Ed Driscoll

Joementum In The Balance

One of the most astonishing exchanges in recent memory from an editor of a political journal, to his counterpart on the other side of the aisle in talk radio and journalism occurred last week. The conversation was between Martin Peretz, the editor of the center-left New Republic, and Hugh Hewitt, his counterpart on the center right, on Hugh’s popular radio show:

HH: Do you want the Democrats to win majorities in the House or the Senate, Martin Peretz?

MP: I’m…I’m appalled by some of the people who would become head of Congressional committees.

HH: Is that a no?

MP: Uh, but I’m also appalled by some of the shenanigans…

HH: But is that…I’ve got five seconds. Is that a no, Martin Peretz?

MP: It’s a cowardly refusal to answer.

HH: (laughing) Okay. We’ll carry it on, later. Martin Peretz, thanks.

(You can hear the original audio here, if you like.) In The Wall Street Journal’s online Opinion Journal, Peretz clarifies his fears:

If Mr. Lieberman goes down, the thought-enforcers of the left will target other centrists as if the center was the locus of a terrible heresy, an emphasis on national strength. Of course, they cannot touch Hillary Clinton, who lists rightward and then leftward so dexterously that she eludes positioning. Not so Mr. Lieberman. He does not camouflage his opinions. He does not play for safety, which is why he is now unsafe.

Now Mr. Lamont’s views are also not camouflaged. They are just simpleminded. Here, for instance, is his take on what should be done about Iran’s nuclear-weapons venture: “We should work diplomatically and aggressively to give them reasons why they don’t need to build a bomb, to give them incentives. We have to engage in very aggressive diplomacy. I’d like to bring in allies when we can. I’d like to use carrots as well as sticks to see if we can change the nature of the debate.” Oh, I see. He thinks the problem is that they do not understand, and so we should explain things to them, and then they will do the right thing. It is a fortunate world that Mr. Lamont lives in, but it is not the real one. Anyway, this sort of plying is precisely what has been going on for years, and to no good effect. Mr. Lamont continues that “Lieberman is the one who keeps talking about keeping the military option on the table.” And what is so plainly wrong with that? Would Mahmoud Ahmadinejad be more agreeable if he thought that we had disposed of the military option in favor of more country club behavior?

Finally, the contest in Connecticut tomorrow is about two views of the world. Mr. Lamont’s view is that there are very few antagonists whom we cannot mollify or conciliate. Let’s call this process by its correct name: appeasement. The Greenwich entrepreneur might call it “incentivization.” Mr. Lieberman’s view is that there are actually enemies who, intoxicated by millennial delusions, are not open to rational and reciprocal arbitration. Why should they be? After all, they inhabit a universe of inevitability, rather like Nazis and communists, but with a religious overgloss. Such armed doctrines, in Mr. Lieberman’s view, need to be confronted and overwhelmed.
Almost every Democrat feels obliged to offer fraternal solidarity to Israel, and Mr. Lamont is no exception. But here, too, he blithely assumes that the Palestinians could be easily conciliated. All that it would have needed was President Bush’s attention. Mr. Lamont has repeated the accusation, disproved by the “road map” and Ariel Sharon’s withdrawal from Gaza, that Mr. Bush paid little or even no attention to the festering conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. And has Mr. Lamont noticed that the Palestinians are now ruled, and by their own choice, by Hamas? Is Hamas, too, just a few good arguments away from peace?

The Lamont ascendancy, if that is what it is, means nothing other than that the left is trying, and in places succeeding, to take back the Democratic Party. Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Maxine Waters have stumped for Mr. Lamont. As I say, we have been here before. Ned Lamont is Karl Rove’s dream come true. If he, and others of his stripe, carry the day, the Democratic party will lose the future, and deservedly.

While Karl Rove the strategist may be licking his chops, a Lieberman loss does not sound like it would please Richard H. Shriver, who served both the Ford and Reagan White Houses:

I spent a good portion of my life working to eliminate or replace one-party systems in the world. So it is with mixed emotions I watch the Democratic Party continue to lop off its nose in order to spite its face.

Is it too soon to predict the result will be a one-party system in the US? Not if you are following political events in Connecticut.

The most current evidence of the Democratic Party’s self-destruction is the Democratic primary race for the US Senate in Connecticut, pitting 3-term veteran Joseph Lieberman against antiwar candidate Ned Lamont.

According to local polls, Lamont will win the primary forcing into play Lieberman’s defensive move of forming his own party to be on the ballot one way or another in November. The token Republican candidate, Alan Schlesinger, will garner 8% – 15% in the general election, and for a variety of reasons, may even withdraw; Lieberman is expected to win in a three-way (and more-so in a two-way) vote in November, thus depriving the Democrats of an important seat in the Senate.

Lieberman will win because Republicans will vote for this Democrat in droves. Republicans see Lieberman as a statesman, whether or not one agrees with all of his votes. Democrats are turning their backs on one of their few stars. History may elevate Lieberman to the status of “Great American”, an elected official who has been remarkably true to his principles and who has a track record of sponsoring, advocating and voting for sensible, responsible US policies on issues that really matter, like national security.

Lamont, on the other hand, is an American made rich via inheritance who, like Sen. Edward Kennedy and some other leaders of the Democratic Party, has turned his back on some of the very institutions that helped make his father (and him) rich in the first place, such as low taxes and a strong defense policy. While his backers claim he is a successful businessman, he will not release his tax returns so there is no way to back up this claim. Meanwhile, Lamont has embarked on futile effort to make a single-issue campaign into a multi-issue campaign by paying lip service to a panoply of liberal causes. This delights his immediate followers and the liberal fringe, but dismays some political realists — including Bill Clinton who is supporting Lieberman.

As Peretz writes:

The blogosphere Democrats, whose victory Mr. Lamont’s will be if Mr. Lamont wins, have made Iraq the litmus test for incumbents. There are many reasonable, and even correct, reproofs that one may have for the conduct of the war. They are, to be sure, all retrospective. But one fault cannot be attributed to the U.S., and that is that we are on the wrong side. We are at war in a just cause, to protect the vulnerable masses of the country from the helter-skelter ideological and religious mass-murderers in their midst. Our enemies are not progressive peasants as was imagined three and four decades ago.

If Mr. Lieberman goes down, the thought-enforcers of the left will target other centrists as if the center was the locus of a terrible heresy, an emphasis on national strength. Of course, they cannot touch Hillary Clinton, who lists rightward and then leftward so dexterously that she eludes positioning. Not so Mr. Lieberman. He does not camouflage his opinions. He does not play for safety, which is why he is now unsafe.

In a post on Friday, National Review editor Rich Lowry paints a grim picture for Lieberman–hopefully, he’s wrong; if not this Tuesday, then in November.

Related: “Confirmed: Lieberman campaign didn