Category: Joe Lieberman
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I have been out of the loop for a few days, so this may be a bit stale--but here goes:

Ned Lamont may be the Lunatic Left's Dan Quayle. I was never convinced that Quayle was a fool, but he certainly played a convincing one on TV. The best you can say about George Herbert Walker Bush's hasty surprise choice for VP was that it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Lamont may get better, but right now he is woefully ill-prepared for a marquee Senate race with national implications. He looks and sounds like a small-time cable operator trying desperately to bone up on serious issues of statecraft. The Radical Left tapped Lamont to overthrow Joe Lieberman because they desperately wanted to send a message. This race may prove that their desire for an available candidate outpaced their better judgment.

Time will tell.
Category: Joe Lieberman
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Christian America has tended to view its history through the prism of Providence and American Exceptionalism. In a nutshell, American Christians found their origin in the English Reformation, perceived the American continent as their promised land and believed in their destiny, as the instruments of God's design, to bring forth an earthly era of peace and harmony (for an excellent brief commentary on this millennial strain of thinking, see Okie Gardener's post: President Bush's Millennial Theology).

We also have a tendency to impose Christian order on our story. We teach American history in two installments. There is an Old Testament in which the Revolution is the crucial event, and George Washington is the Deliverer. And there is a New Testament in which the Civil War is the crucial event, and Abraham Lincoln is the Savior of the Union. The blood sacrifice of the Civil War serves as a national atonement for the original sin of slavery. In addition, we are released from the old Covenant and given a new set of commandments and a great commission: "the last best hope of mankind." Along the way we encounter prophets of conscience (think William Lloyd Garrison or Martin Luther King), who speak truth to power and importune us to live up to our American Creed. In all this, the hand of Providence is at work in the American story.

Sometimes history turns on a dime. During the administration of James Madison, the American experiment faced a crisis of its own making: a disastrous Second War for Independence against Great Britain. Decrying an ill-conceived and fecklessly prosecuted war against the world's greatest military power, the nation's minority political party (Federalists) attempted to set itself apart from the hated opposition (Republicans). Locked out of power for four presidential cycles, sensing the public disgust, frustration and dejection over the course of the war, the Federalists met at Hartford, Connecticut. They composed and presented a list of demands to the increasingly unpopular President; unless met, they would no longer support his government or the failing war effort.

Although the Hartford Convention seemed wise politically (and to the Federalists actually quite the moderate approach), they were on the wrong side of history. What did they not know? Events were about to cast their demands in a completely different and unflattering light. At approximately the same time the nation would learn of the events in Hartford, they would also hear of a negotiated peace with Great Britain and a remarkable victory in New Orleans.

The product of America's most brilliant statesman, John Quiny Adams, and perhaps America's most daring poker player, Henry Clay, who bluffed his way to a draw with the British lion, the Treaty of Ghent saved face for the new nation. Securing an agreement to suspend hostilities and restore the American and British relationship to "status quo ante bellum," the American delegation cobbled a great victory out of a series of military defeats and humiliations.

Even more dramatic and incredible, American forces, under the generalship of Andrew Jackson, miraculously crushed the British at the Battle of New Orleans, which effectively ended the British threat to the American West forever. Although the two armies actually fought the battle after the war was officially over, news of the Peace arrived after the great American triumph in New Orleans.

In fact, as Americans learned of these seemingly preternatural events in Europe and in Louisiana almost simultaneously, they often conflated the two and credited the victory on the Mississippi River for bringing the British to heel. Along with the great joy of victory and peace, the news of the Hartford Convention also arrived and sank in. Instead of taking advantage of the ill wind of public opinion blowing against a failed war, the Federalist now appeared traitorous complainers, plotting against the government on the eve of our greatest national jubilation.

The Federalists bet against Providence and lost. And they were never heard from again.

But then there are other times when God does not deliver. For Southern Christians during the Civil War, convinced that God was on their side, the lost cause proved they were not chosen for God's purpose and uniquely blessed and protected. They waited on God--but God gave the victory to their persecutors. Lincoln argued that both sides of the war had claimed the blessings of God--but, in the end, God was on neither side; He had his own side. One should not assume God is on your side. We should not confuse Providence with deliverance.

I am convinced that George Bush believes in Providence. I am convinced that he thinks he is on the right side of Providence.

It is ironic that the datelines from the Lieberman story yesterday are all from "Hartford." Like the Federalists of old, a number of Democrats have bet against Providence.

We can only wait and see where Providence comes down.
Category: Joe Lieberman
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
From the Washington Post:

"HARTFORD, Conn., Aug. 8 -- In a stark repudiation, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) narrowly lost the Democratic Senate primary here Tuesday night, falling to antiwar candidate Ned Lamont in a campaign that became a referendum on the incumbent's support for the Iraq war."

Read the full story here.

Post staff writers, Dan Balz and Shailagh Murray, conveniently set off the lead sentence in the above news story with a passive clause: "In a stark repudiation, Joe Lieberman narrowly lost...." Historians learn in grad school to avoid passive voice whenever possible for reasons of clarity. For example, in this case, who did the repudiating?

An aside: I will forego (or at least suspend) my quibble with the clumsy and inconsistent adjectives: "stark" modifying "repudiation" and "narrowly" modifying "lost." Was it "stark" or was it "narrow"?

