Lamont, Lieberman, And The Future Of America

The Democratic Leadership Council has never been an ally for the causes that I supported and thought important.  The Council felt that after President Reagan won a massive victory in 1984 that the Democratic Party had to reject principles and move to the gray middle in order to secure election victories.  One of the leaders of the DLC was Senator Joe Lieberman.  It is nice to see so many other folks get all excited over Lieberman’s possible downfall this year, but I wonder what took you all so long to get here.  A lot of us liberals have wanted to see him ousted for some time.

Before I take on the Connecticut Senate race that is driving so much energy through the internet and the blog world I need to say I think Lieberman is a smart man.  He is not an empty suit without any foundation that just sputters rhetorically like so many conservatives in the political world.  He has his own style of gravitates, but it is not the type of leader Democrats need in this critical hour of our nation’s history.  We are just too close to the edge to leave anything to chance anymore.  Lieberman had many years to decide how the issues lined up nationally and internationally. Lieberman had many years to show us how he felt the world should operate and how the United States could use its influence for change around the globe.  He chose his issues, chose his methods, chose his political alliances, and though in his heart he may think he did the right thing for the country Democrats have the right to say he made the wrong choices.

His hawkish foreign policy has long been a sore point for me.  When he agreed with now Attorney General Gonzales, that the Geneva Conventions were ‘quaint” I was miffed. When he applauded holding people without due process in our war on terror I squirmed. When the Senator continually takes Israeli PAC money by the bucket loads I shrug and know that this is the way Washington still operates, though I strongly disapprove.  But after Lieberman voted to allow U.S. military forces to go into Iraq, and once that decision brought total disaster to the region, he still had the audacity to say Democrats should silence their opposition to the war…well…I thought now it is really time for his Senate career to end.

Some will argue that Lieberman is a Democrat on the issues of domestic importance.  It is true he has been with Democrats on tax cuts, abortion, and the environment.  It should be noted for balance that he was way off the reservation in regards to Terri Schiavo, and still does not understand the need for gay marriage.  His moral views about President  Clinton were out of line given how the GOP was trying to use a private sex act to reverse the will the electorate in 1996.  Still, if the primary in Connecticut were just on national policy Joe would be sunning and smiling as there would be no primary.

But this election in Connecticut, and around the country is about the war.  It is also about the way that this Administration has used terror and fear to propel a set of changes on this country that smears the Constitution and destroys our democracy.  And Lieberman has allowed himself to be used by the dark side to achieve their mission.  As argued on my blog the President is hell-bent on strengthening Executive Powers, and therefore I feel it very important to have a robust and vocal opposition to respond in kind.  Lieberman has proved to be too meek and cozy with Bush to be an ally for those of us with democratic values. (I use the small ‘d’ here on purpose.)

Ned Lamont made quite an impression in how he handled himself in the only debate the two primary contenders had several weeks ago.  He is poised, well spoken, has keen debating skills (which is remarkable for one that is not a professional politician) and was not cowered by the incumbent Senator.  I think there is a very good chance of Lamont winning the primary.

How eager the electorate is to embrace Lamont after the primary win is the unknown question.  That is when Lieberman will put on the biggest political show in America and run as an independent.  Will the anti-war sentiments that propelled Lamont in the primary be as driven and focused in the general election, or will the moderates and independents across Connecticut come out in sufficient numbers to allow Lieberman to take his stale brand of politics back to D.C for another term?

I am not counting Joe out just yet. 

The fall campaign and election will show just how numerous and strong the anti-war crowd is in Connecticut, and across America.

The Shame of Joe McCarthy-And a Lesson For Today

 It was a Joseph McCarthy weekend.  Please note, it was not planned!

The weather here has been dreadfully hot and humid so while I was at the library on Friday afternoon I thought finding another book for in-door reading was a good idea, as doing anything outdoors was off limits for the weekend.  Without looking for it I stumbled onto the latest work by Tom Wicker, “Shooting Star, The Brief Arc of Joe McCarthy.”

