Carol Platt Liebau: Thought Experiment

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Thought Experiment

Imagine that it's the year 2000, and moderate Republican Senator John Danforth was running for reelection to the U.S. Senate (actually, he retired in 1994). Imagine further that a paleoconservative from the hard right -- a Pat Buchanan type, say --started to present a real threat of defeating Danforth in the primary. Imagine further that then-Governor George W. Bush announced that if the Buchanan type won the primary, he'd have no trouble supporting him.

Do you think it would be covered with as little criticism as this -- Hillary Clinton's expressed intention to desert Joe Lieberman if Ned Lamont wins the primary?

If Hillary lacks the guts to stand up to the crazy netroots as a candidate, how's she supposed to stand up to Islamofascists or Kim Jung Il as president?


Blogger wrabkin said...

So if Lincoln Chafee loses his primary and runs as an independant, he'll have your support?

Hillary Clinton has just made an important announcement -- that she will honor the wishes of the Democratic voters of Connecticut, rather than support a man who may be her personal friend, but who has announced he will sell out the party.

And you claim that this -- her saying that she will abide by the will of the voters -- is cowardice.

Yes, once again, we see what Republicans stand for. Don't listen to the voters, don't count the votes. Install the people the King wants as his courtiers, and jail any journalists who dare to question them.

Tell me again, Carol, why were opposed to the Soviet Union? You seem to love their political philosophy.

12:14 PM  
Blogger eLarson said...

Lieberman's continuing to run despite a hypothetical primary loss is a sell-out to his party?

12:26 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Easy, Wrabkin.

Your point is a good one and can be made without the vitriol.

Carol is simply pointing out the growing influence the hard left is enjoying in the Democratic Party. She also notes that a similar situation on the other side of the aisle would be treated entirely differently by the media.

Both valid and true points.

Your point that the wishes of the people should be honored is also a valid and true point. And it's all that is necessary to counter Carol's points and thereby defend what is happening regarding the Democrats and Connecticut.

No need to get nasty. That only cheapens your argument.

12:28 PM  
Blogger wrabkin said...

By the way, Carol, which of Ned Lamont's positions makes him "crazy"? What exactly are the radical, wacky ideas that are going to destroy this nation? Granted, he wants the US out of Iraq... but if that makes him insane, then so are roughly 70% of the American people.

1:09 PM  
Blogger wrabkin said...

Neither point is valid or true, and if I show vitriol, maybe it's because I'm really annoyed that any Democratic candidate who dares question Immortal Leader is immediately labelled "crazy," "wacko," "insane." The fact is, Ned Lamont is hardly a screaming leftie, or even part of the "hard left," whatever that is.

But you are right about one thing: a similar situation on the other side of the aisle IS being treated differently by the media -- and by Carol. Lincoln Chafee has a serious primary challenge from the right, and this in a state where Chafee is about as conservative a Republican as will ever win the general election. But the press doesn't collectively clutch its pearls and shriek "treason" or "loonies" over this challenge. The press doesn't chide Chafee's challenger as being somehow a traitor to democracy.

And I think it's a sad, though telling, commentary on current political discourse that Carol calling anyone to her left "insane wacko crazy" and comparable to Kim Jong Il isn't seen as "vitriol," but a "true and valid" point.

If you think that Ned Lamont is "hard left," please document some positions he's taken that qualify. He is a liberal, but he's hardly Noam Chomsky.

What he is is an outsider. Not one of the beltway elites who consider their jobs to be permanent entitlements, but a real grassroots politician. A lot of establishment Democrats feel threatened by him, just like they did Tester, until Tester won so convincingly they had to rally around him.

Carol hates the idea of Lieberman losing an election, because Lieberman is a safe vote for the Bush agenda. The fact that she feels compelled to insult the sanity of anyone who doesn't support him suggests to me how frightened the Republicans are of real democracy.

1:20 PM  
Blogger Dittohead said...

