Bill Clinton's stumping for Joe Lieberman is less about his supporting Lieberman in next month's Connecticut primary, and more a warning shot across the bow to us, the liberal base.
It was a Sister Soldjah moment.
However, instead of the Black-American faction of the Democratic Party being isolated, marginalized and culled out from the rest of the party for "take it or leave it"-treatment by Clinton, it's the netroots' turn to be intimidated into obedience and acquiescence.
Imagine, registered democrats participating in the process, and the former President (and co-architect with Joe Lieberman of the DLC's plan to move the party to the right) is compelled to interject himself into the process. To redirect the 'poor, misguided voter' who prefers the other guy.
"Obviously, the voters must be horribly confused if they prefer the other guy" is the message meant for the voters when the former head of the party endorses a candidate in a primary election. It ranks way up there (the top) on the list of gross violations of the democratic process. It's a very subtle, but extreme abuse of power, which is why every previous President has abstained (as well as all party heads) from doing it.
The primary is the only part in the founders' grand design for our government, a democratic republic, where the citizen is heard. We get to designate who we can trust to make legally binding decisions on our behalf. It's the only, and most important, decision that the citizen can make. Everywhere else in government, the decisions are left to others. They're left to those we have elected to represent us and those whom those others have appointed.
We consent to be governed, if we get to choose who will govern us. We get to choose who is going to make the laws about how we will live, and in these troubled times if we will live. Some designated other, making decisions, in our name.
Well-informed or not, I had dutifully voted in every election for almost 20 years before I fully understood just how grave a responsibility voting was. Entrusting strangers with the awesome power that is the U.S.A. is reflexive for most Americans - the scope and gravity of the American government's activities worldwide is removed from most Americans' day-to-day awareness. It certainly was for me.
It is very easy to live life in America, and except for the odd natural disaster like an earthquake or avalanche half a world away, you can be blissfully unaware of the misery around the world. But once a sensational, brutal act hit my family, terrorism was no longer an abstract experience happening on television to total strangers. The news commentators were singling out these murders as deserving of special or extra condemnation, because it happened to "innocent civilians."
From that tragedy, I realized that in a democracy, the only innocents are those who don't get a vote. Children. And everyone who fills out provisional ballots, because their votes aren't counted. But everyone else? We are all responsible for what our government does to others around the world because we gave them the power to do it with our votes. Whether we know what they're up to or not. So we'd better find out what they're up to. And what deals they're making on behalf of Big Business. Deals that are making some people very rich while condemning others to lives of misery, servitude, torture and death. Because it's us, the ordinary American citizen who is on the front lines, riding public transit, out and about in the world. We'd better find out what they're doing in our name, to people about whom you might say "There but for the grace of God, go I." Because Jenna and Barbara Bush, and the Cheney girls, aren't flying commercial. It's the ordinary American citizen who takes the hits for those that terrorists would really like to get their hands on - our elected leaders.
George Bush and Dick Cheney, their families, and the rest of their administration are going to walk away from Washington with enough money and protection to never be effected by all that they have done to our government these last six years. They'll never have to abide by any of the laws they put into place for their religious fundamentalist base - they don't have to abide by any laws that control the rest of us. When they don't have Arlen Specters making their crimes legal retroactively, they have the Secret Service running interference with local gendarmes when they shoot people. And for all times inbetween, they just make it up out of whole cloth or executive orders, or exempt themselves from having to comply with the law with signing statements.
I'm surprised that Bush hasn't yet written an executive order that classifies all of his executive orders and signing statements, burying them all in that great big "memory hole" at his father's Presidential Library. The same place that he stashed the documents from the SEC's investigation of his sale of Harken stock. Who knows, maybe he has.
Despite Bush's and other politicians' best efforts to prevent it, technology is moving faster than their ability to suppress information. Slowly, Americans are learning that things are not as they've believed them to be, that there is a whole other view of the world which doesn't revolve around the U.S. And maybe that's a good thing.
But just as this populist grassroots' movement gains traction across the nation (a movement that has the capability of transforming the U.S. into a citizen-centered democracy), a former Democratic President of the U.S., Bill Clinton, drops back into public political life, and intervenes in a primary election on behalf of the incumbent Joe Lieberman. Lieberman, an officeholder of a state not even Clinton's own. It's unprecedented. But then again Clinton has never been much for tradition or respecting protocol if it stood in his way.
