Friday, October 13, 2006

Bottom Line on Bottom Line Joe

e have seen the likes of the desperately floundering Joe Lieberman before. When former Arizona Senator Dennis DeConcini was caught up in the Keating Five S&L scandal, he went mad for the last two years of his term and became unpredictably emotional, personalizing everything.

Lieberman isn't emotional, he's calculating. After repeatedly stabbing the Democratic party in the back, whether voting for tax cuts for the rich or giving Republicans cover to impeach Bill Clinton, Lieberman is just a wolf in wolf's clothing: out for himself, nary a principle to abandon.

The stench of Lieberman's putrefaction is amply captured by the muscular plain style of Keith Burris at the Manchester (CT) Journal Inquirer (so different from the Slangwhanger-in-Chief's ornate 19th century prose.)

Journal Inquirer


On Monday of this week Sen. Joe Lieberman appeared at a well-attended luncheon at La Renaissance restaurant in East Windsor, hosted by the radio host Brad Davis.

It was a remarkable performance for two reasons. First, it showed, again, that Lieberman is possessed of great political skills. During the primary campaign, the senator seemed to have lost those skills. But now he has been freed to be who he really is. He's comfortable and effective again. Second, the person Lieberman really is, is a Bush Republican.

His speech to an enthusiastic crowd of more than 600 left no doubt on either point.

Lieberman will fight hard to keep his seat and he knows how to fight hard.

Second, he will do so as the de-facto Republican candidate in this election - with the support of Republican voters, and, it's a good guess, financial help from GOP donors and organizational help from GOP strategists, from Karl Rove on down.

Lieberman has the right to do all of this, as an independent, petitioning candidate. After all, the Democrats rejected him. But it is important for Democratic voters to know where Good Old Joe really stands this year and who his friends are. And it is important to recall that Lieberman still says he is a Democrat, and that he sought the Democratic nomination.

Usually, when a member of the Democratic Party seeks its nomination and does not get it, he supports the person who did get it.

Usually, when a person says he is a Democrat, he supports Democratic issues and candidates.

So is Joe Lieberman really a Democrat anymore?

Will he really vote with the Democrats in Washington?

Consider his speech Monday.

He talked about patriotism and doing what's best for America and facing the fact that radical Islamic and aligned terrorists represent a real threat to America.

Well, radical Islam is a threat. And madmen are always to be taken seriously.

But only the Republicans say that they alone perceive the threat and they alone love the nation and will protect it. Only they contend the other party lacks the will to fight for America. It's an unfair and untrue contention. But this has been going on since Nixon and Agnew. And on Monday, Lieberman and Davis sounded like Nixon and Agnew.

Do only they want to "do what is right" and "stand up for America"? No. And Joe knows this if Davis does not. But that is the Republican stance.

Second, Lieberman equated fighting terror and radical Islam with fighting the war in Iraq. It is not clear how the quagmire in Iraq helps to do that. It is not clear how it helps to combat the enemies Lieberman says want to kill us all. It is not clear to the federal government's intelligence agencies, which have found that the war in Iraq has slowed our efforts on terror and made us more enemies. But that is the Republican stance.

Joe went on to talk about the dangers of the Internet and how all of our children - indeed the family itself - are at risk from electronic bilge.

Saying there is a lot of dehumanizing sewage on the Internet is a truism, as true as saying the United States has enemies and we need to face that fact. But only a Bush Republican thinks that the way to solve the problem of an increasingly decadent and cheap popular culture is more federal police power. Joe wants more regulation of the Internet by the feds and a tax, for example, on pornography. That's a Republican stance.

The Republicans are running on fear and taxes this year. That's all they have.

Lieberman is running on fear and more fear: The terrorists are coming and so are electronic predators.

Lieberman hasn't got much faith that the United States can defend itself against all enemies foreign and domestic, at least with a policy debate going on. And he hasn't got much faith that free speech can regulate itself, or that decency, humanism, religion, and good parenting can combat violent video games, bad music, and Internet crud.

Lieberman is entitled to his pessimism.

And maybe we do need more legal tools to catch and prosecute Internet predators.

But trying to shut down the debate about how to deal with terror has not made us more effective in fighting terror. And none of Lieberman's past campaigns to "clean up" TV or popular music have gotten anywhere.

Maybe the answer is not a police state, but education and ethics.

The point is, if you oppose a police state, if you want to hang on to the Constitution and free speech - even in time of war and even when you want to protect your child's innocence - you have to, today, be a Democrat.

And if you want to stay in Iraq and are willing to abridge the Constitution to "defend" our country and its "values," you have to join the Grand Old Party, in one guise or another.

This is what Joe Lieberman has done. And he is not being as subtle as you might expect.

At the Monday luncheon he:

- Said House Speaker Dennis Hastert should not resign.

- Introduced two Republican candidates for state office - for comptroller and state treasurer. He didn't introduce any Democrats, who have previously been told not to campaign at these luncheons.

- Thanked his Republican "friends" for their support, and he said he would never forget them.

Last week Lieberman told a Washington, D.C., newspaper that:

- He would also never forget the Democrats, like Chris Dodd, who moved to support Ned Lamont after he won the Democratic Senate nomination.

- If re-elected, Lieberman expects to retain his seniority. Otherwise, he said, he would have to consider not caucusing with the Democrats.

Well, there is only one other group to caucus with - the Senate Republicans.

Connecticut Republicans know what's going on in this election. Their nominal candidate, Alan Schlesinger, has between 3 and 5 percent in the polls. The Republican national chairman has declined to endorse him and Gov. Jodi Rell said he should withdraw from the contest. Republicans know that Joe is their horse in this race.

Democrats who think Lieberman is still one of them need to wake up and smell the coffee.


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