By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Within five weeks of Scarborough's arrival in Washington in 1995 (as part of Newt Gingrich's "Contract With America" revolution), Democrat Pat Schroeder tried to amend a law-enforcement block grant bill to permit—not mandate—the use of the funds to protect abortion clinics. Not only did Scarborough vote against that unsuccessful amendment, he opposed one introduced by a Republican that called for protecting "medical or health facilities." Henry Hyde, the Republican Judiciary chair, said: "If abortion clinics are having a problem, they ought to hire guards, like banks do."
The Griffin case was Joe Scarborough's introduction to public life, the first time he ever made a news clip. Fifteen years later, the lawyer who volunteered to represent a man who shot a doctor three times in the back on his way to a clinic is the easygoing, sweater-draped, wake-up confidante for Democrats sifting their way through the presidential-primary morass. They turn to his network as the anti-Fox, "the place" for their politics—and despite Scarborough's frequent reference to his party roots, they can't know how far from their worldview he is.
He is not "evil," which, he says, is how liberals view Republicans. He is also clearly not the same man who rushed to defend Michael Griffin in 1993. Since that time, he has helped engineer the naming of a street in Pensacola after Martin Luther King, pushed the Clinton administration to cut off relations with the brutish regime in Sudan, helped find funding to relocate over 300 African-American families whose homes were damaged by a Superfund site, and created a funky independent weekly paper in his hometown. Those achievements are the other side of a congressman who proposed bills to shut down the U.S. Department of Education and withdraw from the United Nations, and has gone on, in this season of Democratic choice, to become a whisper in the subconscious of many.
He is a man with a history and an agenda, and neither Hillary Clinton nor his audience may know it, or much like it.