Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) is a favorite of mine. He has been called the conscience of the Senate, insofar as the man is morally grounded, he takes his Jewish faith very seriously and tries to live its tenets, and is surprisingly unafraid to say what he believes. Which means that he is significantly divorced from the far left dogma of his party. And a failure to be anything but far left comes with a price. And now some Connecticut Democrats are trying to remove him from office in favor of the much more liberal Lowell Weicker
Forgetting the fact that Lieberman is probably fairly safe and that there are fewer Democrats with more respect and credibility on a national level than he, this signifies the fact that the people in control of the party are significantly further left than the people whom they seek to govern.
I am honestly not worried about Lieberman's holding his seat, and if there was indeed a vote split between Lieberman and Weicker, putting a Republican in office, I would still much prefer Joe Lieberman to a Lincoln Chafee New England liberal Republican any day. Because Lieberman has what Chafee does not--the polite term is backbone, but any other will do.
And the comparison works with other liberal Republicans as well: Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Chuck Hagel, and John McCain. But where do I get off crediting Lieberman for what his party considers disloyalty and downing liberal Republicans for doing the same? It's a fairly critical question posed by one of my favorite readers, and it requires some attention.
And while the question is important, it presumes an incorrect assumption--that the economic, political and moral viewpoints of the left and the right are equal and perhaps even equally right. Let's dispel that one right away.
From both an empirical and moral standpoint, the left's policies are losers. Their welfare policies created a permanent underclass of urban blacks as a result of voluntary unemployment. Their education/union policies favored lazy teachers over students (again, usually black and in urban America) who graduate high school unable to read the diplomas they are given. Their defense policies resulted in an expanded cold war and emboldened Soviet Union in the 1970s, and the same for Al Qaida in the 1990s, both resulting in the need for expensive offensives to defend our way of life. And their moral policies taught us that abortion should be a norm, sex is free of consequences if one uses a condom, children should be exposed to their view of sex from an early age, and parents should have no role in the upbringing of their children if their views differ from those of the far left. All flawed concepts, all proven ineffective. And yet today's Democratic party remains wedded to them all, either too arrogant to admit failure or too myopic to see that no matter how executed, these social and economic theories have detrimental practical results. In short, the Democratic leaders of today are repackaging Marxist theory in an effort to effect their version of an ideal society. And if anyone thinks that sounds good, they need only look at its fruits as borne out over the past century in Eastern Europe and Asia.
Given that correction to the record, let's get to Joe Lieberman. It takes a tough individual to state as he did in November of 2000 that the absentee ballots of soldiers overseas should be counted when his running mate, Al Gore, disagreed. His decision was one of a few factors that ultimately brought the recount fiasco to a close. Two years before, he blasted Bill Clinton for his affair with Monica Lewinsky and his subsequent cover-up that got him impeached. And now, Lieberman, after a visit to our troops in Iraq, is repeating the same cadence offered by our soldiers who see the nation first hand--he believes, as they do, that we are winning the war, and that it is a war worth fighting. And it takes quite a bit of backbone to do that in this political environment.
The Democratic leadership, like many on the extreme left before them, permit no variance of opinion. Their mouthpiece, the media, headed by the now opinion-only New York Times roll out a smattering of bad press in order to encourage the errant "maverick" senator to rethink his position. And against such a tide, it is indeed hard to stand, so Joe Lieberman deserves a good deal of credit for stating what he believes is true rather than keeping his mouth shut in order to avoid flack from the left.
But caving into the left is a much easier prospect for those who can be wooed, and has fairly significant short-term rewards. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) is a prime example. His New England roots predispose him to being a liberal, which is no fault of his necessarily. But he has proven that rather than engaging the Democrats on matters of principle, it just works better to go along with them, avoid a messy fight, and get a few days' worth of fawning press. The alternative, of course, would be the kind of press received by the Republican Leadership. But Chafee is a liberal at heart who doesn't have a single value for which he would fight a Democrat. And much the same goes for his twin sisters, Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Susan Collins (R-ME). Neither of them ever had the gravitas to stand up to Tom Daschle, and they similarly cave for Harry Ried. I can forgive the Maine sisters, though. They make no effort to be in the spotlight, unlike Chafee who hoped after the 2002 elections to be a major power broker in the Senate. The results of that election, however, rendered him thankfully irrelevant.
And there are others, like Mike DeWine and Arlen Specter, who are moderate at best, explaining various silly acts, such as Specter's vote of "Not Proven" at the Clinton impeachment trial, which was a principle he hewed out of ancient William Wallace-era Scottish law (per Jonah Goldberg, he voted "Glenfidditch"), to avoid a vote to convict, but still making clear that he believed that Clinton did something wrong. Specter's clever but transparent effort at not offending anyone drew him no bad press from the MSM, as he did no real damage to Clinton, but did a beautiful job of highlighting the ineffectiveness of riding the fence.
But there are others who are lured away from conservative principles, not because they were squishy to begin with, but because cameras and good press are probably the best form of positive reinforcement that exist. The Democrats and the media know it, and they use it very effectively for this purpose.
Chuck Hagel (R-NE) is a senator ripe for replacement in a primary. Hagel came to the Senate with a good military service and business record. And when it comes to tax and business issues, he is reliable ally. But that's where his conservative side has ended lately. And while his military record is admirable, he does not come with national security credentials as such. But that has not stopped him from commenting on the issue, and when it comes to the most critical foreign policy issue of our day--Iraq and the global war on terror--Hagel has his head in the isolationist camp. And while that's not where the left is on the terror war (they favor direct engagement in the form of negotiation with, appeasement of and apology to multinational terrorist groups such as Al Qaida), having a Senator generally believed to be a conservative come out in any
way against the Administration's anti-terror efforts is helpful. Which is why the MSM tried to get as many appearances out of him this year as possible to discuss his misgivings about our presence in Iraq. And the glowing press he received was his reward. But Hagel may want to remember that he comes from very red Nebraska, as opposed to the more purple Minnesota or Michigan. And while Hagel may have rolled over on national security for some short-lived media glow, there remains an even more depressing example of how press rewards can corrupt a rising leader.
John McCain (R-AZ) is owed a significant debt by his nation. He was a Navy pilot during Vietnam who served his country admirably, was shot down over North Vietnam and spent time in the Hanoi Hilton being tortured and refusing release in favor of POWs who had been in captivity longer than he. He is a great American in the truest sense, but with regard to politics, he has become a bad Republican and a terrible senator. And as he has admitted in the very recent past, his biggest constituency is the media.
McCain is viewed as the anti-Bush, mainly because he wants what Bush has and is willing to be publicly critical of Bush in order to gain advantage. He and Bush have been bitter rivals since the 2000 primaries, but by and large McCain and Bush are not as different as the media would have us believe. But five years of very favorable media coverage has a way of changing someone, just as five years of cocaine use has a tendency to addict. If you doubt me, look at Bill Clinton's really pitiful effort to remain relevant in the public sphere. He already had a pathological need to be loved, but after leaving office, he has done just about anything he could to stay in the spotlight. And to a degree, that addiction will cause one to adjust their values to fit the adoring coverage they want, which is the kind of thing that ought to give Republican voters more than just a little pause with regard to any McCain candidacy.
It's just more attractive to and easy to go to the left when you're a Republican. The temporary rewards of good press outweigh the flack. But folks like Joe Lieberman, who go against the cultural tide from time to time to stand for a principle that will create no small degree of heat for him deserve special recognition.
Because the good things about America didn't come easily. And good press never made anyone free.