Thursday, April 17, 2008

Lieberman is no Zell Miller

Sen. Joe Lieberman occupies a soft spot in the hearts of a lot of Republicans for his aggressive stance in the Global War on Terror, and specifically his support of the Iraq mission. This cross-party goodwill is the premise of reports by The Hill that Lieberman may address the Republican National Convention just as Democrat Senator Zell Miller did in 2004.

Senator Lieberman, you are no Zell Miller.

Quoth Dick Durbin in The Hill:
“We have one difference of opinion, maybe two with Sen. Lieberman,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a prominent supporter of Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) presidential candidacy. “As a whip, I can tell you time and again, he’s been there when we’ve needed him.”

Lieberman is a hawkish leftie. Zell Miller was a truly moderate-to-conservative Democrat, as one can tell from reading his book A National Party No More: The Conscience of a Conservative Democrat, and quotes like, "Secular socialism, heavy taxes, big spending, weak defense, limitless lawsuits and heavy regulation — that pack of beagles hasn't caught a rabbit in the South or Midwest in years".

I appreciate Lieberman's support of the GWOT, and it does serve as a template for one's ability to divorce national security issues from the typical partisan spectrum of domestic issues. But on those domestic issues Lieberman is the polar opposite from what the Republican base is looking for. Lieberman is not able to make the case as Zell Miller could on the difference between moderate liberalism and progressive totalitarianism embraced by both Obama and Clinton.

The other important issue is that McCain may have a bigger problem nailing down the right wing of the party rather than moderates and independents. Lieberman does not help the perception that McCain is willing to sell his partisans down the river for a little bit of media support and attention as a "maverick".

And just what is Lieberman selling to the public audience? An unpopular war. He'd better give a damned good speech or he'll do more harm than good.


Anonymous said...

Droopy Dog doesn't give "damn fine speeches." You might be seriously out of luck on this one.

...unless he brings back Joe-mentum.


Sockless Joe said...

"Droopy Dog". I hadn't heard that, though it could just as easily describe McCain most days.

Perhaps we can give Liebs a double espresso about half an hour before he speaks. That might bring the needle up to about even.

Hopefully the Veep pick will have some pizazz.

S. Weasel said...

Don't you get the feeling the party doesn't care about the base? They think all the action is in the middle, they're in the middle themselves. McCain would like nothing better than to win this without the base that thumbed their collective noses at him in '00.

I would love to be proved wrong.

Sockless Joe said...

I admit there are times to tack to the middle, but I do get frustrated at the frequency of this occurrence.

It's one thing to differ with the party. Giuliani did this with class on a number of sensitive issues. It's another thing to beat us over the head with the opposition's populist/classist rhetoric like McCain and Huckabee have done.

"The Base" is a tricky concept. During the Repub primary we heard about how "The Base" is analogized to a three legged stool. Some people clearly want to saw off one leg or another and which leg varies from candidate to candidate.

Hubbard said...

Actually, Lieberman can give good speeches when he's sticking to what he believes in: hawkishness on defense and opposition to sleaze in Hollywood. What hurt him in 2000 and 2004 was that he had to tone down his independent positions and play up the mandatory Democrat talking points. He didn't like that material, and it showed.

I think Lieberman had one of the best tributes to the late Bill Buckley: "He played a rabbinical role in my first Senate race: he told Republicans that voting for Lieberman was kosher."

With lines like that, even though he won't raise Zell, Lieberman will be fine at a Republican convention.