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Jewish World Review May 30, 2001/ 8 Sivan, 5761

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
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The lesson of the Mr. Green Jeans senator: 'Moderate' is a classy term for wishy-washy


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- JIM JEFFORDS, Vermont's Mr. Green Jeans senator, has found the avenue for moderates' 15 minutes of fame: Do something the media likes. John McCain has mastered the art of media fawning as he careens down the issue highway with neck-snapping turns on everything from campaign finance to health care.

Moderates are irksome. Moderate is a classy term for wishy-washy. Moderate is a synonym for mediocrity. Greatness does not spring from moderation, except on cholesterol counts. Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln were not moderates. GE isn't the performer it is because it has moderate managers. Katharine Hepburn isn't a moderate actress.

It is difficult to know what comes first, the mediocrity or the moderation, but the two go hand-in-hand, and the result is Jeffords, a man least likely to have an impact on history with his place in history because of a relieved media.

The media are presently enamored of Senator Jeffords. For ratings sake, they portray a man of courage. Actually, they worship a man who has broken the Republican monopoly of the three branches of government. They would cover him playing the kazoo with Ben & Jerry between bites of Rainforest Crunch ice cream.

Senator Jeffords should heed my grandmother's advice given from the time I was old enough to play kazoo: you dance with them what brung you. Senator Jeffords has spent 26 years in Congress courtesy of Republican funds and workers. Not only did he abandon them, he tipped the balance of power and turned the Senate over to the hands and voice of Tom Daschle. Jeffords' attack of principle should have come after the dance. Don't take a corsage and ignore your date. Don't take money and then topple elections. The kindly folk of Vermont elected a Republican, not an Independent.

Therein lies some irony, given the whining about elections being stolen. The Senate today rests in the hands of Democrats because of events that ignored election processes. Democrat Jean Carnahan, widow of former Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan, declared that if her husband (killed in a plane crash while campaigning), on the Missouri ballot against incumbent John Ashcroft, won, she would take his place. Do we provide for Senate succession in wills? Mel, decedent, won, thanks to a federal judge keeping the inner city polling places in St. Louis open beyond closing time. Gracious John Ashcroft opted not to file suit to undo what was surely an unconstitutional coup d' etat. So, a candidate's wife who never ran for office and was not on the ballot is Missouri's senator.

Maria Cantwell, the Silicon Valley mogul, bought a Washington Senate seat, emerging victorious only after a month-long recount. If a bizarre series of events brought George W. Bush to the White House then the Twilight Zone handed the Senate to Democrats who had been staging prayer vigils and Ouji sťances for Senator Strom Thurmond's (R) passing so his successor would be appointed by a Democratic governor.

Jeffords' voting record shows him as the quintessential Northeasterner with "socially progressive" votes. He voted against impeachment and has the following approval ratings (percentage is number of times he voted with the group's position): Planned Parenthood (100%); environmental (81%); animal rights (75%); National Right to Life (0%); and small business (41%). He wants to increase the minimum wage and co-sponsored the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill. With this record, why the change, just 5 short months into a new administration? Therein lies the answer.

Moderates and other cowards of their ilk were free to rant and rave for they enjoyed either Democratic control and/or Bill Clinton cover. Their own party could never get too carried away because it lacked the votes or faced the mighty veto pen down Pennsylvania Avenue. If Clinton signed Republican legislation, moderates had a safe harbor in sharing a position with Mr. Moderation himself. The Clinton era was a free ride for moderates. With Bush, Jeffords found himself in that humiliating position of all Range Rover Republicans: hate that yucky "extreme" right with principles.

Republicans are cursed with many in their ranks who are embarrassed by the "non-moderates" among them. You don't see this kind of behavior in Democrats. They toe the party line despite the PETA crowd, the ELF malcontents and Alec Baldwin. Loyal to the end, they don't tip the balance of power. Remember Lieberman's sell-out.

Jeffords is now rid of the embarrassing aspects of Republicans that George W. Bush brought to the forefront. Jeffords didn't mind singing with Ashcroft in their Senate quartet. He just got worried when they made him attorney general. Jeffords is an arrogant Yank unable to accept the principles of a party that nurtured and supported him.

Jefford's jump has guaranteed his committee chairmanship and the devotion of Daschle. But, dear Senator Jeffords, there are some downsides to your leap: Barbra Streisand memos, Dan Rather fundraisers, Martin Sheen tirades, Geraldo generally and a position in history not as man of principle but, rather, as traitor of expediency.


JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments by clicking here.

Up

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© 2000, Marianne M. Jennings