When you're right you're right
"Rangeling in the Draft"
I appeared again today in The Daily Collegian
It was called "Rangeling in the Draft". I'm not sure that I got my point across as clearly as I would have liked, because I was trying to go in too many directions at once. But here it is:http://www.dailycollegian.com/media/storage/paper874/news/2006/11/27/EditorialOpinion/Rangeling.In.The.Draft-2507481.shtml?norewrite200611272302&sourcedomain=www.dailycollegian.com
John Kerry is a "botched joke"
John Kerry really stepped in it when he spoke at Pasadena City College this week. His remarks sounded like a direct swipe at the troops, painting them as uneducated losers who only join the military because they have failed at life and closed off better opportunities for themselves. Kerry later explained that he was talking about the president, not the troops.
Kerry said, "We're here to talk about education, but I want to say something before -- you know, education, if you make the most of it, and you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you -- you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."
Geez, that's odd...there isn't a mention of George W. Bush anywhere in that quote. Kerry has fired back defiantly, saying that his comments amounted to a "botched joke". Kerry spoke at a press conference in Seattle, saying "Let me make it crystal clear, as crystal clear as I know how: I apologize to no one for my criticism of the president and of his broken policy. If anyone owes our troops in the fields an apology, it is the President and his failed team and a Republican majority in the Congress that has been willing to stamp -- rubber-stamp policies that have done injury to our troops and to their families. My statement yesterday -- and the White House knows this full well -- was a botched joke about the president and the president's people, not about the troops."
I was interested in knowing what Senator Kerry said, and in what context he said it. It's easy to create a false impression with a short soundbite, so I went looking for the entire recording of the speech. I found it, here:
Indeed, Kerry could have simply made a "botched joke". That is to say, that if it was in fact a joke, it was really, really botched, because it didn't sound like he was talking about President Bush; it sounded like he was talking about our servicemen. In all truthfulness, it sounds a lot like a very common argument heard from the Left--that our military preys on the poor and on minorities, and that no one with better opportunities would ever put on the uniform. It's all part of their philosophy that the all-volunteer military that has existed since the end of military conscription in 1973 is not really voluntary at all. It's an "economic draft". It provides health care and educational benefits to those who would have none if they didn't join the military, and therefor cannot be called "voluntary" for America's underprivledged. This argument sounds an awful lot like Kerry's remarks.
Prior to his statement about education and getting "stuck in Iraq", Kerry was indeed demeaning the president. "How many of you remembered to set your clocks back the other day? Democrats set their clocks back one hour, and the Republicans have tried to set it back to 1958 for us. It's really that extreme. Anyway, yesterday I was in the state of Texas. As you all know, President Bush used to live there, now he lives in the state of denial. [pause for laughter] The state of deception. [more laughter]"
Hardy-har-har, Senator Kerry. You're such a jokester. You really make me laugh, just like the clown that you are. Senator Kerry continued, "I'm glad to be here with you, I really am. Thank you. Thank you for the privledge of coming here." At this point, Senator Kerry made the infamous remarks that have caused such an uproar.
So the results are in and the they are...inconclusive? Honestly, watching the tape, it's hard to discern his true meaning. True, he had just been making snide remarks about the president and the Republican Party. But then it almost sounded like there was a break in there, as if Senator Kerry were changing the subject. Was the "stuck in Iraq" remark just a continuation of his previous smart-ass comments, or were they seperate? In other words, were they a shot at President Bush or were they exactly what they sounded like--a deep-cutting insult to our troops in the field? I guess we'll never know.
Just as it is important to know what Kerry was saying immediately before his gaffe, it's also important to look at what happened immediately afterward. Did an embarrassd look cross his face when he realized that his "joke" was "botched"? Did he stumble and correct himself? Not at all. Actually, Kerry's "botched joke" got a lot of laughs from the crowd, and a self-satisfied smirk blossomed on Mr. Kerry's esteemed face. What exactly were these people laughing about? I don't know about you, but I don't usually laugh at "botched" jokes. Did they discern the secret meaning in Kerry's joke, despite the fact that it was about as clear as mud to the rest of America? Or did they laugh because they fully agreed with Kerry, and Kerry meant exactly what he said?
