Joementum & Pre-9/11 Thinking

The 2000 Dem candidate for VPotUS has been defeated in the Dem primary for a seat he already holds. This is, to put it mildly, an extraordinary feat. But at the same time, given the way Lieberman has positioned himself these last several years, it's also completely logical.

In the year 2000, the American political landscape was a very different place. The Internet bubble had not yet burst, and money was being thrown around. People were comfortable; they felt safe; and the biggest government scandal in recent memory was the PotUS getting a blowjob from an intern.

Think about it. Sounds like a nice place, huh?

I was like a fish out of water in those days.

At the time, everybody acted like it was normal, totally expected, perfectly reasonable for a Presidential campaign to be a race between two men to seem as much like the other as possible. I thought it was the most pathetic thing I'd ever seen. On point after point after point, it was agreement, agreement, agreement, and a casual bystander would be left wondering what exactly the difference was. It had to be the most boring spectacle in the history of history. (Except, of course, when Gore famously tried to get all macho by standing ominously to Gee-Dub's side, looking ready to pop the guy. That was sheer comedy.)

Then came the moment when Gore got up and argued for a muscular foreign policy, spreading democracy around the world . . . and Bush gently chastized him, saying America should lead by example and practice a "humble" foreign policy. There's one that never gets old.

This was national politics, six years ago. Two rich white men bending over backwards to appeal to the "center" -- a polite term for "people who don't believe in a damn thing but will vote for you if you seem likable and don't offend them" . . . it was all focus-grouped, all carefully phrased, all aiming at the large chunk of people who would vote for a candidate based on nothing substantial. People who voted on issues would be voting not for a candidate, but for the party he belonged to, so why bother playing to them?

Then it happened.

Less than a year after that election, we sat and watched in horror as events beyond our control unfolded, and the world changed. And our politics changed.

The controversial things that this administration has done since 9/11 are not a response to the events of that day. It's been thoroughly documented that Cheney and Rumsfeld -- and various members of their respective staffs -- have wanted to implement these policies for a very long time, for reasons of political strategy and global economics.

However, the attack by Saudi terrorists is what created the political climate that made it possible for the administration to push an extreme right-wing agenda.

Whereas during the 2000 election, it was necessary for the Reep candidate to present himself as a political moderate -- and in the first half of 2001 Gee-Dub was shaping up to be the least effective President in modern history -- 9/11 opened the door for all manner of radical policies that the administration could never have won support for otherwise.

The neocon desire to establish a permanent US military presence in the region, for example, is being fulfilled today in Iraq. The expansion of executive power and marginalization of congressional and judicial oversight -- which Cheney has agitated for ever since the smackdown of Nixon -- is being accomplished today under the cover of the so-called War on Terror . . . a war without temporal or geographical boundaries, a war without a clear objective or end goal, a war against anybody the President declares an Enemy of the State.

This is the context of national politics, post-9/11. One side wants to drastically expand the power and reduce the accountability of the executive, to label people enemy combatants without evidence or a fair trial, to subjugate the freedoms that we as Americans are most proud of to the security of the state and the furtherance of certain strategic goals. The Reeps-currently-in-charge are playing a pure power game, offering only a thin tissue of rhetoric to justify their actions to voters. They are radical extremists, pure and simple.

This sort of extremism requires extreme opposition. "Centrists" -- I prefer the term "opportunists" -- like the Clintons and Lieberman espouse a philosophy of cooperation and compromise, which is fine, when both sides are willing to negotiate in good faith. However, when faced with extremists who absolutely refuse to compromise (yes, just like the radicals who are willing to fly planes into buildings to hurt their enemies), there can be no good-faith negotiation. There can be no compromise, because any concessions made by the other side will be ignored or renounced. This has been evident in the behavior of the administration for several years. They negotiate, they concede, they make noises and wax expansively about dialogue and bipartisanship -- and then they simply do whatever they want, and claim they're entitled.

Sadly, this is also the political climate in which I am comfortable. Because these issues have always been with us . . . only now, now that the veil has been lifted, now they can be dealt with. As long as the corporatist "centrists" were smoothing everything over, as long as the power brokers could just keep on horse-trading to keep the various interest groups satisfied and maintain an artificial stability, as long as making nice was more important than making a stand, we were doomed to the same overwhelming apathetic blandness that smothered the 2000 election.

This administration has demonstrated over and over again that it is not dealing in good faith -- so much so that even many Reeps have now begun to quietly distance themselves from its policies -- and yet here we have a member of the opposition party that continues to preach cooperation and compromise, and emphatically so.

Taken at face value, it seems as if Lieberman is clinging to a pre-9/11 mentality, imagining somehow that the administration is still that centrist-populist "nice guy" that Lieberman and his running mate beat by half a million votes in 2000. He doesn't seem willing to recognize how far out there the administration has moved. No matter how many times the administration demonstrates its untrustworthiness, this man continues to insist that they must be treated with courtesy and deference.

That is, of course, the polite interpretation. It seems more likely that Lieberman continues to cling to the "centrist" fig leaf because he knows perfectly well that if he does the honest thing -- changes his party affiliation and runs as a Reep -- he will be kicked to the curb in short order. Because now that people can see what this administration stands for, they don't like it.

Now the cards are on the table. And old Joe . . . he still wants to bluff.

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