If she claims she does not know that man Joe, as Bush did with Kenny-boy Lay and Jack Abramoff, I'll consider it a some sign of something. Perhaps even as in the case of Bush pure dishonesty.

Certainly, anyone would be stronger than Bush on North Korea. It is impossible to forget Bush's saber rattling. Calling both Iran and North Korea among the axis of evil and than handing off all discussions and negotiations to Europe and China. How can anyone claim Bush is strong and not laugh.

Carol is correct that the next President will have to be very talented as George is leaving one heck of a mess.

1:44 PM  
Blogger Duke-Stir said...

Carol, will you consider it a "desertion" when Duh-bya fails to attend his buddy Ken Lay's funeral?

1:54 PM  
Blogger eLarson said...

wrabkin wrote:
Neither point is valid or true, and if I show vitriol, maybe it's because I'm really annoyed that any Democratic candidate who dares question Immortal Leader is immediately labelled "crazy," "wacko," "insane."

On the other hand, it would seem that if a Democrat is perceived as going along with the the president, he is a sell out to the party.

2:02 PM  
Blogger eLarson said...

wrabkin wrote:
Neither point is valid or true, and if I show vitriol, maybe it's because I'm really annoyed that any Democratic candidate who dares question Immortal Leader is immediately labelled "crazy," "wacko," "insane."

On the other hand, it would seem that if a Democrat is perceived as going along with the the president, he is a sell out to the party.

2:02 PM  
Blogger Duke-Stir said...

larson writes: "On the other hand, it would seem that if a Democrat is perceived as going along with the the president, he is a sell out to the party."

Hmm...which party is it that has coined a term for those who don't go along with its ideology? I've never heard Democrats yelling "DINO." It is the Repugnicans that have the all-consuming obsession with ideological conformity.

2:09 PM  
Blogger wrabkin said...


If Democrats feel that their representative does not represent their views -- or if Republicans feel the same way about theirs -- then they are perfectly right to vote them out of office. That is the essence of democracy.

Somehow you equate that with childish name calling. Of course Democrats who hate what the Bush administration is doing to this country are going to work to defeat a Democratic Senator they see as contributing to the problem. Why do you have an issue with this? Why do you find this comparable to comparing your political opponents to Kim Jong Il? Or is it just that particular Republican mania that criticizing the Great Leader Bush is either insanity or an act of treason?

2:14 PM  
Blogger eLarson said...

Actually Wrabkin used the term "sell out" with respect to his party. Whether you use the term "Democrat in Name Only" or "sell out" is of no real concern to me. Why would you of all people care what Republican activists call members of the Republican party? For that matter, why do you particularly care what happens to Lincoln Chafee?

wrabkin further wrote: Somehow you equate that with childish name calling.

I was quoting you in your first comment in this post.

Then this: Why do you find this comparable to comparing your political opponents to Kim Jong Il?

You're losing it, man. Put the strawman down before you hurt yourself. Go ahead and show me where I made any such analogy. HINT: Showing me where any other person on Earth did that does NOT count as me doing it myself.

2:33 PM  
Blogger eLarson said...

I'll pre-empt your huffing and puffing and go back to Carol's post. She was wondering what kind of moral courage Hil' Clinton has. By not facing down the far left of the party, Carol wonders aloud how she would do in a faceoff with Li'l Kim.

That isn't to say that the Far Left of the party IS Kim Jong Il. (Their hair is likely to be far better than the Kimster's.)

(International ANSWER's parent organization, the Worker's World Party, on the other hand, might not shy away from the comparison. See their report from NoKo here.

2:47 PM  
Blogger wrabkin said...

Yes, let's go back to Carol's post. It's a ludicrous set of assumptions. First that Ned Lamont is some sort of far-left kook. (It is you who bring up ANSWER, which would be like me suggesting that Rick Santorum is the equivalent of the Klan or the American Nazi Party in terms of relevance.)