It's hard to imagine President Bush making such a remark about Senator Kerry. I know that politics is a dirty business, and people from both sides throw some pretty harsh barbs at each other. But President Bush has always left that stuff to the bloggers. He's too gentlemanly to make comments like that about Senator Kerry, although he probably has license to do so.
The little known fact about the Kerry-Bush rivalary is that Senator Kerry is not the prodigy he portrays himself to be. Despite the constant assertions to the contrary, Kerry is not immeasurably smarter than Bush. I would certainly say that he's a better speaker than the tongue-tied Texan, but that doesn't mean that he's Einstein and Bush is the village idiot. If we want to talk about studying hard, doing your homework, and making an effort to be smart, we might want to talk about Kerry's less-than-stellar career at Yale. As we have been told over and over again, when Mr. Bush was a Yalie, he was a C student, and a C student shouldn't be sitting in the Oval Office. We need our best and brightest to hold that important position. The only problem is that the young Monsieur Kerry was a C student as well. According to the Boston Globe's Boston.com, Bush's average after his first three years was 77. And what was Kerry's? Well the brilliant junior senator from Massachusetts (who served in Vietnam by the way) earned an average of 76 in the same period.
According to the same Boston.com article, "The transcript shows that Kerry's freshman-year average was 71. He scored a 61 in geology, a 63 and 68 in two history classes, and a 69 in political science. His top score was a 79, in another political science course. Another of his strongest efforts, a 77, came in French class. Under Yale's grading system in effect at the time, grades between 90 and 100 equaled an A, 80-89 a B, 70-79 a C, 60 to 69 a D, and anything below that was a failing grade. In addition to Kerry's four D's in his freshman year, he received one D in his sophomore year. He did not fail any courses. 'I always told my Dad that D stood for distinction,' Kerry said yesterday in a written response to questions, noting that he has previously acknowledged that he spent a lot of time learning to fly instead of focusing on his studies."
What? You mean he wasn't studying hard, doing his homework, and making an effort to be smart? I'm shocked!
Often overlooked in the Bush-is-dumb tirade is that young George was a C student at Yale, an elite Ivy League University. This is usually dismissed off the cuff with the counterargument that Bush only got into Yale because he came from a wealthy, well-connected family. Actually, that description probably applies to most Yalies, and it certainly applies to Senator Kerry. Kerry is also the son of privledge, having ancestors who came from the aristocratic Forbes and Winthrop families. As a young man, he spent his spent his time in France, hanging out with the Kennedys on Cape Cod, and studying at upper-crust boarding schools. Kerry had every advantage in life.
So we have two rich white guys who both went to Yale, and who both got C's. And one of them is making smartass remarks about the other one's intelligence. And they aren't even funny smartass remarks, and they come out "botched", and...people laugh anyway? I'm having a hard time following this. Am I really supposed to believe that Kerry's joke was about President Bush, and not about our soldiers?
Some might say that Kerry's remarks are awfully inconsequential in light of the fact that we're "bogged down" (their words, not mine) in a long struggle in Iraq. But they aren't inconsequential, because they're representative of a pattern of disrespect for the military in the Democratic Party. I sometimes wonder what the Democrats would say about the military if we just slipped them some truth serum.
Yes, I am aware that Senator Kerry is a Vietnam veteran. It's actually quite difficult not to know that, because I don't think I've ever heard him deliver a speech in which he didn't mention his wartime service at least five times. From one veteran to another, I would just like to say thank you, Senator Kerry. But does that mean that he can use his service as shield to deflect all criticism? Does that mean that he can just bash our troops with impunity? Kerry and his supporters have tried to stifle all criticism with his wartime service record.
