April 4, 2005


Here's Why the Centrist Democrat Is Feeling Unloved (NICHOLAS CONFESSORE, 4/03/05, NY Times)

ONCE upon a time, not so very long ago, the centrist Democrat was among Washington's hardiest and richly plumaged species. He was a privileged guest on Sunday-morning chat shows, the go-to guy for blue-ribbon commissions, the arbiter of Beltway conventional wisdom. He - this being Washington it was usually a he - was the pragmatist, the middle-splitter, the politician who came to Get Things Done.

Often, centrist Democrats thrived as in-house critics of their own party. Henry (Scoop) Jackson jabbed at his colleagues' dovishness; Daniel Patrick Moynihan at their unwillingness to rein in entitlement spending; Joe Lieberman at their reluctance to talk about values.

But like many species that have departed the world, centrist Democrats today struggle with an unfriendly environment.

It was always more about image than substance. When push came to shove: Scoop Jackson voted with Ted Kennedy to kneecap South Vietnam in '75; Pat Moynihan fought welfare reform; he and Joe Lieberan both voted against impeachment; and Senator Lieberman even supports partial birth abortion. They were mostly centrist in rhetoric, not reality.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 4, 2005 9:14 PM

joe leiberman was a profile in courage during the 2000 campaign. the way he prostrated himself before every democratic special interest group was inspiring. he shed his "principles" like a pro. and he is the best of that lot.

Posted by: cjm at April 4, 2005 9:24 PM

Scoop was a Pentagon superhawk, his NSC voting record was almost a consistent 100%. In 1975, the Vietnam conflict, which was a total cluster-f*** for reasons to numerous to elaborate here, was over. The ARVNs were done, there was zero point to throwing good money after bad, and the only thing left to do was to help the refugees. Scoop was integral in the defeat of Paul Warnke and the failure of Salt II. He also was responsible for Jackson-Vanik which hastened the Soviet collapse, and showed the swine in our banking and ag sectors that there can be limits to the amount of avarice Americans will accept from them. Scoop was among the last of a once-prominent but now extinct species around the world, the anti-Communist social democrat. Mitterand, Harold Wilson and Golda Meir were others. Moynihan was another, and the welfare reform he opposed was a badly flawed bill.

As for Lieberman, putting him in the same sentence with giants like Scoop and Moynihan is simply disgusting. CJM is 100% correct about the 2000 campaign. Lieberman would have happily ridden a unicycle down Pennsylvania Avenue on Shabbos while eating a ham and cheese on rye were it to gain him votes. He is a man utterly without priniciples in a sanctimonious way that only the phony religious types try. His protestations of religious orthodoxy leave me as cold as similar protestations from Chirac, who paraded his Catholic faith in a highly-public manner for a francais but then increased access to abortion while PM, throughout his career.

Posted by: bart at April 5, 2005 6:35 AM

The South was doing fine until Ted, Scoop & company cut and ran. Moynihan was a featherweight--forget what he said, what did he ever do?

Posted by: oj at April 5, 2005 7:37 AM

The second our troops left, it was just a matter of the NVA running out the clock. Their victory was inevitable. The ARVNs couldn't fight worth a damn, and the South Vietnamese government was a government so staggeringly incompetent and corrupt it would have embarassed Paul Reynaud or Pierre Laval.

It is one thing to say whether our fight in Vietnam was the right one, it is quite another to engage in self-delusion and believe the ARVNs were worth anything in the field. Kissinger's own writings make it clear he thought the South Vietnamese government had no shot.

Any decent political science library of the last three decades has about a shelf devoted to Moynihan. He was a great thinker, if not a great doer as it is tough to get much done when you are inebriated by noon every day. But he deserves credit for identifying issues from vouchers to welfare reform to standing up to 3d World despots long before anyone else either did or had the courage to admit it.

What did Aristotle and deTocqueville ever do? How good a President was Thomas Jefferson or James Madison? They were disasters.

Posted by: bart at April 5, 2005 7:56 AM

I have to agree with OJ on this one. Everything I've read indicates that with proper support (logistics, air) the ARON would have held on. Certainly they fought until it was no longer possible.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at April 5, 2005 8:46 AM

"They were mostly centrist in rhetoric, not reality . . . "

So true and what so dumbfounds the left, including the MSM, is that Bush actually says what he means and does what he says he will do. It's a foreign concept and they don't know what to make of it.

Posted by: erp at April 5, 2005 9:36 AM