene worsened.

Why was I shocked? Why did the sight of city blocks wiped clean take my breath away three months later?

Hadn’t I seen this before?

I guess like the people we served last week, the joy of Septemeber’s survival was replaced by the shock of November’s continuing loss.

Mississippi’s Gulf Coast was obliterated by this storm. There is no other way to describe the violence and rage visited on that quiet region. Waveland, where we served dinner, was completely wiped out.

When I say completely I mean completely.

A school principal took Congressman Chip Pickering and me on a tour of the town. It consisted of him pointing at empty lots and telling us what was there before the storm.

"That was where City Hall was. Over there was the post office. A restaurant was on that lot..."

I’ve seen many things as a congressman, attorney and news host. But I have never seen anything like what I saw late that Thanksgiving Day.

Total loss. Nuclear winter. As bad as it gets. Beyond a war zone.

There’s rubble in war zones.

There is nothing in Waveland.

But the people returned to that ghost town last week to thank God for their lives, their families and their futures. No one was cursing their fate. Instead, talk on the sandy hill overlooking the Gulf Coast centered on Jesus, football and hunting.

As for my family, it was a Thanksgiving where food and football took a back seat. Driving back to Florida late Thursday night, I could sense everyone had been moved by the experience.

And is always the case, those who serve always receive more than those they served.

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Notes on the Times (Joe Scarborough)

As noted in my last column, the Democratic Party tucked its tail and ran from an opportunity to tell Americans why they had a better plan on Iraq than the President.

Last week’s Murtha Resolution may have been decried as a political stunt by Democratic activists and liberal news editors, but their blustering doesn’t change the fact that Democrats’ Iraq policy consists of little more than attacking George W. Bush.

Only the most shameless partisan hacks tried to spin the Murtha debate as a Democratic win. The best Democrats could truthfully say of the political skirmish that broke out on the House floor late Friday night was that Republicans also came across as petty.

So I was a little surprised by a New York Times article suggesting that the Iraq debate was a serious setback for the GOP when, in reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

With Republicans mounting a two-pronged attack on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue, it is the Democratic Party that has the most to fear from recent developments. After all, they have been fighting a unilateral public opinion battle on the Iraq War for the last twelve months.

That has changed, whether the Times and their allies in Congress want to admit it or not. It is now up to Democratic leaders to figure out what they believe on the most pressing policy issue in America today.

Hating George Bush is not enough. Because in politics as well as life, you still can’t beat something with nothing.

Today’s front page of the Times was also an embarrassment for those who have argued for years that the esteemed paper confines its bias to its editorial pages. NYT readers were greeted this morning with four pictures of the President looking like a fool as he tried to open a locked door during his state visit to China.

As far as I know, there was no back story to the pictures. It was simply the case of the President being guided to the wrong door. But the Times editors decided that of all the significant events that occurred across the world yesterday, half of their front page should be devoted to making the President of the United States look like a dork.

Great job, guys.



Democrats need Kennedy's courage (Joe Scarborough)

This past Sunday would have been Bobby Kennedy’s 80th birthday.

That milestone and the events of the past few days got me thinking about how far the Democratic Party has fallen since his death 37 years ago.

This week’s events commemorating Kennedy’s life showed again how liberals embrace their hero’s legacy to justify almost every progressive program under the sun. A few speakers at Wednesday night’s event even waxed eloquently about how RFK brought people together just before launching into tired partisan attacks.

I must have overlooked the chapters in Kennedy’s life where he reduced himself to mere partisanship. I always believed he was more interested in bringing hope to the hopeless than gaining a cheap advantage for the Democratic Party.

Don’t misread me here.

The thought of Bobby Kennedy as a Republican then or now is an absurd notion. But no more absurd than those who believe his life’s lessons can be boiled down to a narrow partisan agenda.

The last two years of Bobby’s existence were consumed by the prospect of bringing light to the darkest corners of our world. Whether in America or South Africa, Bobby Kennedy always questioned initial assumptions and never stopped asking “Why not?”

In fact, RFK rarely backed away from any challenge. He was a liberal, but he was also a tough-as-nails politician who never feared political death.

Now I look at those who followed in his path as Democratic leaders and have to shake my head in shame.

At a time when the Democratic Party needs a candidate like the one Michael Douglas portrayed at the end of “The American President,” they are stuck with a nominee who voted for the $87 billion before he voted against it.