Just like it's important to know what was said immediately before and after Kerry's "botched joke", it's also important to know about what Senator Kerry did before and after the Vietnam War. Contrary to popular belief, Kerry did not "turn against the war" after he served there. He was in fact against the Vietnam War before he ever stepped foot in Southeast Asia. At his 1966 Yale graduation ceremony, Kerry delivered an anti-war speech. According to Boston.com, "It is noteworthy, however, that Kerry received a high honor at Yale despite his mediocre grades: He was chosen to deliver his senior class oration, a testament to his reputation as a public speaker. He delivered a speech questioning the wisdom of the Vietnam War, in which he would soon see combat."
Why would someone who was against the war go off and fight it? Well, that's awfully peculiar. Is it possible that he went there only so that he could return home and become a leading "anti-war" activist with the distinction of also being a veteran of the war? Is it possible that he was already considering running for Congress as he did in 1972, as an "anti-war" candidate? Is it possible that Ensign Kerry got in and out of the combat zone as fast as he possibly could so that he could get back to America and start working with Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW)?
Then we can look at Kerry's post-war activities. He went on to be president of of VVAW, an organization that was since been proven to have had fake veterans among its ranks. I wonder how this might have been done. How does a person with no military service fool a veterans group into thinking that he is a veteran? As a former soldier myself, I know that it's awfully difficult to fake such a thing. There are just certain things that servicemen and veterans know that those who haven't serve do not. What's the difference between an 11B and an 11M? Which post is home to US Army field artillery? Which division is known as "The Big Red One"? What is the name of the Army song? Such things cannot be faked. Civilians don't know the difference between body armor and a flak vest. Civilians don't know the meaning of PMCS, BII, BDU, NCOIC, or MOS. Civilians can't tell the difference between an Abrams tank, a Bradley fighting vehicle, and a Palladin artillery piece. They foolishy refer to all of them as "tanks", when in fact they are three different vehicles with three seperate purposes.
Did these "veterans" falsify discharge paperwork? Or did Kerry's organization simply permit any yahoo to join who had a story (fact or fiction) that they wanted to hear? It kind of reminds me of faux-Iraq War veteran Jesse MacBeth, who marched with Iraq Veterans Against the War, and claimed that he had committed horrible attrocities as an Army Ranger in Iraq. Later, it was discovered that MacBeth had never been a Ranger, as would have been clear to anyone who has served a week in the US Army. IVAW disavowed Macbeth and claimed that they had been tricked. The proposition that MacBeth (the phoniest Army Ranger I have ever seen) "tricked" IVAW is about as believable as some hippie tricking John Kerry (who served in Vietnam, by the way) into believing that he had was a Vietnam veteran. Sorry, but MacBeth didn't snooker IVAW any more than these counterfit Vietnam vets fooled John Kerry and VVAW. They knew they were presenting phonies to the American people and the US Congress, and they didn't care.
Kerry and VVAW organized the Winter Soldier Investigation in Detroit. Participants in this event have admitted that they were coached and pressured to exaggerate and even lie about what they actually saw in Vietnam. Later, at Operation Dewey Canyon III, young Mr. Kerry testified before Congress. Kerry testified that, "[participants in the Winter Solider Investigation] told the stories at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country."
The participants of Winter Solider may well have said such things, but John Kerry knew full well that some of them were not telling the truth. Some of them had been pressured to exaggerate or lie. Others were not Vietnam veterans at all. They had told lies, and Kerry reiterated those lies to Congress.
So really, if Senator Kerry would compare US troops to those of Genghis Khan, is he really incapable of insulting our troops? Actually, I would say that this most recent "stuck in Iraq" slight is much milder than what he said about American soldiers in Vietnam. It isn't a stretch of the imagination to think that Kerry would insult US troops, because he's done it before.
Actually, Kerry has already said something almost identical to his remarks about uneducated soldiers being "stuck in Iraq". He said it when he was running for Congress in 1972. As John Solomon of the Assocaited Press writes, "In 1972, as he ran for the House, he was less apologetic in his comments about the merits of a volunteer army. He declared in the questionnaire that he opposed the draft but considered a volunteer army 'a greater anathema.' 'I am convinced a volunteer army would be an army of the poor and the black and the brown,' Kerry wrote."