Lamont is a mild Connecticut liberal, certainly to the left of Lieberman on many issues -- but then, so are some Republicans.

Then there's the notion that it's some sort of cowardice on Hillary's part that leads her to tell a powerful incumbent Sentator of her own party that she won't support him if he can't win the Democratic nomination. To me, that's one of the few things Clinton has done that suggests she actually has a spine, rather than a weathervane.
I'm wondering, eLarson, what exactly you think you know about Ned Lamont. You rush to claim he's some wacky fringe candidate -- do you know his positions on any issue besides troop withdrawal? Do you know that he is an entrepeneur who started his own business and made millions -- just the way Republicans claim to like?

Carol also hinted at some press bias because Hillary hasn't been criticized in the media for her stand. I brought up Lincoln Chafee because while Carol has been extremely vocal in his disaproval of the notion any Democrat should be allowed to run against Lieberman, she has also been cheerleading for Chafee's primary opponent. It is exactly the same situation, and she makes precisely opposite moral decisions based on the politics of the person involved.

Here's a thought -- Lamont is debating Lieberman tomorrow on Hardball on MSNBC. (7pm Eastern, 4pm in the West; I suspect it's rerun later in the evening as well.) Why not watch and find out if Lamont is the scary Commie monster you seem to think he is.

3:35 PM  
Blogger eLarson said...

First, let me say that I'm glad that you disavow the likes of International ANSWER. I didn't mean to link the specific candidate with that group, but I think you might find some of their fellow travelers on your left flank.

It is exactly the same situation, and she makes precisely opposite moral decisions based on the politics of the person involved.

So why not come out and use the "h" word?

4:44 PM  
Blogger wrabkin said...

By the "h word" do you mean "hypocrite"? If so, I choose not to use it for a couple of reasons. One, it's meaningless namecalling, and doesn't serve to advance any thought -- to my mind, it has just the opposite effect, shutting down all rational discussion. (Once someone calls you a name, do you feel like pursuing a debate, or reachingfor that convenient two-by-four?)

Beyond that, I think that the word has been devalued by overuse, mostly from right-leaning talk show hosts whose pseudo-libertarian ideology reflects an essentally adolescent view of the world. Lots of politics can be dismissed as hypocrisy -- if Bush, for instance, were to talk tough about Kim Jong Il while secretly cutting a deal to end the standoff, one could call him a hypocrite, quite accurately. But if that kind of "hypocrisy" can help stave off a disastrous war, then I'm all for it. That's what politics is all about.

I do think Carol holds Democrats to a standard she doesn't hold her own people to, and this seemed like an obvious example. I wish she would acknowledge it, and discuss her reasoning behind it, because she has a fine mind, and I'd love to get a better understanding of how it works -- how such a smart woman could deeply and honestly believe things I find so abhorrent. But when she simply repeats the standard RNC talking points, it's depressing, not because it's hypocritical, but because she is depriving our political discourse of a unique, fascinating, personal perspective. I would never expect any such thing from, say, Michelle Malkin. But I know and greatly respect Carol, and only wish that her public personae was as fascinating as the real person.

5:08 PM  
Blogger Cliff said...

eLarson, Keep up the good fight!

7:39 PM  
Blogger One Salient Oversight said...

Carol calls them "The Crazy Netroots".

Greg calls them "The Hard left".

You're talking about Daily Kos, Markos and the others who make up the lefty blogosphere.

A word of advice to my conservative opponents here at Carol's site: Do not write this movement off as being radical and crazy.

The effects of Kos and others will have an enormous effect upon the direction of both parties in the future.

It would do conservatives no harm at all to take the leftist blogosphere seriously.

Tom Tomorrow, the author of the cartoon "This modern world" has a great strip about how Democrats are depicted by the right wing. You can find it HERE.

I'll transcribe it for you all:

Title: The absolutely true story of the liberal cocktail party that caused a lifelong Democrat to become a Republican!

