Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Joe Lieberman And His Enemies

U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman’s principled stand in favor of ending the invidious “don’t ask don’t tell” policy in the U.S. military has elevated him to heroic status among some liberals, but the news continues to rasp the more tender consciences of puritanical progressives who feel they must applaud Mr. Lieberman’s efforts even as they strenuously condemn the man.

All this hero worship, Greg Hladky writes in the Fairfield Weekly, is a Washington beltway distortion: “Isn't it interesting how different the Lieberman situation appears down in Washington compared to the Lieberman reality back home?... Lieberman stands virtually no chance of winning the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination.”

Here at home in the progressive camp, Mr. Lieberman’s dark deeds will not easily be forgotten or forgiven. Mr. Hladky ticks off a familiar bill of particulars:

“It wasn't just Lieberman's unquestioning support for the Iraq war that produced the hostility. It wasn't just Joe's affectionate closeness to George W. Bush, or his decision to speak at the 2008 Republican National Convention and campaign for his buddy John McCain and against Barack Obama, or his suggestion that he might support Republican Linda McMahon in Connecticut's U.S. Senate race this year.

“It was all those things and the feeling that Joe has for a long time considered himself better than the Connecticut Democrats who used to believe in him, who used to think they knew who he was.”
Mr. Lieberman’s position and perseverance on the issue of gays in the military received at the more moderate New London Day an encouraging response: “Sen. Lieberman's determination to reverse the policy may help redeem his reputation in his home state, with which he has had a love-hate relationship in recent years.”

The loss of a party primary “due in large part to his unrelenting support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan” forced Mr. Lieberman to run as an independent in 2006 and “compelled him, ill-advisedly, to support John McCain for president in 2008, and ironically the GOP senator from Arizona emerged as one of the most vocal opponents of ‘don't ask, don't tell.’"

Some progressives might quibble somewhat with the word “compelled”; the senator is, after all, a grown man and well above the age of reason. Politicians generally are “compelled” to do or say this and that in the same sense that the denizens of bordellos are compelled to do business with each other. Time and chance have not treated kindly some legislators who bolted their parties to run as independents. Neither Charlie Crist (R-I-Fl) nor Arlen Specter (D-R-D-PA) are serving any longer in the U.S. Congress.

Mr. Lieberman incautiously has left in his wake a rich store of UTube clips tracing the outline of what progressive consider his rank betrayal of the left wing of their party. Could he defend himself, Mr. Lieberman likely would say, along with former President Ronald Reagan, that his party left him, though at least one progressive in Mr. Lieberman’s party, President Barack Obama, has since assuming office veered to the middle on issues of war and peace. Tactically, Mr. Obama’s position on Afghanistan bears a striking resemblance to former President George Bush’s position on Iraq.

Similar campaign killer clips – which save lazy commentators the necessity of thinking seriously about issues – were used successfully to torpedo Linda McMahon’s campaign for the U.S. Senate. These bloody slices of demagoguery are the equivalents of knives drawn across the throats of people who cannot argue with damning visuals: wrestlers slamming each other in the ring, Mr. Lieberman bussing Mr. Bush on the floor of congress. Mrs. McMahon was also unfortunate enough to have earned her millions to self finance her campaign; and while Mr. Lieberman is no multi-millionaire, he does have more than a million campaign bucks socked away under his pillow in case one or another of his potential Democratic challengers should summon the courage to attempt to beard the lion in his den.

Mr. Lieberman’s challengers so far are being coy, perhaps hoping that the senior senator from Connecticut will follow U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd’s sterling example and leave the senate after his weak points have been sufficiently probed by assassins in the media who really should be supporting term limits.

That’s right, term limits. Good for what ails you, term limits would have the same beneficial effect on a sclerotic political system that the retirements of Mr. Dodd Mrs. Rell this year have had in Connecticut on media sales. When time servers leave the political arena, things begin to pop. People come out of the woodwork to vote, patriotism flutters from every street corner, and nearly everyone sinks happily into the comforting illusion that this time the country as a whole will enjoy, in the immortal world of Mr. Abraham Lincoln “a new burst of freedom.”

3 comments:

Bruce Rubenstein said...

Don...Term limits would be distructive and wrong.First of all,any talented members of Congress would be forced to go thereby limiting the talent pool un-nessessarily and secondly and more importantly alot of the power and institutional knowledge and experience would be in the hands of an un-elected beaucracy.Better the voters can weigh in on congressional members by voting them in or out of office, then leave our fate to an un-elected beaucracy.

In addition, term limits flys in the face of your conservative principles in that you would leave it up to the state and federal government to set a term limit perameter.Do we really need ever more state and federal involvement in our elections ? Most conservatives would, I trust, be in favor of " letting the market ( voters) decide on who stays or goes.

Pauldz said...

The only "talent pool" that I see in our various state and national legislative bodies is the talent for self-preservation. What "talent" among Sens. Dodd, Spector, etal have, other than the talent to completely corrupt themselves. There are rates of incumbency in certain locales (see: New York, Soviet Socialist Republic of), that are higher than in the old Soviet Union. And you think they are re-elected because they are doing a great job? Show me a more dysfunctional legislature than New York's. Term limits are a good tool to clean the Augean Stables of our state and federal governments.

To his other point, are setting term limits any less instrusive than legislatures setting boundaries of congressional districts? Plenty of mischief has been done there. Term limits are benign in comparison.

Don Pesci said...

Some disagreement here: Term limits would recirculate rather than destroy political talent. Suppose, by way of example, that the attorney’s general office were term limited ten years ago. Mr. Blumenthal would have been obliged to leave the office, but he and his legal and administrative talent would then have been available to other offices, possibly governor or senator. Some other term limited politician would have been available for the attorney general slot. Also, because the slot would have been available and presumably occupied by another person after ten years, what you call the talent and experience acquired in that office would have been doubled in twenty years, since two people rather than one would have served as attorney general, doubling the pool of experience. The same would hold true of all offices that were term limited. It would only mean that more people would occupy offices, and the pool of experienced people available for offices would expand proportionally. The benches of both parties would then be deeper.

Right now, since Mr. Jepsen soon will replace Mr. Blumenthal as attorney general, we are correct in assuming that he HAS NO EXPERIENCE AS ATTORNEY GENERAL. That should not be a bar to his entrée. For a time, Mr. Jepsen will rely on the experience of other assistant attorneys general in the office for guidance until he feels competent enough to handle the responsibilities of the office. If we were to set a bar of no entry to people who have no experience in the office they will occupy and enforce the prohibition, no one could move in or out of the position he presently holds, and our system of governance after a time would be even more corrupt and sclerotic than it is presently. Why should anyone trust that a person who has a lifetime sinecure will not be tempted to corruption? Corruption takes talent and experience.

In a recent editorial, the Courant aimed an arrow at gerrymandering, presumably because gerrymandered districts create permanent office holders. If one accepts the notion that experience in office is the principle political desideratum, what on earth is wrong with gerrymandered districts? They simply assure that the people now holding office in the gerrymandered districts will remain in their office – conserving experience and proven talent. Indeed, just now some people in the Democratic Party are presumptuous enough to imagine that Mr. Murphy, who has NO experience as a U.S. Senator SHOULD replace Mr. Lieberman. Now, they may be wrong. But to show they are wrong, we should be able to marshal a sounder argument than this: Mr. Murphy should not be given the opportunity to replace Mr. Lieberman because Mr. Lieberman has far more experience and talent in the U.S. Congress than does Mr. Murphy, who has NONE in that particular office.