Kerry brings up an interesting point, and one that I am not actively trying to dodge. Is our military underprivledged, underclass, and undereducated? It's a question worth asking, but irrelevant to Kerry's comments, because Kerry insists that that was not what he was trying to say. According to Kerry, his comments were aimed at the president, not at the troops. It does seem however, that his audience received his comments that way, and it gave them a little chuckle.
So what kind of military do the Democrats want? It seems that they aren't pleased with any type of military, whether all-volunteer or otherwise. Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY), a World War II veteran, proposed legislation that would have required all young Americans, male and female, to perform two years of national service. That service could be in armed forces, or young people could opt to perform alternative public service. Rangel later voted against his own bill. Representaive John Murtha (D-PA), a Marine Corps Vietnam veteran, has come out in favor of a draft and actually voted for Representative Rangel's bill.
Do we want a draft? I'll entertain the notion; plenty of European countries have conscription, including Germany, Poland, and Sweden. It isn't asking too much to ask a person to give something back to the country that has given us so much. But I know that a draft would work about as well as it did in Vietnam, if not worse. You can't force a person to fight who doesn't want to. A draft is a bad idea.
It just seems that nothing ever really pleases the Left. The Vietnam-era draft was "racist" and "classist" because young men who stayed in school in perpetituity could recieve deferements. Actually, that kind of sounds like what Senator Kerry was talking about. Those who didn't to college--i.e., the working class--got drafted and went to Vietnam. But when the draft ended in 1973, they still weren't happy, because the new all-volunteer military would only appeal to...the working class? Isn't that the same reason that they opposed the draft? So it seems that the only system they would support would be a system of conscription with no college deferments. That would give all Americans, regardless of race and class, a stake in American wars.
Or would it? Under the Rangel plan (which almost all Democrats voted against, including its sponsor, but not John Murtha), there would be no college deferments, but there would be alternative civil service for those who don't want to fight. I would argue that nearly all young people who have not joined the military today would not join the military under the Rangel plan either. They would just take the civil service option instead, and there wouldn't be very many more military families than there are now.
So obviously, if we want all Americans to share the responsibilities of military service, we need to draft all young people, no exceptions. That means no college deferments and no civil service alternatives. Does anyone really want that? I know that I don't. No, the all-volunteer military is the best option. We've had such a system for the last thirty-three years, and it's worked quite well. We've had that system since September 11th, and the military has met recruiting goals every year. We've had a force of about 130,000 troops in Iraq since 2003, and we haven't had to crank up the Selective Service System yet. That's because we have a great country, with a significant number of young Americans who are willing to put on the unifrom. I support the all-volunteer military, despite its flaws, real or imagined.
With that in mind, I would say that Senator Kerry's remarks about our troops (and I surmise that they were really about our troops) were a low blow. Shame on you, Senator Kerry. The only "botched joke" here is you.
Something to be proud of
I'm a country music fan. Yeah, I'm kind of a good ol' boy at heart, even if I was born a New England Yankee.
I'm a particular fan of Montgomery Gentry's "Something to be Proud of", a song I've interpreted to be about the son of an ex-fighter pilot growing up in the South after the Second World War. His father was a member of our "greatest generation" who was raised in Depression-era poverty before he went off to fight World War II. Like most people, the singer's father only wanted to give his children a better future in which they wouldn't have to bear the hardships that he did in the Great Depression and World War II.
The singer was lucky enough to grow up in a world that his father's generation had labored to create. Still, he had to work hard himself, sometimes working dead-end jobs and struggling to survive.
I'm reminded of my own parents and grandparents. At least two generations of indomitably proud people worked hard so that I would have more opportunities. They provided for me and they raised me up the best they could. They showed me the way in the world, and they let me out to explore it myself.
They didn't grow up with the same privileges that I enjoy today. Between them, they were the descendents of Irish, Italian, and German immigrant stock. Their roots were labor, not management. When they got married at an age younger than I am now, my mom was just taking her first job teaching in Springfield, and my dad was probably working in trucking. He was always working in trucking. Or sales.
