The GOP Did Save One of Their Embattled Incumbents: Sore Loser Lieberman

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It could not
have happened to a more deserving guy.

Such is
what I thought this past August, when I witnessed in jubilance Sen.
Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut lose the Democratic Senate Primary
to neophyte Ned Lamont in a barnburner contest that drew the attention
of the entire nation to the tiny Nutmeg State.

lived in Connecticut for most of my life, I know well what kind
of a representative Lieberman is. Lieberman is Mr. Big Government,
a tax and spend left-liberal who loves vote buying and loathes tax
cuts. One of his most important jobs is funneling taxpayer money
into the coffers of big defense companies, who then munificently
fund his campaign. Lieberman is also a showboating media hog and
an incessant moralizer who condemns the entertainment tastes of
millions of Americans. With his unpleasant croak voice and his face
creased into a permanent frown, he likes to act as if he is the
Senate's holy man. Too bad he's a consummate warmonger, advocating
and supporting the raining down of destruction upon impoverished
peoples in several Third World nations. Lieberman wants to force
American taxpayers and soldiers to pay the heavy burden of hegemony
and "globaloney." He also has the reputation in Connecticut
of being "Finger-in-the-wind Joe," for his lack of principle
and honesty. Lieberman even had the chutzpah to run for re-election
to the Senate in 2000 while simultaneously being Al Gore's running
mate. I guess the thought of losing all political power is just
too traumatizing for the poor senator. That time, however, "Joementum"
Joe Lieberman read the shifting winds too late to save himself from
defeat by the feisty progressive grassroots. Needless to say, I
had been experiencing sweet schadenfreude in the aftermath.

course, just like during the 2000 Florida recounts and the 2004
New Hampshire primary where he claimed third place when he actually
attained fifth, Lieberman decided to play the sore loser. After
his own Connecticut Democrats decided to jettison him, Lieberman
resolved to make an independent bid to retain his seat.

this internecine struggle then raging between Lieberman and Lamont,
one would suppose the Republican Party, faced with the prospects
of losing its Senate majority, would have been attempting to exploit
the situation for their candidate the way they did in Connecticut
in 1970, when Republican Lowell Weicker grabbed Democrat Thomas
Dodd's seat after a similar scenario unfolded.

the Republican candidate, Alan Schlesinger, received no support.
According to the Connecticut Republican Party his race was "not
a priority." President Bush, who notoriously kissed Lieberman
at the 2005 State of the Union address, said he refused to make
an endorsement in the race. It's certainly one thing not to want
to spend money on a race, but to not even endorse a candidate of
your own party suggests a problem.

Republicans had even tried to force Schlesinger out of the contest,
claiming he was unqualified to run because he has in the past had
a little problem with gambling money away at casinos, using a pseudonym
to do so. But it's hard to square that claim with the Party's support
in the past for Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) and his little problem with
ethics, former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Florida) and his little problem
with under-aged boys, or President Bush and his past problems with
alcohol and other drugs. Besides, if gambling is Schlesinger's only
problem, I think he would fit in nicely in Congress.

though, Republican candidates with troubled pasts are nothing new.
What is new is that what had appeared ostensibly to be a grievance
with Schlesinger was actually a tacit endorsement of Lieberman.
In fact in some cases it had been an open endorsement of Joe Lieberman.
Just listen to the now unemployed Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Connecticut)
talk on WNPR this summer: "I think the news that has come out
about Mr. Schlesinger is extremely disappointing… I also
think . . . Joe Lieberman has been good for Connecticut." Could
a Democrat have said it better? She was quick to deny that that
amounted to an endorsement of Lieberman. But if one goes to her
website, one will see she is proud to be pictured standing next
to both Joe Lieberman and the indefatigable Bill Clinton. Joining
Ms. Johnson is neoconservative kingpin William Kristol, who gushed,
"Is it too fanciful to speculate about a 2008 GOP ticket of
McCain-Lieberman, or Giuliani-Lieberman…" In case you doubt
who Kristol was rooting for, the editor of the Weekly Standard
cut the Lieberman campaign a generous check for five hundred dollars.
Kristol isn't the only "conservative" who had been funneling
money into Lieberman's coffers either. According to the online magazine
Insight, White House advisor Karl Rove had been able to obtain
literally millions of dollars for Lieberman from Republican donors
nationwide. Indeed, with "enemies" like these, who needs

fact, Rove had engineered a plan of giving secret support to Lieberman.
Internal Republican polls this summer showed that the party would
lose as many as thirty to forty seats in the House of Representatives
and possibly enough seats in the Senate to lose control there as
well, or have a fifty-fifty split, come November. The calculus of
Mr. Rove was that Lieberman would back the president on the issue
of the Iraq War, Afghanistan War, possible Iran War and so-called
War on Terror and provide the vote necessary to pass bills favored
by the administration pertaining to those efforts. Forget Lieberman's
views on the other issues, views what would earn the opprobrium
of many conservative Republicans. The war is the issue that really
matters to the president, in his monomaniacal drive to pursue his
foreign policies. And liberal Lieberman matters much more to the
president and his coterie than any Republican victory in Connecticut
ever could. Thus, the Republican Party that has let conservatives
down several times in recent years has done so again by allying
themselves with a left-liberal Democrat based on the narrow conceptions
of a few issues and political expediency. But, if Lieberman is now
considered a fit by the Republican leadership, then where does that
leave true conservatives?

leaves them in the lurch. To quote the old conservative warhorse
Phyllis Schlafly, writing in The American Conservative, "Bush
ran as a conservative, but he has been steadily (some might say
stealthily) trying to remold the conservative movement and the Republican
Party into the Bush Party." Lieberman is a fitting symbol of
what the Bush Republican Party has morphed into as it swerves leftward
towards increased statism. Under Bush the Republican Party has embraced
big government in all areas, nation building projects, a creeping
authoritarianism and New England Democrats.

ended up winning re-election again as an independent. He will caucus
with the Democrats. In Connecticut it was Republicans that provided
the margin of victory for Lieberman, exit polls revealed. That was
the only thing Karl Rove got right this year.

the Democrats were able to wrest control of both houses of Congress
from the Republicans for the first time in a dozen years. The Iraq
War played heavily in the minds of voters this year (the author
included). The irony is that Lieberman, the de facto Republican
candidate in the race, ended up surviving the slaughter that felled
so many others. And the reason was that he couldn't have asked for
a more measly opposition or more supportive president. That has
long given pause to progressives; it should also give pause to conservatives.
It should give them something to contemplate, especially now that
the president has left them a political party on the rocks, a host
of unresolved political problems…and Joe Lieberman.

15, 2006

Kraegel III [send him mail]
is a political science major living in Indiana. He is currently
writing a novel.

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