Back to my main question: Who done it? Who repudiated Lieberman and his support for the Iraq war? The Democrats? That is more accurate--but still misleading. Actually, 146,587 Democrats voted against Joe Lieberman, which is less than five percent of the population of CT (which is approximately 3.4 million residents, with approximately 2 million registered voters).

During the next few days, Joe Lieberman will face intense pressure from the media and Democratic operatives to "bow to the will of the people" (for example: "The People have spoken; why isn't Joe listening?").

However, it is disingenuous to conflate this primary election with the definitive "voice of the people." If you do the math, the 146,587 Democrats who voted against Joe Lieberman last night amounted to less than 10 percent of the eligible voters in the state. Joe Lieberman has every right (some of us would say "duty") to defend his seat, his positions and his eighteen-year record in the Senate before a much larger and more representative pool of voters.

I agree with his eloquent statement in defeat:

"I am, of course, disappointed by the results, but I am not discouraged. I'm disappointed not just because I lost but because the old politics of partisan polarization won today. For the sake of our state, our country and my party, I cannot and will not let that result stand."

He is right: this is an extremely important decision that demands clarification.

Democracy? Remember that neither parties, primaries or even democracy were envisioned by the framers of the Constitution. The party primaries have been with us for approximately 100 years. They work well--but we should not confuse them with Constitutional government. The primaries are extra-constitutional tools, which the parties (extra-constitutional institutions) employ to facilitate order and intra-party loyalty.

Joe Lieberman's decision to take his case to the people of Connecticut on appeal is wise and valiant. By the way, the Framers would have loved Joe Lieberman, for they wished for statesmen who put principle over party and self interest.

More to come on what this might mean for the modern two-party system and how Providence might play a role in this campaign...
Category: Joe Lieberman
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I am currently reading Revolutionary Characters: What Made The Founders Different, by Gordon Wood, which is a compilation of biographical essays. I heartily recommend it. Gordon Wood is a national treasure.

In his essay, "The Greatness of George Washington," Wood describes the first president's frustration with American politics at the end of his long public career. Wood writes of Washington's exasperation with the diminished importance of character and virtue in politics. Decrying the "new" spirit of party, Washington complained, "[i]f the members of the Jeffersonian Republican party set up a broomstick as candidate and called it a true son of Liberty or a Democrat or any other epithet that will suit their purpose, it still would command their votes in toto!" But even worse, Washington understood, the Federalists were no better. This was the disadvantage of the party system.

Watching great Democratic statesman dance around the primary election in Connecticut, exhorting Democratic primary voters to return eighteen-year Senate veteran, Joe Lieberman, to Washington, while at the same time hedging their bets and making it clear that they will support whoever receives the party's nomination, I understand Washington's lamentation.

American politics is cyclical. We are once again in a cycle in which party trumps personality. Our elections are rarely about integrity and "distinctions of character;" they are, to borrow a phrase from Wood, "a world in which parties, not great men, [have] become the objects of contention."
Category: Joe Lieberman
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
In his "Talk of the Town" column in next week's New Yorker , posted today online, Hendrik Hertzberg attempted to debunk the conservative claim that the challenge to Joe Lieberman was a "liberal inquisition" connected to the Iraq war.

As proof of his point, Hertzberg hangs his case on reminding us that Joe Lieberman made two fatal mistakes in the last decade: 1) he was not sufficiently supportive of Bill Clinton during the impeachment crisis; and 2) Lieberman did not forego his seat in the Senate in 2000 (while running for VP), which meant if his ticket had won (which it did not), the Senate would have been controlled by Republicans (unless Jim Jeffords defected to the Democratic caucus, which he did).

In addition, Hertzberg calls Lieberman "sanctimonious and hypocritical" for his moralism, reminding us that the Senator divorced his wife while his children were teenagers.

Pretty tough. The long knives are out. I am beginning to wonder if reconciliation will be possible, if Joe survives.

Category: Joe Lieberman
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
On one hand, the trial of Joe Lieberman in the upcoming CT primary, August 8, is a perfect example of American democracy in action (click here for some bg and context from the Wash Post). "Throw the bums out!" has been an effective rallying cry for frustrated voters since the earliest moments of American self government. James Madison et al constructed the federal government of the United States to be responsive to the desires of the people. Joe Lieberman has offended a core constituency of the citizenry of CT; therefore, Joe Lieberman must go.

However, the framers divided government into departments, and the departments into distinct institutions, making some sections of the government more responsive to the people than others. For example, the House of Representatives is elected directly by the voters every two years. That keeps representatives in the lower house on a very short leash. The House is rightly the people's conduit to government. Congressman ought to be taking polls and monitoring their phone calls and email, fittingly hyper-sensitive to the will of the people.

The President. Elected by the people every four years (albeit indirectly through the somewhat arcane institution of the electoral college), the president, traditionally, is the one person in the government empowered to represent all the people. The rest of the executive branch works for him and answers to him (or his management team) directly; the enormous executive department, sworn to uphold the Constitution and abide by federal law, answers to the people only indirectly through congressional oversight.

The Courts. Intentionally removed from the election process, judges are nominated by the President and approved by the Senate for life terms. Federal judges are only grazed by the consent of the people--and only once, during the process of nomination and confirmation.

Why all this variation?

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