Jewish World Review August 7, 2003 / 9 Menachem-Av, 5763
Being an insomniac, I read many of the works
of the country's leading political scientists and academic historians at
bedtime. Believe me, a thick book on voting patterns among the homeless in
Brooklyn Heights or one by a leading historian about homosexuality among
17th-century slave traders in the Caribbean is more certain to induce sleep
than a whole bottle of Seconol, though the barbiturate is arguably less
deleterious to one's health.
At any rate, I read a lot of academic stuff, but I have yet to
come across a book that tells us much about the intellectual and
psychological make-up of the politician. This, I believe, is because so many
of our politicians are too weird even for an American academic to
There was a day when the candidate for high office was
occasionally quite normal. Harry Truman was normal, with touches of
greatness. We all know that Winston Churchill began his morning with a light
whiskey. Actually, President Truman did the same, after a brisk walk. Now
that is my idea of a great man.
There are no Harry Trumans seeking high office in the Democratic
Party today. The closest approximation to a Truman in terms of political
beliefs is Sen. Joseph Lieberman, and his candidacy is in trouble. Just the
other day, he had to sound the alarm against his fastest rising competitor,
Dr. Howard Dean.
Very few people know much about Dean because he comes from such
remote environs. He was governor of Vermont -- or was it New Hampshire, or
was it Liechtenstein? I knew him for years on a television show we did in
Montreal, and I could never get his point of origin quite right.
At any rate, I did know him. We would tape several shows every
few weekends for a series called "The Editors." As he was not an editor, I
also tended to doubt that he was a governor, and I had absolutely no faith
in his claim to being a doctor. He looked like a used-car salesman to me,
and he still does. Perhaps that is why he is doing so well among
rank-and-file Democrats in Iowa. When they meet him in Waterloo, I expect as
many ask him what he thinks of the new Ford pickup as ask him what he thinks
of the Federal Reserve Board's plans for interest rates.
At our tapings of the "The Editors," he always met me head on.
Whatever we discussed, he met me head on. This is because I am a
conservative Republican, and he is a party-line Democrat. He is not a
left-winger or even much of a dove. He simply takes the position that works
for Democrats with Democratic activists.
My support for tax cuts is based on the evidence that tax cuts
encourage economic growth. Dean's position was based on opposing me. I have
a position on a forceful foreign policy based on the evidence that such a
foreign policy protects American security. Dean's position was based on
opposing me. I was against Bill Clinton because I thought he was a menace to
the rule of law. ean's position was based on opposing me. I was occasionally
wrong. Dean was always wrong -- even when I was wrong. In sum, he has no
independently arrived at ideas, just opposition to Republicans.
That explains his success with the rank-and-file Democrats. The
reason Dean is at the front of the Democratic pack now is that he is the
most vehement opponent of Republicans. This is what rallies Democratic
primary voters: opposition to Republicans.
They have come to oppose the Iraq war not because they have any
affection for Saddam Hussein but because the Republicans favored the war.
They are against tax cuts because the Republicans are for them. This is what
the Democratic Party's faithful have declined into, the party of opposition.
The Democratic Party has declined to the lowest percentage of
the electorate in decades, 33 percent. The Republican Party is now the
leading party. So what do Dean and his fellow candidates call the leading
party in the country, "far-right"?
Now Dean's candidacy has induced Lieberman to warn that his
anti-tax position and antiwar position threaten to render the Democratic
Party the party of the left, an unelectable position in modern American
politics. Lieberman, though the Democrats' vice presidential candidate in
2000, is floundering with Democratic primary voters while remaining popular
among with the general electorate.
That tells us much about the kind of angry partisans that turn
out for Democratic primaries. If any Democrat running for the presidency can
lay claim to the great Democratic tradition of Truman -- and, for that
matter, of Franklin Roosevelt -- it is Lieberman. He has ideas and
persuasive reasons for holding them. He is for a strong foreign policy and
balanced trade policies, and against repealing tax cuts. He opposes the
Republicans not out of anger but out of principle and policy. His campaign
has been statesmanlike, though I doubt he begins his day with a whiskey. Yet
he is being swept aside by Dean, whose boast is that he is the angriest of
all Democratic candidates.
The Democratic Party, at least as represented in its primaries,
is the party of superior anger. Somehow, they still call themselves liberal.
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07/18/03: The irascible, bigoted Harry Truman was a product of his times
07/11/03: A grand affair of hot colors and surprisingly sedate audience participation
07/04/03: In search of anti-Americanism and the perfect bullfight
06/26/03: Calling on London
06/20/03: Too upsetting for the evening news?
06/12/03: Rain(es)ing Clintoon myths
06/05/03: Hillary-ous is pathetic
05/22/03: End of the last great persecution of the 20th century?