In my earliest memories, my mom was taking a break from teaching, and dad was trying to start his own business, which never really worked that well. I remember dad working at Radio Shack to make ends meet. I remember both mom and dad working as cashiers at the local gas station. I remember when dad went to work wearing his brown Riverside uniform, back before Six Flags bought the place. Putting food on the table was the first priority.
Just as my mother and father worked hard so I could have a better life, so too did their parents. Bill and Eileen Duffy, Albert and Anne Cervino (rest in peace, all), gave everything they had so that I could have better opportunities than they had in the Irish and Italian neighborhoods of Philadelphia and Springfield. Dad signed up for the Navy out of high school, but was disqualified because of old injuries. Uncle Jack was a naval officer on the rivers of Vietnam, earning a purple heart and commanding friendly Vietnamese forces in their own language. Uncle Jack was one of the smartest men in my family, and I only wish I could talk to him about his life, but he departed this world when I was in middle school.
If you haven't noticed, I'm proud of my family. Great people seem to pop out of our family tree like squirrels. You just can't keep us down. My brother's a Coast Guard officer, my sister was the valedictorian of her class, my other sister is an RA and an accomplished art student. Not bad for Irish trash; or Italian trash, or German trash for that matter. We've done okay for ourselves.
My favorite line of the song is, "'Dad, I ever wonder if I let you down, if you're ashamed how I turned out?' Well he lowered his voice, and he raised his brow, said 'let me tell you right now: that's something to be proud of, that's a life you can hang your hat on. You don't need to make a million, just be thankful to be working. If you're doing what you're able, putting food there on the table, and providing for the family that you love, that's something to be proud of. And if all you ever really do is the best you can... well, you did it, man."
Sometimes I ask myself if I am worthy of all of the sweat and tears my ancestors invested in me. I'd like to think that I've led a life that's "something to be proud of". I don't yet have a "family that I love," but I would like to have something like that someday. I just haven't met the right girl yet, but surely she will come along in time. Still, I sometimes ask myself the same question--"Dad, I ever wonder if I let you down, if you're ashamed how I turned out?" But I don't even have to ask that question. I worked for that Eagle Scout badge, I graduated in the top tenth of my class, joined the Army, went to Iraq, learned German. My mom and dad understand that "that's something to be proud of". That's why mom taught those years in Springfield, why dad drove those trucks. That's why we are who are we are today.
Hope you're proud of me, mom and dad. I'm more proud of you than you'll ever know.
I was in The Daily Collegian
this Monday, writing about the media blackout concerning the weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq. It's funny how no one seems to care about them, even those people who are sop passionate about "the truth".
"Five Hundred Weapons Found"
In was in "The Daily Collegian" this morning. It was called "Five Hundred Weapons Found". Some guy wrote in today to "challenge" what I wrote, but he did a pretty piss poor job. WMD have been found in Iraq, and like the rest of the liberals he had to twist himself into pretzel shape trying to explain why WMD is not really WMD. Oh, but I shouldn't question his patriotism?http://www.dailycollegian.com/media/storage/paper874/news/2006/09/13/Opinion/Five-Hundred.Weapons.Found-2268322.shtml?norewrite200609141747&sourcedomain=www.dailycollegian.com
A "maverick" is not a "maverick" when he is a Democrat
Joe Lieberman is no Republican, but you wouldn't know that by some of the things that have been written about him in the run-up to the Democratic primary, which he lost to "anti-war" candidate Ned Lamont.
all but accused him of being a Karl Rove puppet. In an op-ed entitled "Why Did Rove Call Joe?", the paper claims that "Joe Lieberman will run for his fourth term in the U.S. Senate as a Bush Republican."
As if that weren't absurd enough, the paper continues:
"Whatever the outcome, Joe Lieberman has removed the mask once and for all. He is out of the closet. He's a Bush man and the de facto GOP nominee for the Senate this year. There may not be a direct 9/11-Saddam link, but there is a Lieberman-Rove one."
