Where have the moderate Republicans gone, the ones who don't think all Democrats are devil and who don't think that Obamacare signals the end of civilization as they know it?

Joe Scarborough, a leader of the GOP's shrinking middle ground, was asking that question over the weekend at the Carmel Authors & Ideas Festival. Though he was doing it to market a book, he made some good points about how the would-be anarchists in his party today compare to the GOPers of old.

You may know Scarborough only as the talking head from MSNBC's Morning Joe show. but he's also a former congressman from Florida, 1994-2001, a former newspaper publisher and a member of Time magazine's 2011 list of the world's most influential people.

Scarborough reminded the sun-drenched crowd at Stevenson School about how Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich used to talk regularly and about how one of the nation's proudest Democrats, Tip O'Neill, used to regularly gossip and sip whiskey with Ronald Reagan.

Once when Reagan got excited and called O'Neill a demagogue, he felt compelled that evening to call and apologize. According to Scarborough, O'Neill shook it off as no big deal.

Scarborough participated in his fair share of partisan gamesmanship in his days at the House. He voted along with his colleagues to impeach Clinton, knowing full well it wouldn't go anywhere. He talked about how much he had disliked Clinton in the early days of Clinton's presidency and how he was even upset upon their first meeting to learn that Clinton knew who he was.

Eventually, though, Scarborough said he was "seduced" by Clinton like everyone else.

Scarborough's solution to national gridlock, prompting a fair amount of supportive applause, is to eliminate the gerrymandering that protects the vast majority of federal legislators from meaningful campaign challenges and allows them to put party first and everyone else last. He said he had been working with a group pursuing legislation to require better backgrounding of gun buyers only to learn that of the 435 House seats, fewer than 40 were considered to be "in play" in the next election.

His primary point was that collegiality has left Washington and that it matters to the entire nation, and not just for the sake of civility. He said compromise resulted from the discussions that party leaders used to have with each other, but compromise has since been turned into a dirty word by the tea party types who are writing the GOP script.


--The Monterey (Calif.) County Herald, Sept. 30