The Bush Democrat(Reprinted from the issue of August 17, 20096)
If he runs as a third-party candidate in November, Joe Lieberman may yet keep his Connecticut Senate seat, despite his thumping in the closely watched August 8 primary; but he has lost his party.
An incumbents defeat for his own partys nomination, however narrow, is a bad sign. Only six years after he ran for vice president, Lieberman has dramatically lost his mojo. Now he has been defeated by a rich upstart, Ned Lamont, and other Democrats are rallying unsentimentally to the victor.
At times democracy does have its vindictive satisfactions, and Liebermans desperate attempt to claw his way back into his partys favor during this campaign offered some grim amusement. His theme, after five years of cheering on President Bushs war amounted to I am too a Democrat!
You almost have to pity him. Its not as if the other Democrats had opposed the war from the start. Only two years ago, John Kerry could offer only nuanced reservations about Bushs conduct of it, nuance being a favorite word in the blue states for any subtle distinction without a practical difference. Lately Lieberman has been stressing lots of nuances between himself and Bush.
It didnt help him that his most vocal supporters were Republicans, the drive-by conservatives of talk radio, who love him precisely because he favors Bushs war even more than the presidents party does. As Lieberman insisted that he is no Bush lackey, these blowhards exalted him for being, in effect, a Bush lackey at a time when Bush lackeys are a vanishing species.
Politicians of both parties are distancing themselves from Bush. The Republicans seeking reelection this year avoid mentioning his name; the Democrats are banking on fury at him. Lieberman is the only Democrat who had to try to deflect that fury from himself. Deny it as he may, he has been Bushs Democrat.
Its tough enough being a Bush Republican. Strange to recall that even this year Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard could publish a book praising Bush as rebel-in-chief and hailing his strong-government conservatism as the wave of the future.
Whatever else Liebermans defeat means, it can only be a dreadful omen for the Republicans this fall. Democrats, independents, and many Republicans agree, with varying degrees of passion, that this presidency ranks among the most unfortunate in American history. With every passing week it looks further beyond any hope of recovery.
The administration is still insisting that whats going on in Iraq isnt yet a civil war, appearances to the contrary, as Condoleezza Rice struggles to arrest the spreading disaster in Lebanon. Once again the administration finds itself in an impossible situation it wasnt prepared for.
With her indefeasible optimism, Rice chooses to describe that situation as the birth pangs of a new Mideast. Just be patient, everybody; democracy is on the march!
What a curious figure she is. As a diplomat, she forgoes dignity for glamour, wearing dominatrix boots to show off her legs like some fashion model. What a contrast with her predecessors, Colin Powell and Madeleine Albright. Going further back in history, I dont recall Dean Rusk dressing like that nobody ever called him funky and even the spruce Dean Acheson settled for pin-striped trousers.
Her approach to the new Lebanon horrors is characteristically moralistic, deploring the violence while siding entirely with the Israelis. The inevitable result, with every new Israeli bomb, has been to isolate America further against the Muslim world and to increase Hezbollahs popularity (and Irans influence) in the region.
The Israelis, understandably and predictably, dont feel that Americas worries are their concern; for them the only issue, as always, is their own survival. If this leaves Rice and her boss holding the bag, too bad.
The Gibson Case (Continued)
Given all the other things claiming our attention, the Mel Gibson furor has been of surprising intensity.
Only Gibson himself has noticed the primary fact: that he was fortunately arrested before his drunken driving killed somebody. If a terrible accident had resulted, it could hardly have caused more indignation than his remark about Jews causing wars.
You wonder if his detractors have ever met a drunk in full cry. I have, alas, and I wouldnt be amazed if you have too. Most of them say things which, if coherent at all, make Gibson sound like a suave diplomat.
Anyway, he wasnt addressing the public; he was speaking to the police, including a Jewish officer the only one, after all, to whom he owed an apology for his offensive words, even if his many enemies seized the occasion to act injured.
Moreover, there are a number of odd features and questions about this case. Was Gibson followed? Or under surveillance? Why was such a detailed (six-page) report written about what was apparently, after all, a routine drunk driving arrest, and how did it reach the media? Was it Gibson who initiated the conversation? How well did he himself recall the exchange?
We may never know, and the official story may be quite accurate. But in these cases there is nearly always more than meets the eye.
The Future of Fidel
Nearly overlooked amid all the weeks uproars was the continuing mysterious infirmity of Fidel Castro, pushing 80. Only exiled Cubans seem to remember what a nasty ruler he has been. Exiles, in fact, have always been Communisms chief export.
For decades Fidel was Communisms Boy Wonder, charming journalists and impressing Hollywood, while Communism has lately been upstaged by terrorism as the focus of American foreign policy. He has also been lucky; after the collapse of his Soviet patrons, he has found a new sugar daddy in Venezuelas oil-rich Hugo Chavez. Suddenly he is a frail greybeard.
It isnt too early to address the practical question of how Castro should be memorialized. How about a Lenin-style mausoleum, preserving his remains under glass for the veneration of posterity? Plenty of the worlds progressives, including Americans, would flock to Havana to pay their respects to this hero of the Revolution.
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