Wicker is one of those of old-fashioned type of journalists who has written among other books, “One Of Us”, a look at what forces shaped the life of Richard Nixon.  In this new book, just published this year, Wicker examines the factors that motivated McCarthy to take America on a redbaiting journey that broke his Senate career and destroyed innocent lives in the process.

The story of McCarthy is not new to any of us who live in Wisconsin, though it is an embarrassing blemish on our state.  We have had to endure Ed Gein, Jeffery Dahmer, and obnoxious guys wearing cheddar heads at sporting events.   But McCarthy’s injury to the body politic, and the dangerous demagoguery he unleashed, is a stain that no one is proud of in the Badger State.  The book is not going to unleash a new series of facts on McCarthy but does provide through Wicker’s clear and crisp writing   a sharp picture of the times that produced McCarthy’s ability to take America on his tortured path.  Wicker is a polished master having worked for the New York Times for many years as a reporter and columnist, and this book, though slim, is a powerful read.

One of the early themes that struck me in the book was the lack of probing and questioning by the American media into not only the ‘merits’ of the Senator’s claims in the early period after his speech in Wheeling, West Virginia where he talked of over 200 communists in the State Department, but also his dubious military career and creative resume.  Had the press been more adroit at searching for the answers, and questioning the rhetoric, the damage to America inflicted by this opportunist might have been lessened considerably, if not eliminated completely.  Today I can’t imagine the press not demanding to know the exact specifics about the information that McCarthy so blithely threw out to his audiences. 

Late Sunday afternoon with McCarthy on my mind we went to a showing of “Good Night, and Good Luck” which was a perfect film as famed broadcaster and journalist Edward Murrow is the dragon slayer to the un-American rants of the Senator that Wisconsin wants to forget.  (The theater is showing the films that were nominated Best Picture for this year’s Oscars.  For $5.00 we had two tickets and two bags of popcorn!  Now that is deal on a hot afternoon.)

I think the film was highly patriotic, in the true sense of what the word means.  Forget all the blather about military might and saluting your flag and all the nationalistic garbage that gets mixed up with what real patriotism is all about.  Here was a bunch of men and women who understood right and wrong and had the power to effect change in some small way.  By focusing their journalism on the problem they were able to focus America’s attention to the lies and injustice that was being done in the name of anti-communism and protecting America.

I wanted to applaud as the final scene closed and the lights came up in the theater.  It was that good.  The only thing that stopped me was the instant realization that we have too few Murrow’s in our world today.  We have no major broadcaster today that will step in front of the anchor desk and say, as Walter Cronkite did in the last months of LBJ’s term in the White House, that the nation’s war is a losing cause.

The media, in the end, helped finish off McCarthy, as they should have done.  But McCarthy provided the material and gave it to them on a daily basis.  The lesson, among many from this period, is that the working press needs to be vigilant in pursuing those who make claims and outlandish statements in the guise of serving our greater national interests.

Bush Dithered While Beirut Burned

The Bush White House is almost irrelevant in regards to the turmoil and bloodletting that is taking place in the Middle East. After dithering for weeks as the death toll mounts two things are crystal clear.

First, the aim of Hezbollah to promote itself as a strong and vibrant force in the Middle East with the ability to take on Israel is succeeding.  In the first days moderate Arab governments, who have cause for concern over the radicalization of Islam, voiced caution about the war and had less than warm comments regarding Hezbollah. But with the death toll over 600 in Lebanon, and new reports that well over 200 of those are children, the Arab world can no longer rebuke Hezbollah.  As I stated earlier on this blog Hezbollah wins the war if the Arab world sees excessive force by Israel and thereby creates a breeding ground for new recruits to its cause.

Once again, Israel overplayed their hand and since Washington gave up their parenting role in both condemning the massive over-response by the Tel Aviv government and refused to rein in their continued excesses, the tilt toward Hezbollah is now underway. The inability of Bush to either understand this dreadful event or to counter it is baffling.  To listen to his joint press conference with Britain’s Prime Minster Tony Blair was just plain embarrassing.  There was no evidence that Bush has any deep grasp of the Middle East, and just as bad, no interest in being a fair broker between the parties involved.

