Many pundits accurately noted that Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman’s loss in last week’s Senate primary in Connecticut would cause the Democratic Party to lurch further left, making it less viable in national elections.
But Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol came up with a novel idea wherein Lieberman’s loss would lead the Republican Party into a leftward lurch of its own—thus killing the GOP in national elections.
Kristol floated the idea that Lieberman—who filibustered the nomination of John Bolton as UN ambassador, voted against the Bush tax cuts, and boasted an American Conservative Union rating of 0% in 2004—could run as the next Republican vice presidential candidate, possibly on a ticket headed by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. That would give the GOP an all-liberal, all-Blue State ticket in 2008.
Whether Lieberman wins or loses in Connecticut in November, Kristol wrote in an editorial for the Weekly Standard, “the possibility exists for creating a broader and deeper governing party, with Lieberman Democrats welcomed into the Republican fold, just as Scoop Jackson Democrats became Reaganites in the 1980s. Is it too fanciful to speculate about a 2008 GOP ticket of McCain-Lieberman, or Giuliani-Lieberman, or Romney-Lieberman, or Allen-Lieberman, or Gingrich-Lieberman?”
What Kristol ignores is that with few significant exceptions, other than his position on the Iraq War—which is effectively the same as Sen. Hillary Clinton’s position on the Iraq War—Joe Lieberman is a hard-core liberal.
He was right at home as Al Gore’s Democratic running mate in 2000, and had Gore won an Electoral College victory that year, there is no doubt Lieberman would have enthusiastically supported and advanced all the left-wing causes Gore was preparing to advance.
In fact, Lieberman’s ACU rating has drifted leftward since 2000, when he scored a 20%. As noted, in the election year of 2004, when he was seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, Lieberman scored a perfect 0%. Last year, he bounced back all the way to 8%. Liberal Republican Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, by contrast, both scored 32%. Sen. Arlen Specter (R.-Pa.) had a 63%.
There can be no disputing that on social, fiscal and regulatory issues, Lieberman marches with the far left. He repeatedly opposed the ban on partial-birth abortion, voted to lift President Reagan’s Mexico City policy which denies U.S. foreign aid to groups that perform or promote abortions, voted for a resolution that claimed Roe v. Wade was correctly decided, and filibustered the constitutional amendment to protect traditional marriage. Lieberman also filibustered the nomination of Miguel Estrada to the federal Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and voted against Sam Alito for the Supreme Court.
On the fiscal front, Lieberman opposed the Bush tax cuts and attacked them with the typical class-war demagoguery employed by virtually all contemporary Democrats. “George Bush protects loopholes for corporations and tightens the noose around the necks of America’s working families. His policies have abandoned the middle class and attacked the poor,” Lieberman said in a 2003 speech. “… More than a million Americans fell into poverty in just the first year of the Bush Administration. But George Bush has ignored these crises, and he’s given a huge tax cut that we can’t afford to people who already can afford just about everything they want.”
In fact, Bush cut income taxes for everybody who actually paid them.
Meanwhile, Lieberman has never been opposed to big government, pushing increased federal spending and intervention in the free market. In 2005, he got a 9% rating—or a grade of “F”—from the National Taxpayers Union.
Lieberman voted to force the U.S. to comply with the terms of Al Gore’s Kyoto global-warming treaty, even though the treaty was never ratified.
He voted against allowing oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
He voted against extending the moratorium on Internet taxation.
He voted to extend the phony “assault-weapons” ban and against exempting gun manufacturers from lawsuits seeking to hold them liable for violence committed by others.
Even on national security-related issues, his supposed strong suit, Lieberman has sometimes gone soft. In 2002, he was one of only 19 senators who voted against the American Servicemembers Protection Act, designed to protect U.S. military personnel from prosecution by the International Criminal Court. As noted, he filibustered the nomination of John Bolton as UN ambassador, and he voted against confirming his former colleague John Ashcroft (who predictably became a stellar force in the war against terror) as attorney general.
Most of the prospective presidential candidates whom Bill Kristol ponders heading a 2008 Republican ticket with Joe Lieberman as running mate can be expected to hit the campaign trail after the November elections to try to prove to Republican primary voters that he shares their conservative values. These include McCain, Romney, Allen and Gingrich. It will be harder for some—particularly McCain, who has committed many grave apostasies in recent years—than for others.
But Rudy Giuliani was never a conservative of any kind.
As Kate O’Beirne pointed out in a recent analysis in National Review, Giuliani was endorsed for mayor in 1989 by the Liberal Party, which said of him: “He agreed with the Liberal Party’s views on affirmative action, gay rights, gun control, school prayer, and tuition tax credits.”
In 1992, O’Beirne reports, Giuliani said Nelson Rockefeller represented “a tradition in the Republican Party I’ve worked to rekindle—the Rockefeller, Javits, Lefkowitz tradition.”
The Republican Party is in trouble today not because it has drifted away from Rockefeller Republicanism, but because it is drifting back toward it.
The conservative vision is comprehensive. It believes in limited government, traditional values, and a foreign policy that looks at our national interests with cold, clear eyes and works aggressively to defend them. Since the Republican Party unambiguously embraced this vision with the election of Ronald Reagan as President in 1980 it has lost only one presidential election, and has become the majority party in Congress.
The one presidential election that was lost—by the senior President Bush—came after Bush had turned his back on core conservative values.
In recent years, many Republicans have begun again to betray these values. That is why the GOP congressional majority is vulnerable in this November’s election.
The job of conservatives between now and then, and through the next election cycle, will be to take our party back—not to hand it over to Rudy Giuliani and Joe Lieberman.