Day: November 18, 2008

Alaska Senate Race Goes to Democrat Mark Begich!

Good news has just been reported that Democratic Mayor Mark Begich of Anchorage, Alaska has won the Senate race over long term Senator Ted Stevens, who was recently convicted of seven felonies in a federal trial, and would have been facing explusion by his Senate colleagues had he been reelected. 

Stevens has served forty years in the Senate, longer than any Republican senator in US history, but his career ends in disgrace, not only because of his felony convictions, but also because of the controversial "Bridge to Nowhere" which became part of the 2008 presidential campaign and was used as the poster boy for the attack on "earmarks" passed on a regular basis by members of Congress.

Stevens’ departure will be welcome for another reason–he was a nasty, grouchy old man, and apparently may have been a nasty, grouchy middle aged man years ago :)  LOL  His arrogance was legendary and his absence may improve overall Senate relations, although there are other Senate Republicans who also need to promote the idea of cooperation and open mindedness in order to create a good bipartisan mood for the next Congress.  Unfortunately, don’t bet on that!

Senator Chuck Hagel, the Republican Party and Rush Limbaugh

Retiring Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska really laced it into the Republican party in a speech at Johns Hopkins University, pointing out that the party had totally failed in its message and programs in the past eight years, and calling for diplomacy and willingness to talk with the nation’s enemies as a way to bridge the gap on the world scene, something advocated by President Elect Obama and many foreign policy specialists, including Republican former Secretaries of State, during the election campaign.

He also said that Rush Limbaugh seemed to be so good at giving advice that he should run for office rather than just pontificate  on his radio show.  Obviously, Hagel was being sarcastic, as he clearly meant that Limbaugh had no conception of how to deal with diplomatic or military matters and was just being what he is always best at, being a windbag.

Senator Hagel is soon to leave the Senate after two distinguished terms, and he will be missed.  He is a man of principle and courage, who has gained many admirers, including the author, and it is hoped that he will be utilized in some fashion by the new President, as one of the better examples of a Republican who can contribute to a Democratic administration in a non partisan spirit.

The “Lion of the Senate” Returns

It was so encouraging to see the return to the lameduck session of Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, recovering from cancer surgery.

Ted Kennedy is truly the "Lion of the Senate" as many have called him, including Senator John McCain of Arizona.  There is plenty of potential to criticize aspects of his past life, particularly his personal foibles.  One can clearly condemn shortcomings in his long life, and still recognize the greatness of this man, who will go down in history as one of the all time giants of the Senate.  Already having served longer than any senator except Robert Byrd and Strom Thurmond, and having by far a more reputable Senate record than either of those men, we can only hope that he will fully recover from his brain tumor and be able to devote more years to his exceptional Senate record of concern about health care, education, immigration, the economy, the environment, foreign policy, etc etc as the list goes on.

We are fortunate that he has served so long and has made a greater impact on American history than his brothers who were taken from us much too early by tragedy.  He is truly respected by both liberals and conservatives as someone they are  proud of and who reflects well on the Senate.  So hopefully, Kennedy will be able to fulfill his expressed wish to help assist President Obama in the accomplishment of his goals.

“Clintonites” in the Obama Administration

It seems apparent that President Elect Barack Obama will be employing many former "Clintonites" in his administration, and it makes perfect sense.

The Democrats have been in the wilderness a lot in the past 40 years, with only four years of Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s and the two terms of Bill Clinton in the 90s, so there are far fewer alternatives for Democrats than there were for the Republicans, who have controlled the Presidency for the other 28 of the past 40 years.

Just as Clinton leaned on Carter appointees, so Obama is leaning on Clinton appointees.  Very few Carter people are still available after nearly 30 years since Jimmy Carter left office.   Early indications are that the Clinton appointees that Obama is recruiting are excellent choices, including Rahm Emanuel as Chief of Staff, Gregory Craig as likely White House Counselor, and Eric Holder as likely Attorney General.  Also, of course, rumors are heavy that Hillary Clinton may become Secretary of State if her husband’s financial affairs can be fully vetted and be shown to NOT present an embarrassment to the Obama administration.

The search for talented people who served  Bill Clinton is fascinating, and shows wisdom on the part of the President Elect.  We all will watch with great interest over the next two months to the inauguration.

The Joe Lieberman Odyssey

The oddyssey of Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut is a story that will one day be written by some scholar, and what a story it is!

When Joe Lieberman ran for the US Senate in 1988 against liberal Republican Lowell Weicker, the conservative intellectual and founder of the NATIONAL REVIEW, William F. Buckley, Jr.,  endorsed him and called him his "favorite Democrat".  That should have been a warning that Joe Lieberman would NEVER be obedient to any party label or loyal to his Senate colleagues.

Lieberman made a record as a man of principle in his first two terms in the Senate, including backing traditional Democratic social and economic ideas, and also having the courage to condemn President Bill Clinton’s misbehavior which led to his impeachment trial.  Few Democrats were willing to criticize the President’s behavior and what he put the country through in 1998 and 1999, derailing any possibility of real accomplishment of Clinton ideas in his second term. 

In 2000, Vice President Al Gore thought enough of Joe Lieberman to make him his running mate, and most Democrats were pleased by that move, and one must not forget that the Gore-Lieberman  ticket DID win the popular vote, although the Supreme Court ruled in favor of George W. Bush in the Florida controversy.

Once America was attacked on September 11, Lieberman, like others, rallied to the support of the Bush administration, and no one would have debated that.  But then he became the Democrat most behind the Iraq War even after revelations that Saddam Hussein had no Weapons of Mass Destruction and that our intelligence was flawed and that Bush went to war without real justification.  As other Democrats abandoned support of the Bush administration, Lieberman continued to side with Bush and decided he would back the candidacy of John McCain and trash Senator Barack Obama during the election campaign of 2008.  He had already lost the Democratic nomination and won back his Senate seat as an Independent in 2006, continuing as part of the Democratic caucus, actually allowing the Democrats a bare control of the Senate in the past two years.  Still basically a Democrat except on the Iraq war and support of John McCain, he angered many who wanted to kick him out of his Homeland Security chairmanship in the Senate in the new 111th Congress.

However, wisely in my opinion, President Elect Obama took the view that he did not want the Democrats in the Senate to employ revenge on Lieberman, and they have just honored his wish by a vote of 42-13, with his only punishment being the loss of a subcommittee chairmanship and a statement condemning his support of the Republican nominee during the election campaign.

One does have to wonder, however, if the result would have been the same, if the rumored possible choice of Lieberman as McCain’s running mate had occurred, instead of McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin.  In that circumstance, I do not believe the Democrats would have forgiven him and I doubt that I would be so generous on this matter as President Elect Obama has now displayed.  But as it stands, I am glad Lieberman is still part of the Democratic caucus.

The question now is will Senator Lieberman behave more like a true Democrat, or will he become a problem to the Obama Administration in the next four years?  This will, indeed, be interesting to watch!