Joe Lieberman: Why Conservatives Should Be Thankful for Dean

Yesterday’s First Look was on the continued liberal, anti-Bush, bad-policy rhetoric repeated in the Iowa debates on Sunday by seven of the nine Democrats vying for President.

But what stood out to me was not the Leftist tripe conservatives have come to expect from these people; rather it was the fact that I actually was happy to witness Dean as the definite frontrunner of the Democrats. The thrill was not because I think he’s so liberal that 2004 would be a cakewalk for Bush with Dean as his opponent, but because without Dean, Joe Lieberman might actually have a chance of getting the Democratic nod. And a race with Lieberman would be a tough fight for the White House, which they would have a legitimate shot of losing.

Thankfully, because of the Dean-inspired-and-stoked Bush-hatred that has mobilized the far-Left of the Democratic Party, Joe Lieberman’s election is nigh impossible.

Lieberman (who, I’ve noted before, a friend of mine is fond of describing as “the man who frequently wrestles with his conscience and wins every time”), the candidate who claims to be a moderate and appears as such compared to his eight Democratic opponents, made statements during the debate in Iowa that seemed sensible in light of the current liberal field.

Consider the following:

    LIEBERMAN: First, let me say that the capture of — overthrow and then capture of Saddam Hussein has made America safer and made the world safer. It has not ended all of our problems or all the threats to our security, but a president has to deal with more than one threat at a time.

    The Middle East is directly related, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict directly related. We have to stay the course in Iraq now and continue to build a stable, modernizing, democratizing country there.

    If we do that, we will not only have won a victory in the war on terrorism because we will have shown the Arab world what happens as a result of American intervention, that you live better, freer lives, but we will have sent the message to all the other terrorists and tin horn dictators there, like Gadhafi and even like the Iranians, who are beginning to cooperate, that we mean business.


    LIEBERMAN: Yes. I want to respond to Howard Dean’s criticism of my statement that we’re safer with Saddam Hussein gone. You know what? We had good faith differences on the war against Saddam. But I don’t know how anybody could say that we’re not safer with a homicidal maniac, a brutal dictator, an enemy of the United States, a supporter of terrorism, a murderer of hundreds of thousands of his own people in prison instead of in power.

    And to change the subject as Howard does and to say that we haven’t obliterated all terrorism with Saddam in prison is a little bit like saying somehow that we weren’t safer after the Second World War after we defeated Nazism and Hitler because Stalin and the communists were still in power.

    We have many threats to our security, there is no question. We are a lot stronger with Saddam Hussein in prison.


    LIEBERMAN: I don’t know which is worse, that [Dean] wants to repeal the tax cuts, or that he won’t admit that they ever existed.

    You ask the average middle-class person — here in Iowa, average family of four saved $1,800 a year under those tax cuts. They need that money to help pay for their insurance.


    LIEBERMAN: I do make mistakes, believe me, many of them. I would say the one that comes quickest to mind is that early in my career in the state senate in Connecticut I was more focused on the rights of criminals than the rights of victims of crime. I think in our system of justice, we have to be focused on both, and I have been since then.


    LIEBERMAN: For 30 years, I’ve been working in public life, rejecting the extremism of both parties, bringing people together to fight for what’s right, based on our shared values and our common goals.

    I want to reach out to all segments of our party and unite them. And then get the support we need for my new ideas, for strong on security, for pro-growth in the tradition of Bill Clinton, for social progress, health care reform.

    Anger and negativism and division don’t win elections in America. It’s unity, constructive new ideas and hope that win them.

Not only did Lieberman sound less like a liberal (though he is one) and more like a moderate (“Bush-lite” to Howard Dean), but he also was willing to take on Howard Dean about his sealed records from his time as governor of Vermont. Such a “principled toughness” — were Dean not running — would likely be a good play against President Bush who shies away from mentioning Democrats, specifically or generally, in his own rhetoric for fear of looking too partisan or mean and wasting any political capital.

    LIEBERMAN:One of the most troubling decisions that Howard has made in this campaign — made before — is to close and seal his records, or most of them, when he was governor of Vermont.

    And this troubles me because the people of Vermont have a right to know. The people of America, who are judging your candidacy for president now, have a right to know what you did as governor to determine whether you’re suitable and capable of being president of the United States.

    I have in my hand the memorandum of understanding between you and the secretary of state, which makes very clear that all it takes to open up your records, Mr. Governor is one stroke of a pen.

    Howard Dean, every day you tell people across America they have the power, and you’re right.

    You have the power, with one stroke of the pen, to open up your records to public view. You have the power; I’m prepared to give you the pen. Why don’t you sign this agreement and open your gubernatorial records to full public view?

    DEAN: [???] What we have done is we have stepped aside. We have turned everything over to the attorney general of the state of Vermont. And the attorney general of the state of Vermont will go to court, and a judge will look over every document in our records. And they are free to release whatever they’d like, and that’s fine with me.

    LIEBERMAN: That is an unsatisfactory and disappointing answer. Why should you have to force a judge to force you to do what you know is right?

    Your records ought to be public. Look, there are always exceptions for private matters and for security matters. The Boston Herald reports today that, notwithstanding the fact that you kept your records closed, you have revealed some security matters and, in fact, some personal medical histories.

    My question is, as we go into this campaign, how can you and we take on George Bush and Dick Cheney, who have run the most secretive administration in our history, if you refuse to open up the records of your time as governor?

    I want to say this: As president, records will be open to the public view. My records when I was in a comparable state position as attorney general are open to public view.

    We Democrats are better than Bush and Cheney. And your position on your records has undercut the high ground that we should be on.

    DEAN: I think if somebody is gay and they write me that, and they don’t care to have that information disclosed to the public, that’s their right.

    LIEBERMAN: That’s not the answer. . . . You are ducking the question.

More First Look examinations of the Lieberman candidacy:

  • Lieberman’s Uphill Battle for the Democratic Nomination
  • Lieberman’s Uphill Battle for the Democratic Nomination — Part 2
  • Lieberman’s Liberalism