The first three letters just happen to be,
(with apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein, The Sound of Music)
But what’s in a name? It is the actions that count. And here, perhaps the biggest greatest contribution to legitimizing the depredations of the Bush administration has come from the actions what can be euphamistically called, an ‘enabling’ legislator.
I first noticed the strange behavior of Joseph I. Lieberman shortly after the 2000 election. Those were difficult days (you have to remember, we had higher standards then). It was bad enough that Gore and Lieberman went quietly into the night after so blatant a travesty as the Rehnquist court judgement. While Gore may not have had Obrador’s gumption, it was clear that he was at least capable of inner outrage.
Lieberman, on the other hand, clearly appeared relieved that he could now go back to full-time faux bipartisanship. Instead of being a stringent opposition politician watching every false move of the ruling party, he was happy to promote a phony ‘let us all get along’. Such an attitude, always dubious in an opposition, turned disastrous for the country when a criminal and inept administration was at the helm.
The stentorious statesman who pilloried Ralph Nader in 2000 for bolting the party and standing as an independent, announced during the primary campaign he would consider precisely such a move himself. He kept this pledge, announcing after his loss last evening, turning a concession speech into a launching pad for his campaign as independent, although he kept saying that he would continue to be a Democrat. How? By opposing the Democratic nominee? While Lamont in his victory speech praised Lieberman, the Senator spewed bile on the upstart who had beaten him. Talk of the politics of division!
But doublespeak comes naturally to this self-professed moralist. Michael Kinsley wrote long ago that when he was hosting his TV show, the two politicians who were always available to appear, day or night, weekday or weekend, were Joseph Lieberman and John McCain, the very same enablers who gave so many of Bush’s egregious initiatives the stamp of moral authenticity, or at least, temporary cover. I cannot erase from my memory how assiduously Lieberman helped McCain pilot the Iraq War resolution through the Senate, and how Lieberman went after Howard Dean when Dean said Saddam Hussain’s capture had not made America any safer (see Duryodhana Dies). No wonder the Bush administration made full use of Lieberman’s crucial votes, portraying him as a reasonable and bipartisan politician who cared for the country in this time of war. Rather ironic, coming from a crew that itself didn’t care about the country, and saw the war only as an opportunity to curtail rights and help its friends.
Bill Clinton, knowing Lieberman’s intentions, still came out to campaign for him. How glorious that it helped not at all, exploding the myth that people will be fooled into excusing enablers, and their enablers. So did Chris Dodd and Barbara Boxer, both of whom had voted against the war. The Senate protects its own.
A week before the primary, facing a 13 point gap in the polls, the man of principle attempted to shed his record with a vigor that surprised even his admirers, all the while claiming to stand firm on principle. “I not only respect your right to disagree or question the president or anyone else — including me — I value your right to disagree”.
How magnanimous! One wishes Lieberman had valued as much his right to disagree with Bush. We are not talking about any old administration here, but the most brazen and incompetent one in memory. But Lieberman had no problem voting with the Bush team for Gonzales, Rice, CAFTA, the Patriot Act, Roberts, Alito, on the recent war resolutions (the original and the watered down versions) on withdrawing troops …
Lamont may have any number of flaws, but his courage in taking on this so-called icon of the Democratic party (a true representative for a party under whose Senate leadership the war resolution was passed), challenged him on the War and laid him low, assures him a place in the history of our times.
Congrats and thanks, Ned Lamont, for your wake up call to the Democratic Party, and for causing more sleepless nights for all those other minor and major Liebermans among the political elite.
NIRANJAN RAMAKRISHNAN can be reached at email@example.com.