Which brings me to the second point, which is that if Bush were truly interested in Israel’s well being the White House should offer guidance for an immediate ceasefire now.  Even though it appears Bush does not care about the lives of those destroyed in Lebanon he should still work at once to stop the blood letting.   The reason it is in Israel’s interest to limit more anger and destruction being created reduces a bigger ‘give back’ that the Jewish state will need to concede in order to get itself out of this hole they made for themselves.  The world community is starting to turn against Israel and can be counted on to hold Tel Aviv’s feet to the fire.

There will have to be a huge prisoner swap (Israel holds 9,000 ‘terrorists’) and will need to give up some parcels of land long considered being Israel’s and return them to their rightful owner.  Perhaps most daunting for Israel is that the government in Lebanon will have a different look and feel after this military action and a tighter bond with Hezbollah. 

Hezbollah is winning by default because the Bush White House dithered while Beirut burned.

House Races To Watch in Mid-term Elections

If the Democrats hope to take over one chamber of Congress I think it will be the House of Representatives.  While some feel optimistic about the United States Senate I frankly do not see a perfect alignment of the stars producing this result for the Democrats.. While there will be net gains for the Democrats in the Senate the body will remain in the GOP hands after the mid-term elections.

The House has some very interesting races and I thought I would give a snapshot of some of the ones I have been following and will be discussing as we wind our way though the last months of this campaign season. Please note these are not predictions since the cardinal rule of politics still prevails.  That rule is a day is a light-year in politics.  In other words, anything can happen, and often does.

Texas 22nd Congressional District

Could politics be any more exciting than watching Tom DeLay forced to run as a candidate again?  After he resigned in disgrace earlier this year the GOP had a plan of putting another name on the ballot for November, but the Democrats argued under Texas law that this process was not valid based on residency concerns.  A Federal Judge ruled that the process was improper and that Delay would have to remain on the ballot.  At the present time the GOP forces are appealing but if the suit is not successful DeLay has stated he will run with all the gusto he can muster.

DeLay might be stretching himself rather thin, as he also needs to prepare for battle in court on charges of money laundering.  He might want to use some of those ‘skills’ now, as his campaign war chest is weak.  

His Democratic opponent will be someone with a vendetta against Delay.  Nick Lampson was a former Congressman who had a district that DeLay carved up and eliminated in a crafty redistricting plan that was an insult to the political process.

If Delay is not required to be on the ballot this race then has to be favored for the GOP.

Connecticut 4th CD

If you look at the trends over the past three or four election cycles you will note that the blue color is more predominant in the northeast.   If you project that trend forward and thus create even a darker blue on the political landscape one has to assume that the moderate members of the GOP will not survive much longer in this region.

For this reason I have been glued to the race of incumbent GOP Congressman Shays.  He is one of the moderates that the GOP needs if it is to be guided back to the middle of American politics.  Over the past 20-plus-years their own ‘mullahs’ have hijacked the Republican Party and elected officials like Shays are caught in the middle.  Though this is a Democratic year for the mid-terms and Iraq is indeed front and center as the issue that will propel winner and losers alike, I will hate to see Shays be defeated. 

Shays is tough on the right wing, is pro-gun control and abortion rights, but also a foreign policy hawk at times, which was enough for a victory in 2004 when Bush was on the ballot and the GOP used national security creatively.

This year the contest over Iraq is very stark in the 4th CD with Shays a staunch defender of the war and stressing the U.S. needs to see it through to the end, and his opponent, Diane Farrell, taking the exact opposite point of view. 

On election night I am going to be looking here for early signs of weakness for moderate GOP members in the northeast, and how strident the anti-war voters are in bringing their folks to the polls. Shays defeated Farrell in 2004 52%-48% in this very Democratic leaning CD. 