Don't get me wrong - I voted for the man. Twice, but not in primaries. Sometime I'll write about my take on the Clinton years. They certainly weren't awful. But, like the man himself, they hinted at great possibilities, if only. If only there was more time to build upon, to make the change long-lasting, permanent. If only a crucial part hadn't been voted down in a separate amendment, etc. If only candidates could gain the experience and wisdom necessary for national office without having made powerful enemies along the way. . . . enemies who are more interested in their own personal fortunes than the welfare of their 300 million countrymen. If only American politics weren't adversarial.
But that's for another day, another rant.
MSNBC broadcast about five minutes of Clinton's speech at Lieberman's rally before the programming returned to Chris Matthews and Hardball:
WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you for so many things that Connecticut has given me over the years, a law school education, a wife, and a senator from New York. A long friendship with Chris Dodd, and my law school classmate Dick Bloomenthal, I want you to look up here. You talk about the vagaries of biology. Dick Blumenthal and I are the same age and I resent it. He looks 20 years younger than I do. If I would have remembered how much I resent it, I might not have come today, it‘s unbelievable.
I am proud of his service, proud of my long friendship with Chris Dodd, which takes many twists and turns and is one of the rich blessings of my life. I am proud that I helped Joe Lieberman in 1970. I am proud that we‘ve been friends all these years, proud of his three terms in the Senate and his distinguished run for vice-president. I want you to know why I am here. And you have to for give me if I don‘t give too much of a woopty do. First of all, I am a little bit out of practice. That‘s known as the obligatory hill billy poor mouth. But that‘s really not why I‘m going to do this. I want to talk to you today because we have all the votes in here, and you need to go get the votes out there. And you have plenty of time to go get them.
I want to tell you, I am for Joe Lieberman for reasons that have to do with yesterday, and more important, reasons that have to do with tomorrow. You heard him say that he voted for my economic plan, what he did not say is that, he was not only the first senator outside my home state to endorse me, but when he and Chris voted for that plan, it only passed by one vote. Al Gore had to break the tie because the Republicans, the same Republicans that control both the Congress and the White House today, said it would wreck the economy, and instead it gave us three balanced budgets and three surpluses in a row for the first time in 70 years.
They have taken us, by contrast, they have taken us from a $5.8 trillion surplus over ten years to a $5.3 trillion deficit. It helped to create 22 million jobs and to move one hundred times as many people from poverty in to the middle class in our eight years as under the twelve previous Republican years, one hundred times. Don‘t ever let anybody tell you that these guys are not good Democrats. Don‘t say that about Joe Lieberman.
He helped me move 100 times as many people out of poverty as the Republicans took out, in the job, into a future. By contrasts, they have had six years, and have had about 6 million jobs, the slowest job recovery in a half a century. The only time since economists have been keeping statistics, that the American workers have increased their productivity on the job five years in a row, and average wages have not gone up. So average wages are flat, poverty is increases and job growth is anemic. Joe supports Democratic policies.
Three things, Bill:
1) Lieberman may have helped you move 100 times as many people out of poverty, but Lieberman turned around and helped Bush put them back into poverty.
2) There is no evidence that Joe Lieberman supports Democratic policies - "in his heart" isn't enough. If you're suggesting that Lieberman's votes reflect Democratic values, not the Democratic values that most democrats hold. Lieberman's values reflect DLC values, which are actually Republican values.
3) Get a life outside of politics and Washington, Bill. Yes, you're a relatively young man, and politics is how you spent your adult life. But getting involved in primary party politics by trying to influence state voters on who they should vote for is meddling in the minutiae of the process, unbecoming for a former U.S. President.
If Lieberman felt that he had to bring Clinton in because his campaign was sinking, obviously the netroots are posing a significant threat to the DLC's continued control over the Democratic Party (and to all incumbents). In the 1980s, Bill Clinton, along with Joe Lieberman, was one of the original architects of the plan to "move the Democratic party to the right." By having their highest-ranking and most visible representative show up in Connecticut to save the political life of a Democrat-who-votes-as-a-Republican, the DLC is feeling the pressure and power of the people. As they should. Because these midterm elections are as much about a contest between the people of the U.S. and those whom they have entrusted to represent them at home and abroad, as they are about the candidates running against each other.
