The Bush Democrat

     If he runs as a third-party candidate in November, 
Joe Lieberman may yet keep his Connecticut Senate seat, 
despite his thumping in the closely watched August 8 
primary; but he has lost his party.

     An incumbent's defeat for his own party's 
nomination, however narrow, is a bad sign. Only six years 
after he ran for vice president, Lieberman has 
dramatically lost his mojo. Now he has been defeated by a 
rich upstart, Ned Lamont, and other Democrats are 
rallying unsentimentally to the victor.

     At times democracy does have its vindictive 
satisfactions, and Lieberman's desperate attempt to claw 
his way back into his party's favor during this campaign 
offered some grim amusement. His theme, after five years 
of cheering on President Bush's war amounted to "I am too 
a Democrat!"

     You almost have to pity him. It's not as if the 
other Democrats had opposed the war from the start. Only 
two years ago, John Kerry could offer only "nuanced" 
reservations about Bush's conduct of it, "nuance" being a 
favorite word in the blue states for any subtle 
distinction without a practical difference. Lately 
Lieberman has been stressing lots of nuances between 
himself and Bush.

     It didn't help him that his most vocal supporters 
were Republicans, the drive-by conservatives of talk 
radio, who love him precisely because he favors Bush's 
war even more than the president's party does. As 
Lieberman insisted that he is no Bush lackey, these 
blowhards exalted him for being, in effect, a Bush lackey 
at a time when Bush lackeys are a vanishing species.

     Politicians of both parties are distancing 
themselves from Bush. The Republicans seeking reelection 
this year avoid mentioning his name; the Democrats are 
banking on fury at him. Lieberman is the only Democrat 
who had to try to deflect that fury from himself. Deny it 
as he may, he has been Bush's Democrat.

     It's tough enough being a Bush Republican. Strange 
to recall that even this year Fred Barnes of THE WEEKLY 
STANDARD could publish a book praising Bush as 
"rebel-in-chief" and hailing his "strong-government 
conservatism" as the wave of the future.

     Whatever else Lieberman's defeat means, it can only 
be a dreadful omen for the Republicans this fall. 
Democrats, independents, and many Republicans agree, with 
varying degrees of passion, that this presidency ranks 
among the most unfortunate in American history. With 
every passing week it looks further beyond any hope of 

Condi Agonistes

     The administration is still insisting that what's 
going on in Iraq isn't yet a civil war, appearances to 
the contrary, as Condoleezza Rice struggles to arrest the 
spreading disaster in Lebanon. Once again the 
administration finds itself in an impossible situation it 
wasn't prepared for.

     With her indefeasible optimism, Rice chooses to 
describe that situation as "the birth pangs of a new 
Mideast." Just be patient, everybody; democracy is on the 

     What a curious figure she is. As a diplomat, she 
forgoes dignity for glamour, wearing dominatrix boots to 
show off her legs like some fashion model. What a 
contrast with her predecessors, Colin Powell and 
Madeleine Albright. Going further back in history, I 
don't recall Dean Rusk dressing like that -- nobody ever 
called him funky -- and even the spruce Dean Acheson 
settled for pin-striped trousers.

     Her approach to the new Lebanon horrors is 
characteristically moralistic, deploring the violence 
while siding entirely with the Israelis. The inevitable 
result, with every new Israeli bomb, has been to isolate 
America further against the Muslim world and to increase 
Hezbollah's popularity (and Iran's influence) in the 

     The Israelis, understandably and predictably, don't 
feel that America's worries are their concern; for them 
the only issue, as always, is their own survival. If this 
leaves Rice and her boss holding the bag, too bad.

The Gibson Case (Continued)

     Given all the other things claiming our attention, 
the Mel Gibson furor has been of surprising intensity.

     Only Gibson himself has noticed the primary fact: 
that he was fortunately arrested before his drunken 
driving killed somebody. If a terrible accident had 
resulted, it could hardly have caused more indignation 
than his remark about Jews causing wars.

     You wonder if his detractors have ever met a drunk 
in full cry. I have, alas, and I wouldn't be amazed if 
you have too. Most of them say things which, if coherent 
at all, make Gibson sound like a suave diplomat.

     Anyway, he wasn't addressing the public; he was 
speaking to the police, including a Jewish officer -- the 
only one, after all, to whom he owed an apology for his 
offensive words, even if his many enemies seized the 
occasion to act injured.

     Moreover, there are a number of odd features and 
questions about this case. Was Gibson followed? Or under 
surveillance? Why was such a detailed (six-page) report 
written about what was apparently, after all, a routine 
drunk driving arrest, and how did it reach the media? Was 
it Gibson who initiated the conversation? How well did he 
himself recall the exchange?

     We may never know, and the official story may be 
quite accurate. But in these cases there is nearly always 
more than meets the eye.

The Future of Fidel

     Nearly overlooked amid all the week's uproars was 
the continuing mysterious infirmity of Fidel Castro, 
pushing 80. Only exiled Cubans seem to remember what a 
nasty ruler he has been. Exiles, in fact, have always 
been Communism's chief export.

     For decades Fidel was Communism's Boy Wonder, 
charming journalists and impressing Hollywood, while 
Communism has lately been upstaged by terrorism as the 
focus of American foreign policy. He has also been lucky; 
after the collapse of his Soviet patrons, he has found a 
new sugar daddy in Venezuela's oil-rich Hugo Chavez. 
Suddenly he is a frail greybeard.

     It isn't too early to address the practical question 
of how Castro should be memorialized. How about a 
Lenin-style mausoleum, preserving his remains under glass 
for the veneration of posterity? Plenty of the world's 
progressives, including Americans, would flock to Havana 
to pay their respects to this hero of the Revolution.

                 +          +          +                  

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