Friday, December 21, 2007

Lieberman Speaks Up

I had a lot to say on these pages last year about the ludicrous attempt of far left Democrats and the radical blogosphere to scuttle Joe Lieberman out of the Democratic Party and remove him from office.

That crusade against Mr. Lieberman failed, although he is no longer a Democrat, but an "independent" in the U.S. Senate where he wields more power than ever before. Mr. Lieberman is today the personification of the political center, and retains a working relationship with numerous significant centrists in both parties, including Democrats Tom Carper, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, Diane Feinstein, Ken Salazar, Evan Bayh, Robert Casey, Amy Klobuchar and Ben Nelson; and Republicans Susan Collins, Lamar Alexander, Norm Coleman, Arlen Spector, Olympia Snowe, John Warner and
Richard Lugar.

Now Mr. Lieberman, in 2000 the then popular Democratic nominee for vice president of the United States, has injected himself into the 2008 contest for president by endorsing a candidate in the New Hampshire primary.

He did not endorse one of his U.S. senate colleagues such as Barack Obama, John Edwards, Joe Biden or fellow Connecticut senator Chris Dodd. Nor did he endorse Governor Bill Richardson who, during the height of his difficult re-election race in 2006, called on him to to withdraw as a candidate. He did not even endorse Hillary Clinton, his colleague from New York, whose husband, later the president of the United States, had come to Connecticut as a student to campaign for Lieberman in one of his
earliest races.

Nor did he endorse the Republican frontrunner, the former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani. He did not endorse the Republican candidate who is leading in New Hampshire, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Nor did he endorse the man who has apparently taken the lead in Iowa, former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas. Finally, he did not endorse his former colleague in the senate, Fred Thompson.

So whom did he endorse?

Senator Lieberman said he preferred Repulbican John McCain, a man who is down but not quite out of the race for president in 2008.

How can we explain this, remembering that John McCain came very close to defeating George W. Bush for his party's nomination in 2000, and if he had, would have been running against the Democratic ticket of Al Gore and Joe Lieberman?

The answer is that John McCain, a true Republican conservative, is also the only candidate running for president this year who consistently acknowledges that the person who wins the highest office in the nation must win it in the political center.

How else to explain Mr. McCain's stubborn advocacy of his campaign reform legislation, banning torture, the environment and a plan for dealing with illegal immigration that does not include mass deportation, each an issue that is controversial in the Republican grass roots?

In the unlikely outcome that Mr. McCain wins the Republican nomination next year, he is the one candidate for president who won't have to revise himself to compete against his November opponent.

That reminds us of Joe Lieberman's difficult race for re-election in 2006 when, after being defeated in the Democratic primary by a leftist parvenu, he defended his seat to the voters of Connecticut by running on his record, including his support of the war in Iraq. He won that race because he won not only many Democratic votes, but the votes of independents and Republicans as well.

Since I do not think that most endorsements, by politicians or newspapers, matter that much, I do not suggest that Mr. Lieberman's endorsement of John McCain will sway many voters in New Hampshire. (Some endorsements do matter, and one of those may be Oprah's indefatigable support of Barack Obama.)

But I do suggest that Joe Lieberman's support for John McCain is an important statement of principle and reality in an already protracted campaign season filled with slogans and rhetoric mostly about the peripheral issues facing the nation.

When Newt Gingrich appeared to be running for president earlier this year, he expressed many views that seemed politically "risky" or inappropriate. That is, he proposed serious and tough strategies and solutions for solving the nation's most critical problems of foreign policy, health care, education, and immigration. (In his "shadow" campaign called American Solutions, he continues to do so although he is not running for president.)

With Mr.Huckabee's and Mr. Obama's apparent upsetting of conventional wisdom this year with their own unconventional campaigns,it is becoming clear that the American people do not want "more of the same" from either party or any of their presidential candidates.

One more time, Joe Lieberman reminds the country that the solutions to our problems can only be found in common purpose with the consent of the majority.


-This article first appeared in The Washington Times on December 21, 2007

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