When a candidate threatens to leave the political party that you identify with if he doesn't win the primary (the political party that best represents what you believe in and how you consent to be governed), to run in another party against the candidate that has won your party's nomination (the candidate committed to your party's beliefs), that's not your ally. Yet that's what the Democratic politicians who show up to stump for Lieberman are endorsing: The right of the professional politician in a democratic republic to vote any way that he wants once in office.
And the professional politician also believes that he has the right to do whatever it takes to get into office. Even if that means running on a platform that he doesn't believe in. A conservative, for instance, whose beliefs best fall within the Republican Party's platform, running as a Democrat. Because as a declared Republican, he would never win in Democratic district. Or because somebody else has the Republican nomination sewn up. If he has to lie to the electorate to get the electorate to believe that he'll vote whatever way they want (and then not vote that way once in office), "so be it." It's the electorate's right "to not believe me."
How many times have we heard "free to vote our conscience" and have let it go unchallenged? The "Gang of 14" said it. It was in their collective public statement. It sounds reasonable, in America, to be able to "vote your own conscience." Situations arise and citizens expect that their elected representatives will do the best they can to remain true to the philosophies that they campaigned on. But that's not what today's politician, or the Gang of 14, mean when they announce that they are "voting their own conscience." They mean "all bets are off, I'll vote the way that is politically expedient for ME!" The cocky omnipotence displayed by some of these incumbents can, frequently, taken my breath away. But none more so than the Democrats currently in office.
The DLC-politician has thrown down the gauntlet to the base. The DLC-politician is telling the Democratic voters to "Accept my support for Bush's policies (of which support for the war in Iraq is just one item on a long list of issues that separate the DLC from the base-democrats, such as election integrity, Medicare reform, rightwing judicial appointments, social security reform, abortion limitations and bans, gay marriage and rights' guarantees, health insurance, the bankruptcy bill, corporate welfare, warrantless spying on citizens, the Patriot Act, sustainable energy policy, RE-regulation, inheritance tax abolishment, church encroachment into public institutions, loss of jobs, loss of support for public schools, opportunities for college and university education, sane and fair foreign and trade policies, arms and weapons control, immigration reform, environment destruction, etc...Accept that I know better than you, or I'll leave the Democratic Party to join another party, whichever party will get me into power."
Implied in the threat is that the DLC-politician will take with him the support of others, Democrats and Republicans, (centrists), and win the election leaving you out in the cold, unrepresented.
Well it's not like the DLC-politician has been representing my interests now!
Whereas the DLC-politician who leaves the Democratic Party to run in another party might attract enough votes to win a general election, more likely than not, he will just split the Democratic vote, enabling a Republican to win in what is certainly a Democratic stronghold. That's some loyal Democrat. It's certainly someone who thinks that having a Republican represent the district isn't any big deal. Of course he wouldn't think it's any big deal - that's who he is at heart. A Republican. A Republican who has no problem with Republican legislation and policies.
Joe, positioned to the right of Bush in the Oval Office, discussing faith based initiatives:
Joe, joining Republicans Olympia Snowe and John McCain to carve out "business-friendly" legislation on global warming:
Joe, as the only Democratic Senator to attend Bush's signing of the reauthorization of the Patriot Act:
Finding photographs of Lieberman with other Democratic politicians is no easy task.
In reality, all that a Republican is is a self-serving opportunist whose only allegiance is to himself, his career and his own enrichment. Since there are only so many offices available in government, if he can't win in his own district authentically (as a Republican), he'll run on any ticket. And that is how Republicans managed to take over the Democratic Party twenty years ago. The fight to take back the party is long overdue.
The conventional wisdom in the Democratic Party (the DLC) is that after what Lieberman said of Clinton during his impeachment, Clinton owed Lieberman his Presidency. That had Lieberman not written the op-ed piece for the NYT (calling for censure and not removal from office) and given the speech on the floor of the Senate condemning Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky, Democrats in the Senate wouldn't have had a position to rally around other than removing Clinton from office. That's purely spin, and shows how once a politician is inside the beltway, on the incumbent chowline, he's less interested in reading the pulse of the people, and most interested in bending the people to his will.