Joe Lieberman is not a Republican in Democrats' clothing, as the article suggests. Let me be the first to say that he's much too liberal for my liking, and I probably wouldn't vote for him for dogcatcher. But he has never managed to make my blood boil quite the same way Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have done. He seems like an honorable man, a man of faith, and a man with whom I could probably have an intelligent and reasonable debate.
So where does this stealth Republican stand on the issues? He voted against drilling at ANWR. He voted against a constitutional ammendment that would have banned gay "marriage". He co-sponsored the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act, which aimed to give the homosexual partners of federal employees similar benefits as the married spouses of heterosexual federal employees. Lieberman received and "F" from the National Rifle Assocation, but a rating of ninety percent from the Coalition to Stop Handgun Violence. He voted against allowing guns to be sold without trigger locks. He supports federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research. NARAL Pro-Choice America gave Lieberman a rating of one hundred percent for the years 2000, 2001, 2003, and 2004. For the year 2005, his rating was a scant 95%, because he voted to confirm Chief Justice John Roberts. He voted against banning partial birth abortion. Lieberman also voted against the Bush social security plan and recently called for the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
So that's the type of closet Republican ol' Joe is. As strange as it seems, today's Democratic Party does not have room for this accomplished Democrat and junior United States Senator from Connecticut. On August 8th, Connecticut Democrats chose challenger Ned Lamont over the incumbent Lieberman by margin of 51.8% to 48.2%. For a sitting Senator to lose his party's nomination in a primary race is almost unheard of in American history.
With the snubbing of Joe Lieberman, the Democratic Party is telling the world that the "big tent party" is a thing of the past. The Democratic Party has long been a broad coalition of competing interests. Back in the 1940's, the term "typical Democrat" was almost an oxymoron. There was the Dixiecrat wing of the party whose first priority was to preserve Jim Crowe laws; there was the "progressive" wing of the party, represented by former Vice President Henry Wallace, an admirer of Stalin's Soviet Union. But the party also had a lot of support from urban ethnics--Irish in Boston, Italians in Philadelphia, Poles in Chicago, as well as religious minorities such as Roman Catholics and Jews. The Democrats also enjoyed some degree of support from Midwestern farmers, blue-collar workers, and Southerners who were impressed with Roosevelt New Deal improvements such as the Tennessee Valley Authority.
But the party of Roosevelt is gone. Somewhere along the line, the big tent got a lot smaller. Dissenting voices were less and less welcome. Pro-life Democrats were squeezed out, Democrats who were a little squeemish about affirmative action were labeled racists, and Democrats who maintained their faith in God as a central object in their lives were told they were "Jesus freaks" whose opinions had no place in politics.
Pennsylvania's Bob Casey was one of the first Democrats to feel the crunch. A rising star in the Democratic Party, he parted ways with his party on one of its central issues--abortion. Casey is pro-life, and wanted to give a pro-life speech at the 1992 Democratic Convention at New York City's Madison Square Garden. The Democratic Party, under great pressure from NARAL pro-Choice America, nixed the idea. Only weeks before, Casey had been the defendant in the landmark supreme court case, Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania v. Casey
, and was consequently walking around with a figurative bullseye on his back at the convention. Casey, the popular governor of a large swing state (Pennsylvania) was not allowed to speak at the Democratic National Convention.
Ever since there have been political parties, there has been a delicate balance between party discipline and political independence. Though they are at odds, I believe that there is a time for a party to hang together, and a time for independent leaders to make independent decisions.
It seems that Republican politicians who break with their party are referred to as "mavericks", a complimentary term that denotes a certain courage and independence of thought. The Republican Party's leading maverick is Arizona Senator John McCain, a man whose name has almost become synanamous with "maverick".
McCain is not my kind of Republican, and I would have a hard time voting for him, "maverick" or not. I will criticize his voting record simply because I disagree with it, but I would never suggest that he is doing something nefarious by voting against his party.
No elected representative should be a slave to his party or take his marching orders from the party bigwigs. In an ideal republic, representatives would vote the way their constituents want them to vote, not the way their parties want them to vote. John McCain, the quintesential Republican "maverick", works for the people of Arizona, not the Republican Party.