More snapshots of important House and Senate contests will be found here in the days ahead with my predictions in early November.


Mark Green’s Special Interest Money…And There Is LOTS Of It!

Special interest money, either in Washington or in Madison (or any state Capital) is a source of concern for me as it motivates elected officials to do things for political expediency rather than for the common good.  Issues that are viewed through the prism of special interest money often short-changes the public expectation that sound laws will pass which will address their needs.

In Wisconsin we have a law on the books that stipulates no candidate running for Governor can accept more than $485,000 in political action campaign monies.  So state voters might like to understand why GOP candidate Mark Green has amassed $667, 545 in PAC funds.  At a time when Green is peppering the campaign trail with comments and charges about Governor Doyle I think it amusing he now has some explaining of his own to do with the electorate.

It now appears the State Elections Board will investigate the problem with Green’s campaign cash.  One caveat however must be stated for those wishing for a just conclusion with this matter   The State Elections Board is perhaps the most inept and horribly dysfunctional office in Wisconsin government.  It need not be that way, but making top to bottom changes has met reluctance and hostility from those the board is authorized to oversee and monitor.

John Gard…..Release Your Campaign Finance Report

Honor and ethics must be a part of the political process.  I firmly believe that elected office is a noble profession and principled politicians can complete great good for the people.  I am old fashioned enough to believe what I was taught in civics as a child, and yet wise and seasoned enough to fully understand our history and the way the world operates.

Which brings me to Wisconsin State Representative John Gard who is leaving the State Assembly to run for Congress in the 8th Congressional District.  Gard served as Speaker of the Assembly and watched the statehouse scandal explode in the media and the Dane County Courthouse.  The criminal and ethical lapses from both Republicans and Democrats in Madison was a messy and awful thing to watch grow and fester.

So one should assume that given the past problems in state government Gard would try to be squeaky clean and above board in a fresh campaign. 


The state requirement for releasing campaign financial disclosure statements is a hard and fast rule that all office seekers must abide by, except it appears, John Gard.  The deadline of July 20th has slipped by and yet there is no accounting for Gard’s campaign activities for the first half of this year.


The voters of the 8th Congressional District have a right to know the answer.  Citizens across the state also need to know as this type of behavior cuts to the core as to why people feel apathetic about politics and queasy with our political process.

White House Flounders With Israel…And What Should Be Done

In my first blog entry on this site July14th I made it clear that Secretary of State Rice needed to be in the Middle East applying her skills to the war that Israel is now engaged in.  I was outraged, as was so much of the world, by the slow response from the Bush White House in trying to at least stop the Israeli slaughter of more civilians in Lebanon. Tonight as I write over 400 have died in Lebanon as the result of Israel, and over 750,000 people are displaced.

Rice finally did get on the official plane and landed TWO WEEKS after the war started in the Middle East.  She made less than a powerful performance in her first stop in Lebanon and then made her token stop to the errant children in Tel Aviv.  Instead of acting like a parent and demanding Israel take a ‘time out’ or impose suspension of their favorite hobby these days (bombing and killing Lebanese beyond all proportions) she got back on her plane and headed to Rome for the international conference.

Now before I go forward I should state that I find Rice to be bright and well informed.  During her tenure as National Security Advisor she had to contend with powerful neo-conservatives hell-bent on fashioning the world in the image of their fantasies.  As Secretary of State she has at least had the ability at times to bring some adult vision to Bush’s ‘gut-feeling’ style of ‘leadership.’

The Bush Administration is so very out of touch with reality when it comes to Middle East policy.  Since they do not talk to their enemies the list is short for shuttle diplomacy.  Syria, Iran, Hamas, and Hizbullah are off limits for one-on-one talks.  Isn’t the point of diplomacy talking with your enemies?  Can you imagine President Nixon saying in 1969 upon taking the Oath of Office that he would not talk with the Soviet Union or China?  Had that happened détente with our chief adversary and the opening to the most populous nation would not have taken place.  The first major blunder of the Bush Administration in 2001was thinking it not important to engage diplomatically with the region as a whole.

