Where Have You Gone, Joe Lieberman?

The year ends in a zero. That means election time and political rhetoric falling from the sky like so many autumn leaves. This year is one of the big ones: a presidential election. Sadly, I believe that many Americans are less than enamored with the two candidates. When one looks at either of the two presidential candidates, you can see that they wear their flaws as badges of honor upon their sleeves. Do we want a Democrat who believes he invented the Internet, would increase our taxes and have the nation eating Chinese food to cover promises made for suspicious slush fund contributions from the Pacific Rim? Or would we want a third generation yuppoid that has spent his life suckling at the teat of a political patriarch and seems to have the intelligence of a Texas tumbleweed?

One of these two men will be President. As frightening a prospect as that is, it is Vice Presidential candidates that really have me interested in this election. In particular, the Honorable Senator from Connecticut, Joseph Lieberman, is the REAL story of this election. Mark my words, it is a horror story.

Many years ago, Mr. Lieberman was the Attorney General of the state of Connecticut. In the midst of the post-Grasso/O'Neil administration, he was a conservative advocate for the people of Connecticut. Mr. Lieberman always seemed to have a level head and a strong Yankee sense of right and wrong. As the Attorney General, I felt he was very successful. Many times I would tell my friends that I thought he was a good man and these statements always caused surprise. I am a staunch political conservative and am frequently and loudly opposed to most programs which Democrats offer the masses. However, in Joe Lieberman I sensed conservatism grounded in common sense and a clear vision of right and wrong. So much did I believe in Mr. Lieberman that I voted for him when he ran for Senator.

Senator Lieberman's first few years in Washington were impressive. The same good sense, hard work and Yankee spirit that I admired while he served as Attorney General were evident. Quickly, the junior Senator from Connecticut was placed on a number of high profile committees. At home, moderates from both sides of the political aisle rejoiced in having a Senator that was not a booze-swilling Kennedy sycophant like the senior Senator, Christopher Dodd.

Unfortunately, the corruptive nature of Washington DC, insidious and inescapable, slowly ate its way through Joe Lieberman's armor. And when it finally broke through, the once sensible, enthusiastic Senator was transformed into a hideous mass of conflicting notions and allegiances barely recognizable as a sane human being. What form did this corruption take? It was carefully disguised as a well-intentioned program to take steps in preventing the negative programming of our youth by certain media sources. What lies at the heart of the matter is the Liberal idea that government programs are better at raising and educating the children of America than the parents of these children. I like to think that Senator Lieberman understood this point, at least at the beginning. Unfortunately, with zealous Liberals in power like the Clintons and the Gores (particularly Tipper) Senator Lieberman was required to embrace certain programs to survive in Washington. No doubt, the Senator believed he could withstand the pressures of his political peers, but he underestimated the danger.

The first sign that something was going terribly wrong was the Senator's decision to support the PTC. This group of rabid, ultra-conservative activists would have us banning television shows and burning books that they find objectionable. Their paranoia, extreme rhetoric and frightening programs are just the sort of mouth-frothing reactionism that gives conservatism a bad name. The marriage between the well-intentioned but naïve liberal concern over media influence and the neo-fascist raging of a conservative fringe group blossomed inside of Joseph Lieberman, and that is when and where we lost him. The once levelheaded pragmatist became a lobbyist for a moral platform that has sacrificed common sense for reactionism.

They very fact that Senator Lieberman was considered for, asked and then accepted the candidacy for Vice President is indicative of how far he has sunk. Let's look at a few facts: Senator Lieberman is one of the few Democratic Senators that has been consistently and openly critical of the behavior of President Clinton, the First Lady and Vice President Gore. On the surface, the Senator's position might be seen as a good fit for the job; someone not willing to compromise his principals for political game. I fear he is being duped.

Think about it from Al Gore's perspective. As a candidate, Joseph Lieberman is custom made for Al Gore. Here is what Joseph Lieberman brings to the table:

1. As a critic of the current administration, Senator Lieberman brings credibility to Gore's contention that he is not the same as Bill Clinton and will bring more respect to the office of President.

2. As a moderate Jew, Senator Lieberman helps secure the Jewish vote, but is conservative enough not to strike fear into segments of the population fearing some kind of great Semitic conspiracy.

3. As an experienced and respected Senator, Joe Lieberman has his finger on the pulse of Congress in a way Gore no longer does, having been Vice President for eight years.

4. As a gregarious, emotional orator, he exhibits a passion that is clearly missing in the Gore personality.

5. As a member of the PTC, Senator Lieberman may attract some voters that have traditionally voted conservative but may vote for one of their own instead. Additionally, the Senator's views in this area are spookily similar to that of Tipper Gore. As Vice President, the Senator would be in a perfect position to further the personal agenda and ideals of the new First Lady, should Gore be elected.

6. As Vice President, Joseph Lieberman would no longer be a Senator and therefore would not be in a position to oppose certain programs Mr. Gore might try to put through Congress. "Keep your friends close but your enemies closer", as the saying goes.

Vice President Gore is a savvy political warrior. I believe Gore is playing Lieberman like a fiddle. Already, the Senator is using some of the tried and true evasive tactics of the Clinton-Gore Manual of Political Opportunism. His entire status as a senatorial candidate for the state of Connecticut is a joke. There is no way he can effectively campaign with Al Gore and run an effective campaign for Senator. Once Joe Lieberman accepted the nomination for Vice President, he gave up his right to also run for Senator. Should a senatorial seat be nothing more than a backup for a failed run at the executive office? What would the old Joe Lieberman think of a person who did what he is doing now?

I fear that Senator Joseph Lieberman is yet another victim of the seductive power of Washington DC and I mourn his loss. As baseball historians look back on the storied career of Joe DiMaggio, I will look back on the political career of the junior Senator from the State of Connecticut and in my best Paul Simon voice I will ask the question, "Where have you gone, Joseph Lieberman?"