I guess I would have more respect for John McCain's "independent" positions if I thought they were actually independent. It sometimes apears that McCain is just looking for the media accolades that reporters so quickly dole out to Republicans who bash Republicans. They love to see Republican infighting and reward it wherever they find it. Reporters love to report stories in which "even Republicans" are turning against the president, and "even Republicans" can't agree on a controversial issue. As the Republican Party's leading Republican-basher, Senator McCain has learned to enjoy the spotlight and revel in his status as an "independent thinker", and "his own man". The press knows that McCain is the man to go to if you want to get a soundbite of one Republican bashing another Republican. For this purpose, Senator McCain is indespensible.
While I understand that our leaders have to take their own path from time to time, I still wonder why some Republicans don't just switch parties. People like Chris Shays of Connecticut and Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, are known as "R.I.N.O.s" (Republicans in Name Only), because of their frequent support for Democratic policy positions. Why not just stop the charade and go join the Dark Side?
I guess it comes down to the fact that we have a two-party system in this country. Political parties almost have to have a "big tent" approach if they want to compete on the national level. After all, the party with the biggest tent wins
. Unlike other countries which have one-issue parties, regional parties, and splinter parties, Americans really only have to two realistic choices--the Republicans and the Democrats. Republicans are generally center-right, and Democrats are (supposedly) center-left.
But Americans are not so easily divided into liberal and conservative. Some people who are staunch supporters of securing our borders and oppose abortion may also believe that the Iraq War is a disaster and oppose NAFTA. Pat Buchanan, two-time candidate for the Republican nomination for president, holds those exact positions. On the other side of the aisle, Senator and Governor Zell Miller of Georgia was known as a bit of an irritant to his party, for the fact that he was not on board with some of the Democrat's more left-wing proposals.
Because of the fact that people are not so easily categorized as "liberal" or "conservative", "right-wing" or "left-wing", political parties have to have some tolerance for disagreement. Dissenters cannot simply be drummed out of the party for holding opinions that don't jive with the party platform.
But is there a line? If an elected official diasagrees with his party on almost everything, what is he still doing running on their ticket? At what point does a dissenting politician become a rogue agent, rather than someone who has occasional disagreements with his party?
Apparently, the Democrat's "big tent" is not big enough for Joe Lieberman, a man who faithfully votes with his party on almost all issues, but still stands by his vote for the Iraq War. Lieberman is a hawk in a party that can't quite make up its mind where it stands on the war.
Lieberman's biggest sin is his independence; he won't bow down to Democratoc Party leaders, and that made him a target in the eyes of the party's left wing. In other words, Joe Lieberman is a "maverick", although you will rarely hear him called that in the mainstream press. You see, the term "maverick" is a compliment, and should only be applied to politicians who break with the Republican Party, not politicians who break with the Democratic Party. Republicans "mavericks" like John McCain are praised for their staunch independent streaks, while Democratic "mavericks" (although they are rarely called that) recieve no such praise. In the eyes of the liberal media, these independent Democrats are supposed march in lockstep with the Democratic Party, so their refusal to do so is never portrayed as a virtue.
That's why The Journal Inquirer
tries to paint Lieberman is the perfect Bush Administration lapdog.
So the White House is there for Joe. Why back a veteran GOP Congressman like Chris Shays for the Senate? He's an independent spirit who thinks for himself, and views intelligence, defense, and terror as complex problems calling for nuanced responses. Joe is the cookie cutter the president would like to use to remake the rest of Congress.
Nothing could be further from the truth. While he does agree with the president that we need to be bringing the fight to the enemy in the War on Terror, he has come to these conclusions independently. In fact, that's exactly Lieberman's sin--his independent streak. While The Journal-Inquirer
gushes over R.I.N.O. Chris Shay's "maverick" posture, it bashes Lieberman for not being independent enough. Sorry, but one could just as easily say that the sitting Connecticut Senator is "an independent spirit who thinks for himself, and views intelligence, defense, and terror as complex problems calling for nuanced responses."
