Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lieberman For Sale

Lucian, the second century satirist, once wrote a dialogue called “The Sale of Creeds” in which he held up to ridicule such famous philosophers as Socrates, Diogenes and Pythagoras. In Lucian’s drama, some of the philosophers were a bit of a hard sell.

Only a few weeks ago, to judge from commentary in Connecticut’s press, U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman might have been sold at bargain prices. But now comes a piece in Politico that raises his price considerably.

Some leading Democrats and Republicans -- not among them Chris Healy, still the state’s Republican Party chieftain, though Mr. Healy himself recently sought to auction himself off as a National Republican Party Chairman – would be happy to purchase Mr. Lieberman, mostly for tactical reasons.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Politico reports, “is quietly urging the Connecticut lawmaker to run for a fifth Senate term in 2012 — and to stick with the Democratic side of the aisle.” Now that the House has fallen to Republicans and the Democratic veto proof majority in congress has been compromised, every Democratic vote is far too precious to lose to provincial state party politics.

Texas Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, also is tugging at Mr. Lieberman’s sleeve. He has engaged Mr. Lieberman in “friendly banter,” imploring Mr. Lieberman to join the Republican Conference and run for the GOP nomination in 2012. And noted conservative Sen. Jim DeMint said, “We’d love to have him.” Compared to Democrats, Mr. DeMint said, “We’re all conservatives.” Perhaps Mr. DeMint was also bantering.

It is true that Mr. Lieberman has lined up with some Republicans on matters involving foreign policy, but his voting record on domestic issues places him squarely in the Democratic camp. Should he switch parties, Mr. Lieberman would be one of the most liberal Republicans in the senate. According to the Poole Report of contested votes in the current session, Mr. Lieberman is more liberal than Claire McCaskill, James Webb, Bill Nelson and Ben Nelson, all of whom, according to Politico, “will run for re-election in 2012 as well, and whose seats DeMint will surely want to target with his PAC.” Currently, Mr. Lieberman is leading the fight for a repeal of the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy affecting gays in the military, a position that has forced some virulent anti-Lieberman opponents in the progressive wing of the party to cough up a reluctant approval, much in the way a cat disgorges a hairball.

It may not be true that all politics is local; in the mid-term election, some Democrats fell on policy swords fashioned in Washington D.C. But it is true that all local politics is local, and Mr. Lieberman has long been shown the door by the left wing of Connecticut’s Democratic Party. The Republican Party bench in Connecticut has been considerably strengthened since Mr. Lieberman, having lost a primary to Ned Lamont, went on to win in a general election in which Republicans fielded a candidate who commanded few votes.

Even though President Barack Obama is what my dear departed mom might have called a testa dura, the national administration, assuming it is not suicidal, must be somewhat chastened by the mid-term elections. If so, national Democrats may steer a more moderate course in both domestic and foreign policy, compromising when possible with Republicans, hoping thereby to curb right wing enthusiasm. That strategy will help Mr. Lieberman, even as it will dampen the ardor of progressive to radical Democrats who hate Mr. Lieberman and will not he satisfied with anything less than his abject humiliation. Towards the end of the Weicker years, many Republicans felt the same way about the ex-senator and governor who once characterized himself, aptly, as “the turd in the Republican Party punchbowl.”

It is a long way yet to Tipperary, and much can happen to turn tides before the next national elections. Mr. Obama has lost a good deal of his magnetic force; the late minister of peace and amity, Richard Holbrooke, fairly admitted on his deathbed, according to a report in the infallible Washington Post, that the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable, though others disagree; the Tea Party still wants to dump politicians in the Potomac; the flat-lining national economy is being supported by Chinese bankers who are fondling our national junk; and more than half the world feels about us the way starry eyed progressives feel about Mr. Lieberman.

A very messy place, the world both inside and outside the United States will not be any neater by the time the next elections roll around. At present, commentators should take their cue from weathermen: The coming storm is too far off to make rational predictions concerning who will be in or out of congress in the next few years.

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