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Robert Kagan assesses the Joe Lieberman issue in today's Washington Post as an attack on principles, specifically the courage to refrain from recanting to gain popularity. Lieberman's sin has not been a divergent voting record from his party; he has consistently voted with the mainstream of his caucus. Lieberman simply would not change his mind on the wisdom of deposing Saddam Hussein, despite the rise of the anti-war radical Left:
Lieberman stands condemned today because he didn't recant. He didn't say he was wrong. He didn't turn on his former allies and condemn them. He didn't claim to be the victim of a hoax. He didn't try to pretend that he never supported the war in the first place. He didn't claim to be led into support for the war by a group of writers and intellectuals whom he can now denounce. He didn't go through a public show of agonizing and phony soul-baring and apologizing in the hopes of resuscitating his reputation, as have some noted "public intellectuals."
These have been the chosen tactics of self-preservation ever since events in Iraq started to go badly and the war became unpopular. Prominent intellectuals, both liberal and conservative, have turned on their friends and allies in an effort to avoid opprobrium for a war they publicly supported. Journalists have turned on their fellow journalists in an effort to make them scapegoats for the whole profession. Politicians have twisted themselves into pretzels to explain away their support for the war or, better still, to blame someone else for persuading them to support it.
Al Gore, the one-time Clinton administration hawk, airbrushed that history from his record. He turned on all those with whom he once agreed about Iraq and about many other foreign policy questions. And for this astonishing reversal he has been applauded by his fellow Democrats and may even get the party's nomination.
Apparently, amazingly, dispiritingly, it all works. At least in the short run, dishonesty pays. Dissembling pays. Forgetting your past writings and statements pays. Condemning those with whom you once agreed pays. Phony self-flagellation followed by self-righteous self-congratulation pays. The only thing that doesn't pay is honesty.
Al Gore, John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, and a host of Democrats who spent the years between 1998 and 2002 warning of the dire consequences of allowing Saddam Hussein to stay in power have all recanted at different times, and under different rationalizations. They all bailed when the going got tough, and declared that they didn't think a war should either result in American casualties, or cost money, or result in bad feelings. These Democrats want us to believe that they would have waged a war for the first time in history that would have avoided all of these results, and it's completely dishonest.
But what I find interesting is that the other Democratic Senators who supported the Iraq War have not come under attack in the vicious manner that Lieberman has seen -- even those running for office this year. Bill Nelson of Florida had no real primary challenger (and apparently won't have one in the general election the way Katherine Harris' campaign is going). Maria Cantwell didn't have droves of MoveOn supporters flocking to Washington trying to unseat her in the primary election. Ben Nelson seems safe in Nebraska, at least from his fellow Democrats. Most interestingly, Hillary Clinton has had no negative consequences for her support for the Iraq war, consistently repeated through the last two election cycles.
None of the Senators mentioned above have made a point of disassociating themselves with their war vote; in fact, they have embraced it to varying degrees, with the possible exception of Cantwell in Washington. Why? Because they represent red states and can't afford to look soft on terrorism. One would think that these DINOs would come under fire ahead of Lieberman, especially since both Nelsons vote much more conservatively than Lieberman in the Senate.
So why Lieberman? Why doesn't the Connecticut base attack Chris Dodd with the same fervor, who joined Lieberman in supporting the war? One has to look at the evidence and conclude that the Left wants to torpedo the most effective agent for compromise on the Democratic side, and that should give Americans an indication of the goals of the anti-Lieberman movement. They don't want to work together with anyone. They want to rule, and rule outright, and they don't care who they smear to get their way.
I'm no great fan of Lieberman the politician, but I do respect him. I think that if Al Gore hadn't forced Lieberman to wait so long to commit in the 2004 race (Lieberman kept his pledge to wait for Gore's decision on another run) and then stabbed him in the back for his thoughtfulness, Lieberman could have won the party's nomination in 2004 -- and would have beaten George Bush. Now he stands on the edge of political oblivion, one of the party's greatest assets being tossed aside as an anachronism in the modern Left.Sphere It View blog reactions
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» The Last Honest Man from The Unalienable Right
Robert Kagan writes in The Washington Post that Senator Joe Lieberman is in trouble because he refuses to dishonestly run away from his support for the liberation of Iraq like so many of his fellow Democrats have been doing: The Last Honest Man No, Li... [Read More]
Tracked on August 6, 2006 3:05 PM
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