DUSTY RHOADES: Lieberman Doesn't Understand What Hit Him
I stood by my office window, trying to catch a breeze and sipping from my last cold can of Old Cambodian (the beer that made Phnom Penh Famous).
The ceiling fan moved sluggishly, as if it were bogging down in the thick humid air. All it was really managing to do was move hot air around. Sort of like Bill O'Reilly, only less noisy and less annoying to watch.
I heard the office door open. I turned to see a short fellow in a suit standing there. He had a fringe of blonde hair around his balding dome that reminded me of a monk's haircut. When he spoke, it was in an unctuous whine that set my teeth on edge. "Mr. Tundra?"
"Hey, I said, "you look familiar."
"We met a few years ago," he said, "after the 2000 election."
"Sorry, pal," I said, "you've got the wrong gumshoe. I don't do politics. I'm Sluice Tundra, just an honest PI in a dishonest world. "
"Trying to survive on the mean streets, where the women are fast and the bullets fly faster," he finished.
"OK. Maybe we have met," I said. Suddenly I recognized him. "Senator Lieberman," I said. "Good to see you again." I indicated the client chair across from my battered desk. "What can I do for you?"
He took a seat and pulled out a scented hankie as if to wipe his impressively broad forehead. Suddenly he burst into tears. "I don't know what happened!" He bawled. "First the vice-presidency was stolen from me, now this!"
I thought back to the headline on a newspaper I'd seen that morning. The paper had been hard to read because it had been covering a sleeping bum, but I got the gist. "Ah," I said. "Yeah. Sorry about your losing the Connecticut Democratic primary."
"I didn't lose it!" he snapped.
I'll say," I replied. "You didn't just lose it. You got your butt kicked by a guy no one had ever heard of. Jeez, what an embarrassment."
He stopped crying and glared at me. "Is this your idea of being helpful?" he said.
"It was stolen, I tell you! Stolen! And I want you to find out who did it!"
"Here we go again," I muttered.
He didn't seem to hear me. "There's no way I could have lost!" he hissed. "I'm an 18-year veteran senator! A party leader! That Ned Lamont's just a county selectman! I had Joe-mentum, I tell you! And endorsements!"
"Sean Hannity!" he said triumphantly. "He said I was a great guy! He said he'd send money to my campaign!"
"And Michelle Malkin! She likes me, too!"
"Why? Most Democrats make her foam at the mouth. And I mean that literally."
He calmed down a little. "She likes me because I believe the Iraq war's going great."
"Ah. So you're the one."
"I even got an endorsement from the College Republicans!" he said proudly. "They were going to come work for me!"
"Wait," I said. "I thought you said you were running in the Democratic primary."
"So -- and I'm just speculating here -- you think maybe the reason Democratic primary voters rejected you is because they mistook you for a Republican? "
"But but I'm bipartisan!"
"Well, if trying to please people who call your fellow Democrats 'nuts' and 'traitors' and 'terrorist supporters' is what you call bipartisan, I guess that's true. I call it being a chump."
His face got red. "You can't call me that! I'm good friends with the president! He even kissed my cheek at the State of the Union address!"
"I think I'm beginning to see the problem," I said. "You checked Dubbya's approval ratings lately?"
I closed the notebook. "Case solved, senator. You ran as the Democrat the Republicans Love, while Republicans were kicking Democrats in the teeth every chance they got. You tied your fate to a president and a war that both took a huge dive in the polls."
"But but this will destroy the Democratic Party! It's been taken over by radicals and left-wing nuts!"
"So I hear. I mostly hear that from Republicans and right-wing talk show hosts. I'm sure they have the best interests of the Democrats at heart. Maybe if you didn't spend so much time worrying about whether the Republicans were going to say mean things about the Democrats, you might have done better."
I got up and walked to the door. "Here's another clue, senator. Read a paper sometime. Being against the war and wanting the troops to come home isn't a radical leftist position anymore. It's gone mainstream. And by the way, it's not just the war. I'd appreciate it if you'd convey that to Senator Clinton as well. You obviously were slow to get the message, but after this, maybe she will."
I opened the door and stood aside, showing him the way out.
He was beginning to turn purple. "I'll run as an Independent!" he sputtered. "You haven't heard the last of Joe Lieberman!"
"Unfortunately," I sighed, "That's probably true."
Dusty Rhoades lives, writes and practices law in Carthage. His third novel, "Safe and Sound," will be published in April 2007.
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