Had the Democrats come out and said to the American people, "What Bill Clinton did stinks, but it's a private family matter and not a matter for the Congress of the United States," it would have been over and done with, and most Americans would have rallied behind the Democrats. The fact that not one Democratic politician had the wherewithal to step forward and just say that, straight out, explains why Democrats have lost so much ground in elections. If you need a political consultant to help you craft a position that will attract a majority and not raise any hackles (instead of using your own common sense, able to speak your mind and extemporaneously) you're not any kind of leader capable of making people's lives better; you're out for yourself and your career. Like Lieberman. I don't know how else you can describe someone who is threatening to rip apart the Connecticut Democratic Party if he loses the primary by running as an independent. What Democratic leader would or should support a candidate at any stage of a campaign who threatens that?
When I learned that Bill Clinton was going to Connecticut to stump for Joe Lieberman, I remembered Jennifer Aniston's comment about Brad Pitt, after they had separated but before their divorce was final. Pictures showing Pitt and Angelina Jolie together with her 3-year-old son Maddox, on a beach in Africa, had been published, as well as a fashion spread in W magazine — a concept of Pitt’s — that showed Pitt and Jolie as a 1960’s-style married couple.
“There’s a sensitivity chip that’s missing,” Aniston said of Pitt.
With Bill Clinton, it's an integrity chip. I think he thinks his motives for people here and abroad are good, but he'll throw people overboard in order to say "I made a deal."
With Joe Lieberman, it's an authenticity chip.
With Hillary, it's both.
Bill Clinton, like all of the DLC Democrats, is trying to shape and frame the Lamont campaign as "one-issue." Anti-war. It's not one issue, but many issues. But that one issue is a hot tamale. Clearly, trying to frame the differences between Lamont and Lieberman as "just the one issue" is on the Lieberman campaign's talking point sheet - Lieberman said it in his debate with Lamont, Barbara Boxer said it when she stumped for Lieberman, and Clinton said it at the rally. Looking at what Clinton said, it's such empty, meaningless rhetoric. Referring to "the pink elephant in the room," Clinton said that Democrats should bear no blame for "the mistakes that were made after the fall of Saddam Hussein" and, "We can disagree on what we do next...but we can fight together and we can go forward together."
How about Democrats bearing the blame for not being the opposition party, for not doing their job of oversight and holding the Bush administration to account? How about Democrats bearing the blame for joining in lockstep and giving Bush the authorization to take the nation into war that he wanted before he had done what he had promised, which was to exhaust all other possibilities? How about holding Bush to account for not returning to the Congress for another vote, as Bush promised he would before taking the nation into war with Iraq?
But it's not just Iraq. It's Bush's entire right-wing, conservative agenda that he has managed to get through, with little if any opposition from Democrats. Because Democrats allowed "everything changed after 9/11" to mean they were to go passive and mute.
Lieberman votes with Bush and the Republican party on just about everything. His record is shamefully pro- Big Business and anti-People, as were many of Clinton's policies. That's why the DLC is so intent upon trying to marginalize all real Democrats, and characterize the differences as "just the one (anti-war) issue." It's not just one issue.
We have the DLC (and all Democrats in office today) to blame for Bush's and the Republicans' successes over the last thirty years. For failing to stand up against conservatives, Democrats in office gave up valuable ground that has led to Bush being able to drive the nation over the cliff these last six years. Why was it difficult, no, impossible, for Democratic politicians to defend liberalism? Building the Hoover Dam is something to run from? Electricity in every home is an embarassment? America's highways, and mass transit. Public-owned parks, beaches - the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, all preserved for the public's use because of liberal legislation. The space program, the Peace Corps, the public airwaves, the Internet, banking laws, the FDIC, the polio vaccine, public health programs, the CDC, a safe food supply (food inspections, labeling, regulations), the National Weather Service (not very sexy, but would we ever be in trouble without it), environmental protections - clean water and sewage systems (the Clean Air Act, Water Quality Act , an end to child labor, 40 hour work weeks, the right of employees to collectively bargain, overtime pay, workplace safety laws, coal and mine safety laws, affordable higher education that enabled millions of Americans to get a college education (whole generations of scientists, engineers, business leaders, inventors who have contributed to America's being on the cutting edge came from the lower classes being able to get their children educated), vocational training, the Small Business Administration, the GI Bill, better jobs, home ownership, disability insurance, unemployment insurance, social security, pensions, the Minimum Wage Act, eliminating poverty among the elderly, a decent, basic guarantee of food and shelter, medical care, protecting children and families, these are bad things?