With those thoughts on the table let us go back to the Rome conference.

The main idea that has been repeated endlessly and breathlessly is a sizable force that would place a buffer zone between Israel and Hizbullah.  While I think a force of some type might have many beneficial effects I fear how the Lebanese government, so fragile and bent, would contend with the threat of renewed civil war.  If Hizbullah feels that the Lebanese government is carrying water for US/Israeli interests by allowing the force to be stationed in Lebanon, the notion of Hizbullah striking out within Lebanon must be dealt with.  Lebanon must not slip back into a civil war.  The Bush White House needs to be mindful of this concern.

I suggest we go back to the old way of conducting foreign policy and talk with our enemies.  Let us find a way to release a huge portion of the 9,000 detainees that are in Israeli prisons. (Examine why many of them are being held and be prepared to gag over the actions of the ‘only democracy’ in the Middle East.)  Let us talk with Syria (GASP!) about the ways they can influence Hizbullah and in exchange force the Israelis to deal honestly with the Golan Heights.  Rice and others should also force Israel and the Palestinians alike to resolve some of the outstanding issues that remain at the core of so many of these senseless bloodletting spasms.  Finally Israel must understand, if they do not already, that occupation of other’s lands is a wrong way to exist as a country.

Bush And His Signing Statements

The father of a friend sat in our kitchen and said at the end of this Presidency we would hardly recognize America any more due to the flagrant abuses that have taken place during Bush’s terms in the White House.  The subject of today’s post is not ‘sexy’ and has really generated only minimal interest among the electorate even though it has often been talked about in the press. 

Over the past six years President Bush has added signing statements to hundred of bills that passed Congress, and as such Bush has stretched his authority and ushered in a real test of the American Constitution. In essence what Bush can do as a result of adding statements to bills he signs is to circumvent the will of Congress and disregard portions of laws he does not want to follow.  In fact, Bush does not even cite his legal reasoning for such actions in the statements. 

For instance, consider the following. 

In December 2005, the McCain Amendment was passed by Congress that outlawed torture of detainees, such as those captured in our now never-ending war on terrorism.  The measure passed the United States Senate 89-9 and Bush signed it.  By attaching a signing statement Bush made it known he may not follow all provisions of the law that he had signed. 

Clearly at a time when Bush and Company have lied to the American public and destroyed the underpinning of our foreign policy Congress must have some say in how these matters are handled. 

For those of us who still recall our civic classes these signing statements are a non-starter since Congress then has no way to over-ride the President’s actions.  The White House would say Congress could pass another law.  But we know there would just be another signing statement. 

Heck of a way to run a democracy. 

In the Bush era this is applauded behavior and even was discussed during the Supreme Court nominee hearings recently.  The idea of ‘unitary executive’ is one that certain strict constructionists like to throw around.  The idea that the President alone could supervise, direct and control the operations of the executive branch is bizarre and dangerous. In the theoretical arena it is fun to discuss, but in the hands of Bush and Company the dangers are all too real.  It should be noted that this broad based abuse would be just as dreadful if a President to my liking were in the White House.   

Other Presidents have used signing statements but never to the extent in either number or force that this former alcoholic and drug user has.  Bush has raised constitutional objections to more than 800 provisions of more than 100 laws.  In his first term alone he had 505 constitutional objections.  Scholars and constitutional lawyers have urged Congress to pass much need legislation to remedy this abuse and reign in this growing menace on our democracy. 

Congress can pass a law saying that Bush (or any President) must clearly state exactly why a provision of a bill is going to be disregarded by the executive branch.  Congress can pass a law so that this matter would get ‘bumped’ to the Supreme Court. But Bush can undo the intent of the legislation with a signing statement.

This is a clear sign, once again, that our freedoms are never really won.  They must always be fought for and reclaimed time and again.  I know most people are unaware of this matter, and when presented with the information, consider it boring.  For those of us who do understand and care this is a time to contact our elected officials.