For loyal fans (and loyal enemies) of his energetic MSNBC show, "Scarborough Country," my characterizing Joe as "feisty" comes as no real surprise. But trust me, fellow viewers: If you haven't heard Joe talk about runaway federal spending in person, then you have no idea just how feisty and gutsy he can be.
Recently, I had the pleasure of hosting Joe for a Heritage Foundation lecture on his new book, "Rome Wasn't Burnt in a Day." I expected Joe to be bold when discussing the wild spending by congressional Republicans during the last 10 years ? but I didn't expect him to rock the House. But rock the House (the Republican-controlled House) he did. This former Republican congressman took his own party to task in a manner that proves he cares more for America than he does for "politics as usual."
But then again, Joe proved that long ago.
In "Rome Wasn't Burnt in a Day," Joe recounts a great story about one of his first town-hall meetings as a member of the House of Representatives.
He had returned to his North Florida district to hear from his constituents, and most greeted him as a conquering hero.
"Congressman Joe," as he was known, had come to Washington with the class of 1994. He'd never held elective office, and the closest he'd come to involvement in politics was trying to unseat "The Machine," the fraternity-and-sorority-controlled cabal that ran the student government at the University of Alabama.
Joe was part of the young upstarts on Capitol Hill who were going to abolish the departments of Education, Energy and Commerce. They were going to pay as they went, balance the budget, end government waste and curb the influence of lobbyists on public policy. On their first day in the House, the Class of '94 and the dynamic new speaker, Newt Gingrich of Georgia, voted to require that Congress live by the laws it passed for others. They passed legislation that cut the number of committees, their staffs and their budgets by a third, and the speaker slapped term limits on committee chairmen.