What liberals have created and expanded on (the computer that you're reading this on wouldn't exist had it not been for these liberal accomplishments and innovation), conservatives have worked to destroy.
Welfare reform is one good example of how Clinton failed the people who needed the help of government the most. Without installing a safety net for those truly in need, who will always need assistance, Clinton embraced the Republicans' plan to destroy a guarantee of a bare minimum standard of living for all people, and not only Americans. Especially in this time when Republicans will soon force women into forced pregnancies and prevent dying with dignity. It has provided Bush and Republicans with the momentum to curtail and eliminate other government programs - everything from FEMA to public education.
Shame on Bill. But Bill Clinton doesn't know shame, and neither does Joe Lieberman, which accounts for his "shock" over this large and loud movement to unseat him.
Apparently, Lieberman wasn't bothered by Clinton's relationship with Lewinsky, or any of Clinton's other indiscretions. Lieberman was bothered by the politics of the indiscretions, should they come to light:
Lieberman had known Clinton since the future president walked precincts for him in 1970 as a Yale law student during Lieberman's first Connecticut campaign, for the state Senate. But he never had been a Clinton mentor, once wryly observing, according to a friend, "Clinton runs around saying that I taught him how to be a politician, when the truth is he was a politician long before I ever met him. He knew everything. He could have taught me."We should have purged the party of these cynical, amoral, self-serving politicians long ago. They have only their own interests at heart.
Clinton was the Mozart of politics, ingenious at his art, and indulged in nearly everything else. As the young man soared, the older man became for a while one more politician linking himself to the prodigy's fortunes. Another friend recalled Lieberman telephoning him in 1991, to ask whether he believed the private rumors of Clinton's extramarital affairs, and whether the rumors would publicly surface and endanger Clinton's presidential chances. Lieberman didn't raise any moral qualm or question, remembered the friend, who guessed that the senator was looking to him for simply a political analysis.
No, the friend said, he didn't think the whispering would hurt, as he doubted any woman would ever expose Clinton.
Not long afterward, in January 1992, Lieberman became the first non-Southern senator to endorse Clinton. Six years later, on September 3, 1998, with Clinton having acknowledged the inappropriateness of his relationship with Lewinsky, a disgusted Lieberman stepped into a nearly empty Senate chamber, which serves in modern politics as little more than a makeshift TV studio on most late afternoons. The next 23 minutes transformed his career. In a voice tinged with regret and mourning, he declared that Bill Clinton's affair with Lewinsky was "disgraceful."
Until then, Senate Democrats had been essentially quiet on the matter, as if to condemn a president of their own party might be the act of betrayal that could topple Clinton. Lieberman looked pained, as if his friendship with Clinton made what followed hard to say, and so all the more affecting. "Such behavior is not just inappropriate. It is immoral . . . [The president's] transgressions . . . should be followed by some measure of public rebuke and accountability."
The condemnation of his old friend and political ally had an emperor-has-no-clothes quality to it: Lieberman simply gave voice to the obvious, to the scathing view that so many other Democrats in the Senate cloakroom privately held but wouldn't yet publicly express -- some out of timidity, thought then-Sen. Bob Kerrey; others because the White House had successfully striven, Kerrey believed, to guilt people out, to leave them convinced that Democrats needed to rally around an embattled Clinton. Taken by surprise, hearing Lieberman over a television monitor in another part of the Capitol, an exultant Kerrey rushed to the floor, to congratulate Lieberman and rise to echo his remarks. By day's end, one of the Senate's deans, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, had delivered his own reproach of Clinton, and the rush was on among Democrats to reap the political benefits of expressing outrage with a puerile presidency. "A lot of members in [Congress] wanted to join in by then," remembered Kerrey.
There can be only one First, and Lieberman was Neil Armstrong to everyone else's Buzz Aldrin. News coverage of the speeches focused almost solely upon Lieberman. His temerity won him the rapt attention of Talk Show Nation. He had emerged as the crisis's only Democratic star, the new moral voice of a party plagued, some thought, by the Boy President.
I've just made another contribution to Ned Lamont's campaign. Bill Clinton has succeeded in moving this liberal to not only not vote for Hillary should she run for President in 2008, but to actively work against her becoming President, and getting the rest of these DLC Democratic incumbents out of office.
Filed under: Bill Clinton, Joe Lieberman, netroots, base, Sister Soldjah, Connecticut, Ned Lamont, Hillary Clinton, stump