When the Democrats needed a protégée of RFK, they got a man who voted for the Patriot Act, Leave No Child Behind, the war in Iraq, and Bush trade agreements before abandoning all of those positions in the heat of a presidential campaign.

In 2000, eight years of peace and prosperity brought the Democrats a candidate who ran away from environmental protections and gun control because political strategists feared Al Gore’s positions on those issues would cost them West Virginia and Tennessee.

He lost them anyway.

And this week, Congressman Jack Murtha provided Democrats all the cover they would ever need to give Americans a real choice over America’s future in Iraq. But just as quickly, the Republicans sent the Party of Kennedy home for Thanksgiving recess with tails tucked between their legs.

Forced to finally take a stand on Iraq, the Congressional Democratic Caucus lost their nerve and voted instead to maintain George Bush’s status quo.

Activists can curse the President, they can hate Congress and they can vilify the right-wing media all they want, but until the Democratic Party comes up with a strong alternative to George Bush’s America, Democrats will remain impotent.

This comes from a writer who still supports the Iraq war but believes there is always a better way.

To my fellow RFK admirers, go back and study Kennedy’s life again. Try to approach that story by questioning your initial assumptions about his legacy. Maybe you will find, as I did, that it has much more to do with political courage than an ideological agenda.

Democrats need a dose of Kennedy’s courage now more than ever. So does the country Bobby Kennedy gave his life trying to save.


RFK: Bending history (Joe Scarborough)

The highlight of my week came Wednesday night when I attended the celebration of Bobby Kennedy’s life in the Mansfield Room. That room, just off the Senate floor, was packed with Kennedy family members, former staffers and long-time admirers.

The fact I was the only Republican within a few hundred yards of the room became painfully evident when Congressman Ed Markey’s introduction of me was answered with a quiet smattering of applause from three or four polite souls. Since I have seemingly spent most of my political life swimming against the tide, the cool welcome was nothing new.

After bowing my head and thanking them for their warm welcome, I began telling the crowd of progressive Democrats why I was crashing their party.

My fascination with Bobby Kennedy began in 1981 when I was a senior in high school. At the time I had Reagan bumper stickers plastered all over my car and just knew that Ronald Reagan would change the political world forever. But during a trip to a Pensacola bookstore, I stumbled across a biography that would place none other than Bobby Kennedy at the top of political heroes list.

As with Reagan and Truman, my attraction to Kennedy had more to do with courage than ideology. Like those two presidents, Bobby Kennedy seemed to be moved more by personal convictions than political polls. 

That fact was proven In June, 1966 when RFK dared to go to South Africa--a country that was an ally of the United States because of its strong anti-communist stance.

For Kennedy, simply opposing the Soviet Union was not reason enough to overlook apartheid. So RFK ignored the advice of presidents, ambassadors and political wise men of his day and instead traveled to South Africa to deliver a speech that would begin a movement that would end apartheid.

Kennedy told South African students not to be discouraged by the wide array of challenges facing our troubled world. For when one person stood up for an ideal, helped out those in need or struck out against injustice, he sent forth a tiny ripple on the water that when combined with the acts of others, created a title wave that could knock down the mightiest walls of oppression.

On that summer day so long ago, Bobby Kennedy taught an oppressed people how to do nothing less than bend history.

For the next two years of his life, Kennedy’s words and deeds kept reminding us all that one person could make a difference.

I decided to get into public service and make a difference after reading about the Senator’s response to Martin Luther King’s assassination on April 4, 1968.

Kennedy was in the middle of his final, ill-fated campaign and prepared to go into the most dangerous part of Indianapolis. Just before heading to the event, his press secretary got the word that King had been shot dead by a white man.

Immediately, staff members scrambled to cancel the event. Ghettos were sure to explode in violence across Indianapolis and America. But when Kennedy chose to ignore the warnings, the Indianapolis Chief of Police weighed in.

His men could not provide protection. It was simply too dangerous.

So Bobby Kennedy went in alone that night to deliver the greatest speech of his life.

He told that broken crowd of Americans how it was not the time to embrace violence but rather to live  the very values for which Martin Luther King had died.

Later that evening, riots did break out in over a thousand cities and towns across America. Parts of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago burned long into the early morning.  Countless other cities and towns were engulfed in violence and rage. But that night, Indianapolis went to sleep in peace.

It was the story of how one man made a difference.

It is a reminder of how one person can still bend history.

It is a challenge sent through the ages of how we can still save a dying world.