Scene: Cocktail party. Man with Beard (Man #1) and Man with Glasses (Man #2) talk in background. Lifelong Democrat (LLD) is in the foreground.

Man #1: Now that there are no conservatives around, we can say what we really think.

Man #2: Thank God -- who of course doesn't exist.

(Lifelong Democrat begins to look concerned)

Man #1: It's such a struggle keeping all this America-hatred bottled up inside all the time.

Man #2: Does this country suck or what? I wish the terrorists would just win already!

Man #1: And the American people themselves -- what a bunch of imbeciles!

Man #2: They'd rather go to a NASCAR rally than spend a quiet evening at home reading Proust! Ha Ha!

Man #1: But you know who I really hate? George W. Bush! And for no rational reason -- I just hate him!

Man #2: Barbara Streisand is MY president.

LLD: Stop! I can't take it! I'm not leaving the party... the party is leaving me! (walks out)

Man #1: What's his problem?

Man #2: As a self-invovled liberal elitist I really can't be bothered to care. More chardonnay?

11:49 PM  
Blogger eLarson said...

It's laid on a little thick. I think an essential piece of the cocktail party would be "I hope I don't get sneared at when I go to Europe this season" or some such.

7:31 AM  
Blogger eLarson said...

Wrabkin - I appreciate your post. It comes across more sincerely than pretty much any other I've read. But if you don't mind, what was the point over which Lieberman would be considered a sellout?

Was it his support for the President over the war on Jihad, or would it be the hypothetical continuation of his run should he lose the Democrat primary? I'm guessing it is one of those, but if it is neither, correct me.

7:35 AM  
Blogger wrabkin said...


My problems with Lieberman go back into the Clinton days, actually. He is one of the few Democratic lockstep votes for the credit card and banking industries and against consumer protection. When Clinton was pushing for a bill that would prevent big accounting firms from selling consulting services to their accounting clients, Lieberman led the fight against it. The result was Enron, in which the accounting firms were unwilling or unable to blow the whistle on shady accounting tricks because they were getting paid so much in "consulting fees" to look the other way.

But I admit, that's a small issue, forgotten by almost everyone.

I suppose the moment that crystallized Democratic opposition to Lieberman was when he gave a speech accusing those who opposed Bush's war strategy as being unpatriotic and undermining the troops. It was a shocking moment for a leading member of the opposition party to tell his fellow Democrats that opposing the president's policies was the same as opposing America.

The kiss he shared with Bush at the State of the Union cemented that impression.

But there's a lot more. Lieberman is always the first Democrat to stand up and repeat Republican talking points, attacking members of his own party. Can you imagine a Republican Senator regularly going on TV and accusing his party of being Bush's rubber stamp or repeating other Democratic accusations? Of course not -- your party would never stand for it.

He has refused to fight against many of Bush's worst nominees to the courts. And while he brags about his vote against putting Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court, that vote was meaningless because he had already voted for cloture on the nomination, which was the point at which Alito could have been stopped. He was a leader of the "gang of 14," destroying Democrats' ability to filibuster noxious appointees. He raved about the completely unqualified Michael Brown in his sole (ten minute) hearing to be appointed to run FEMA, rather than doing the five minutes of research it would have taken to discover he should never have been nominated. He's voted against requiring hospitals to provide emergency contraception to rape victims, saying that they could always go look for another hospital if the one the ambulance took them to refused. He fought for the regressive bankruptcy bill, yet another gift to the credit card industry at the expense of consumers. Until the last moment, when it was clear that there was no chance it could pass, he refused to take a stand on Bush's attempt to destroy Social Security, which might be the defining issue for Dems. And there are a lot of other equaly ugly votes, too.

Which is not to say I'm demanding lockstep agreement with my ideas. I understand that the Nelsons, for instance, are going to be more conservative than Barbara Boxer; they come from conservative states, and they must represent their constituency. But you don't see them on Fox News every week attacking their fellow Democrats and parroting Republican spin points.

