FRED WOLFERMAN: Lieberman Suffers For His Principles
Lieberman is an 18-year veteran of the Senate, a career that includes the biggest winning margin in Connecticut history in 1994. He was his party's vice-presidential nominee in 2000, and ran for president in 2004.
He has remained in the ever-shrinking centrist segment of his party, and as the war in Iraq has risen in importance to be virtually the only issue that matters to Democrats, his continuing support of it has sunk him into deep disfavor among leading liberals.
Even Al Gore, his erstwhile campaign buddy, has refused to endorse Lieberman for re-election to the Senate. This is almost certainly more of a comment on Gore's remaining unspoken presidential ambitions than on his view of Lieberman, but it stands out for its disloyalty, even among politicians.
Lieberman is facing a primary challenge from somebody named Ned Lamont, yet another multi-millionaire trying to buy himself an office. Lamont has so far spent $1.5 million of his own money and is still going strong.
Notwithstanding support from Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton, Barak Obama and Joe Biden, Lieberman is losing ground.
Despite being intelligent (yet another Yalie), thoughtful and reasonable, and mostly toeing the party line, he is being vilified on the blogs, and faces a tough time in trying to get his supporters to turn out for the usually apathetically attended primary election.
Lieberman has done no more than stick to his convictions in supporting the war. Leaving aside the morass that is the Iraq debate, does it make any sense to reject one of the Senate's most thoughtful members on a single issue over which, realistically, senators hold limited sway?
The Democrats have hitched their wagon to the issue of opposing the war. Fine. It is an ugly war and we'd all like it to be over. But even if they win both houses of Congress, the Democrats cannot end the war unilaterally. The president, however stubborn, inept and infuriating he may be, will still be in charge, and no Congress, however opposed it may be to the fighting, is ever going to cut off funding or abandon the troops. The war can only be halted by election, in 2008, when the White House is up for grabs.
What the Democrats can do, if they take Congress, is send up their versions of tax reform, Social Security reform, environmental legislation, etc., etc., all their standard bread-and-butter issues, and force the president to sign or veto them. From the standpoint of actually accomplishing some of the objectives their party supposedly stands for, they would be well advised to move them to the surface of the debate.
Senators like Joe Lieberman, who are unfortunately rare in both parties, are exactly the kind of people who can bring some rationality to these discussions.
By becoming fixated on their hatred of George Bush and the corollary theme of exiting Iraq, the Democrats are not only polarizing the country along patriotic lines, which may not play to their advantage, but they are also wasting the opportunity (again) to bring forward a realistic discussion of the myriad issues confronting us. Even Al Gore's global warming movie, which has attracted so much media attention, has caused hardly a buzz among fellow Democrats.
It is entirely possible to be unhappy with George Bush's administration and angry about the war without being sucked in by the Democrats' rising chorus of epithets and whines. I dimly remember a point made in a brief high school study of debating tactics: An ad hominem attack -- that is, a personal attack on the speaker -- may stir up an audience, but it does little to advance an argument. A real debate requires information and reason. The Democrats seem incapable of mustering either.
It is a sad comment on both our parties that one of the truly thoughtful politicians of our day can't find a home in either of them. It reminds me of a column I wrote a while back, advocating the emergence of a third party and suggesting Joe Lieberman as a potential founding father. Nothing has happened since to change my mind.
Fred Wolferman lives in Southern Pines. Contact him by e-mail at fwolferman@sbcglobal. net
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