The senator has not become persona non grata in his party because he's a Bush lackey; he's been targeted because he isn't
a DNC lackey. While he is accused with "marching in lockstep" with the president, he is in fact cutting his own path. Since his defeat in the Democratic primary, we know that such insolence will not be tolerated in the Democratic Party.
After years of Democrats praising Republican "mavericks" every time they voted against their party, they finally got a "maverick" of their own. Not surprisingly, they don't like it. While praising "independent spirits" like Chris Shays, they expect those on their side of the aisle to toe the line.
In the wake of the Lieberman defeat, the message has gone out to Democrats across the country--break ranks at your own peril. It's not good enough to vote with the Democrats eighty percent of the time, or even ninety percent of the time. You have to sing along with the DNC chorus one hundred percent of the time, or at least when it comes to the Iraq War and the greater War on Terror.
But is that the right message for the Democratic Party to be sending? I would wager that the Democrats will rue the day that they sent Joe Lieberman packing. First of all, the Democratic Party has a little image problem; despite their hysterical screaming that they are a moderate party (not like those Republicans, who are supposedly far right-wingers), many people believe that they are a little far off in left field. I share that opinion. Consequently, they spend most election years striving to put a moderate face on the party, nominating undercover-liberal John Kerry for president, rather than proudly "progressive" Howard Dean. When the Democratic Party is playing its card right, it tries to keep the loony-left members of the party behind the curtain, and only allows more moderate members to represent the party publicly.
But every time the Democrats forsake the middle path for the left one, they get burned. They lost in a landslide when they nominated doveish presidential candidate George McGovern in 1972. President Carter was slightly less liberal, but he barely won his squeeker of a victory because his opponent was tainted by Watergate. Four years later, Carter went to the chopping block. Solid liberal Walter Mondale went down in flames in 1984, and Michael "the Massachusetts Liberal" Dukakis was humiliated in 1988. Clearly, the Democratic Party needs to be projecting a more moderate image. When they show their true colors, they tend to lose elections.
That's why the victory of Ned Lamont over Joe Lieberman presents such a problem for the Democratic Party. More moderate Democrats are beginning to ask themselves if they are welcome in the party anymore. After all, this party considers Joe Lieberman--a man with a voting record that could be considered solidly liberal on all fronts except one--too conservative!
A party like that cannot keep up the charade much longer. The facade is gone--the Democrat Party is a left-wing, cut-and-run, weak-on-national-defense party.
Senator Lieberman has vowed to continue his fight to keep his seat, even after losing his party's nomination. He has formed his own party--Connecticut for Lieberman. Leading Democrats have thrown their support to Lamont, and many have suggested that Lieberman should drop out of the race for the good of the Democratic Party.
The Democratic Party is obviously scared, and they have reason to be. This third-party candidate holds a commanding twelve-point lead in the polls. If the election were held today, the Senator would clean the challenger's clock, and prove just how far to the left the Democratic Party has gone. That could be extremely embarrassing to Democrats, and they would lose what used to be considered a solidly-blue seat in the Senate.
But the party big-wigs don't understand that, or at least pretend not to. As Senator John Kerry said, "And the fact is, Joe Lieberman is out of step with the people of Connecticut." Wherever did the Senator come up with that pearl of wisdom? Lieberman is now leading the polls by double digits, and Kerry says that he is "out of step with the people of Connecticut"? What he really meant to say was that Lieberman is just barely out of step with the Democrats
of Connecticut. In fact, he's really only out of step with Democrats who voted in the primary, who are usually the most dedicated and ideological of all party members. Sorry, but Joe Lieberman is in step with the people of Connecticut; it's the Democratic Party that isn't.
With the election a scant few months away, the Connecticut senate race is one to watch. The overly zealous Democratic Party has clearly zagged to the left, when it should probably have taken a more centrist path. That center lane led toward the incumbent senator, but the Democratic Party refused to take it, opting for Lamont instead. Time will tell if the left-wing path will lead Lamont and his party straight off the edge of a cliff. I suspect so, and gleefully expect the Democratic Party to suffer for the foolishness of its decision.