8:49 AM  
Blogger eLarson said...

How about a trade? The Dems can have Lincoln Chafee and the GOP can have Lieberman. :-D

(I don't know that Lieberman would go for it, although I was shocked about the announcement he would run as an (I)... I really thought he was one of those guys who thought of himself as a Democrat in the old school, and would always be.)

10:21 AM  
Blogger wrabkin said...

What Lieberman considers himself more than a Democrat is an incumbent. And there seems to be a philosophy on both left and right in Washington these days that once you are elected to a position, you deserve to keep it for life.

I'm opposed to term limits, because I think they are undemocratic. But people like Lieberman do make me see their appeal. Fortunately, people like Ned Lamont -- win or lose -- remind me why term limits aren't necessary. Because we still have primaries.

It's too bad the Supreme Court ruled in favor of politically-based gerrymandering, though. I'd love to see honest districts drawn in every state -- even in California, where incumbent Dems and Reps collaborated on an incumbent-protection map -- and have real contests for every seat in the house.

10:29 AM  
Blogger hoodawg said...

There are two judgments to be made here -- one about Lieberman and another about Clinton.

If Lieberman chooses to run as an independent in the event he loses the Democratic primary, he's not abandoning democracy or disrespecting the will of the people. Rather, he's merely deciding that he can still win a majority (plurality?) of Connecticut's votes for Senate as an independent, and he's willing to serve in that capacity.

As for the suggestion that he's somehow more incumbency-obsessed than any other politician, get real. They all want to be re-elected, and 90 out of 100 senators would do exactly what Lieberman might do if they thought it would work -- in almost every case, they'd have no shot at all. Lieberman is the unusual case where he has solid (perhaps a majority of) support from voters in both parties, but not enough support from either party to win a primary. Few senators face this situation -- if they lost their own primary, it would be a profound statement of weakness, and they'd retreat to the nearest dark corner to lick their wounds, not run as an independent.

So, Lieberman's (potential) decision to run as an independent is reason neither to praise nor condemn him on a moral basis. He's being a politician, doing what politicians do -- seeking re-election. The only grounds to judge him are partisan grounds. He may very well make it difficult for a left-of-center candidate to win this year, just as Jim Jeffords' defection guaranteed Republicans 2 years of a Democratic Senate. The same people who might condemn Lieberman were shouting for joy when Jeffords left the GOP -- and that's OK. Just realize that it's no more than rooting for your team, rather than passing judgment on the candidate's character.

Hillary's choice to back the nominee is nothing more than the team's reaction to a player's defection. Parties exist for one reason - to elect candidates to office. While we like to think of them as repositories of ideas (and they are to some extent), they're mostly about identification and consolidation of resources. If Lieberman chooses to opt out of the team, that's his choice, but he leaves behind all the protection and resources that come with the team. Hillary is part of those resources, and she could choose to give Lieberman considerable electoral power by backing him. If she did that, though, she'd be abandoning her team. Again, it's not about ideology -- it's about helping the team win as many games as possible.

If Lieberman returns to the Senate as an independent, he won't be counted on to help with fundraising, to stand tough on the big votes, or even to attend the annual retreat. If a politician can win on his own, without a party, it's an incredibly validating, powerful thing -- but it's also alienating. Lieberman will become a force unto himself, but he will also be an isolated voter that both parties will court on every major issue of the day. That's not useful for your average Democrat -- it's unreliable, time-consuming, and it places Lieberman on a pedestal in a room of the largest egos on the planet. Therefore, once Lieberman bolts the Democrats, they're wise to stick with the team instead of their old friend.

Lieberman knows what he's doing, and what the consequences are. If he runs as an independent, it will be fascinating political theater. But it's not a morality play -- think more like a messy high school drama.

12:30 PM  

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