05/15/03 :Grey turns to grim at Times
05/08/03: The only intellectual force in Western history to gain moral superiority by being wrong
05/01/03: Dinning with Tom Wolfe: More lessons in nusual aspects of American life, hitherto ignored
04/28/03: Ambuscade at scholarly frontier
04/21/03: Stars in search of a galaxy
04/10/03: Baghdad Bob and Tom Daschle
03/31/03: When the media itself becomes the story
03/20/03: Revealed! Estrada is a gifted linguist -- a Japanese-American fluent in Spanish
03/14/03: Genuinely in charge
03/10/03: Stalin and Saddam
03/05/03: They just cannot stomach a protracted alliance with the Bushies
02/25/03: Identity gridlock
02/18/03: People calling Dean a fruitcake are underestimating his political savvy
02/13/03: The new political establishment
01/30/03: The time is now
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01/21/03: Of course our kiddies are depressed
01/13/03: Why is it that Official Washington still believes that a tax reduction means a revenue reduction?
01/02/03: Missing Moi
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12/24/02: Uprooting Christianity in the Holy Land
12/20/02: Under fire, Lott showed an ignobleness that is embarrassing
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11/14/02: Clarence Thomas and the segregationist Mississippi sheriff
11/07/02: I muffed up
10/31/02: Is the American university turning its back on change, on progress?
10/24/02: So why aren't the Dems buoyant?
10/17/02: Mourning the loss of the "yellow-belly"
10/10/02: American politics at its most ignominious
10/03/02: A man above the law, a bully
09/26/02: Is Bob Greene a victim of an anti-Clinton backlash?
09/19/02: I knew Mafiosi and …
09/12/02: Chickens and poseurs
09/05/02: Sympathizing with the Europols
08/29/02: 9-11 did not change us forever
08/22/02: Public persons frivoling with serious matters
08/15/02: Beachcombing among the fat of the land
08/08/02: They pave the way for corruption, not personal responsibility
08/01/02: Believing the unbelievable
07/25/02: The congressional posse comitatus
07/18/02: Cosmopolitan Arab fashion
07/11/02: What the prez actually knows
07/04/02: The vindication of a truly original thinker
06/27/02: The perfect book for Hillary
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06/13/02: Daschle must begin to act like an adult
06/06/02: Lack of "intelligence" --- and sheer stupidity
05/30/02: Revealing a carefully guarded media secret
05/23/02: In these times, thank Heaven for Clinton!
05/16/02: Fast Times at the Church of the Nativity
05/09/02: "Name the Prettiest Suicide Bomber"
05/02/02: Vindication for the Boy Scouts
04/25/02: A topic almost no other columnist will touch
04/18/02: 'Conventional Wisdom' --- and those who defy it
04/11/02: Let the Sun shine in
04/05/02: Hooded men of color in sheets
04/01/02: A McCain-Feingold Act for Hollywood
03/21/02: Yakkin' on Yates
03/15/02: No role for Paul Volcker in Enron: the movie
03/07/02: My membership in the Communist Party U.S.A.
02/27/02: This award is bestowed by 'contrarians'
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02/14/02: Enron as underdog?
02/07/02: Freed from the presence of money -- hard or soft -- most politicians would be just as bad
01/31/02: Needed: Bush to make a preemptive strike against his enemies …. Ones who'd like to see him fail even during war
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01/17/02: Debonair prez should begin to do the High Life
01/10/02: Move over Twinkies --- "the acne medicine made him do it!"
01/03/02: Leaving the Nazis looking comparatively humane
12/27/01: A "self-made journalist"
12/20/01: Calamities and unanticipated benefits
12/13/01: America's grief ought not to give comfort to those who caused it
12/06/01: Leahy, the strict civil libertarian!? A short-term exploiter of the Constitution is more like it
11/29/01: Welcome to Afghan, Maryland?
11/26/01: So, why don't more folks hate us?
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11/09/01: No longer the smug statists, the prodigal Keynesians?
11/01/01: The New Seriousness
10/25/01: Bright lights and the Taliban
10/18/01: Is bin-Laden propaganda from Western intelligence?
10/12/01: No yellow ribbons
10/05/01: Bubba's back --- again!
09/28/01: Exposing peacetime's frauds
09/21/01: So protected, we're vulnerable
09/14/01: At Barbara Olson's home
09/11/01: Duh! All conservatives are racists
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08/24/01: Time for some political prophecy
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08/10/01: Visiting the source of the White House braintrust
08/03/01: Morality and reality
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07/24/01: The latest Kennedy capitulation in Massachusetts
07/13/01: Talk about tawdry
07/06/01: Delighting in the Dictator
06/29/01: The G-dphobes
06/21/01: Fashionable Washington is sempiternally in a stew
06/15/01: The limits of hypocrisy
06/08/01: Flagging our general apathy
© 2001, Creators Syndicate