Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Some Thoughts on Mark Shea, Joseph Leiberman and Ned Lamont

Siding with (and citing) Pat Buchanan, Mark Shea takes issue with the (neo)conservative embrace of Sen. Joseph Lieberman:
Last year, Joe's rating by Americans for Democratic Action was 80. The ACLU gave him an 83, the NAACP an 85, the AFL-CIO a 92, LULAC a perfect 100. In 2004, Joe got a 100 rating from the National Abortion Rights Action League and a zero from National Right to Life. His American Conservative Union rating was zero. His Christian Coalition rating was zero. The National Rifle Association, which grades by letters, gave Joe a big, fat "F."

But as long as you support war in Lebanon, war in Iraq and a "war-fighting Republican Party," in the Weekly Standard's phrase, you get a pass on everything else. Beat the drum for permanent war for global democracy and against Islamo-fascism, and all other sins are forgiven you.

Such is the state of conservatism, 2006. [Source: The meaning of Connecticut", Pat Buchanan World Net Daily August 10, 2006]:

Mark links directly to Buchanan's editorial, but fails to provide readers with the original essay by Kristol (Anti-war, Anti-Israel, anti-Joe: The New Democrats, Weekly Standard 08/14/2006, Volume 011, Issue 45). I'd like to forego the paraphrasing and examine what William Kristol actually thinks:

The key point in Kristol's essay is that "You fight the global war against jihadist Islam with the political parties you have." Not necessarily, he might have added, with the political parties you desire.

As Kristol observes, we have the Republican Party, led by President Bush, whose "heart and mind are mostly in the right place. Its performance as a governing party in time of war is, admittedly, another matter." Despite some legitimate criticisms on what he perceives as a dearth of leadership (Kristol has strong words for Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and has sharply criticized the Bush administration's handling of the war in the past),

". . . at least we have a president who knows we are at war with jihadist Islam. And he is willing to stake his presidency on that fight, and to support others, like Israel, who are in the same fight."
Kristol goes on to recognize a similar disposition in the person of Joseph Lieberman, who has distinguished himself from a Democratic party which -- to quote William Bennett -- "think[s] they can become a national party by taking their cues from Howard Dean, George Soros, MoveOn.Org, the Daily Kos, and George McGovern’s appeasement-first philosophy."

Kristol concludes:

There is a political opportunity for the Bush administration if the Democrats reject Lieberman. If he's then unable to win as an independent in November, he would make a fine secretary of defense for the remainder of the Bush years. If his independent candidacy succeeds, it will be a message to Bush that he should forge ahead toward victory in Iraq and elsewhere. Either way, 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? Perhaps. But a reinvigorated governing and war-fighting Republican party is surely an achievable goal. And a necessary one.
William Kristol - "Money and Power-Firster"?

I can't say I share William Bennet's or William Kristol's personal enthusiasm for the good Senator and will refrain from indulging in speculation on a presidential ticket. At the same time, I think Mark Shea and Pat Buchanan, in their venting against the dreaded neocons, are being more than a little unfair in their portrayal of Mr. Kristol.

In July 2006, Mark Shea professed his indecisiveness or agnosticism on whether "William Kristol and other neocons are warmongers untethered from reality", on account that "I distrust the reliability of the information I'm getting and I just don't know enough yet to make a judgment that's worth any thing."

Yet, in August 2006, Mark quotes approvingly Pat Buchanan's depiction of William Kristol as one willing to sacrifice core moral principles and "give a pass on everything else" to anybody who "beat[s] the drum for permanent war".

Presumably Kristol is included as well in Shea's description of the current political debate as a struggle between the "God first conservatives and the Money and Power First Conservatives":

And it's quite clear that, for the neocons, the only thing that matters is war and the entire prolife movement and social conservative types can drop dead. The Neocons are All About Power and Realpolitik. Conservatives are morphing into the mirror of their postmodern nihilistic Leftist opponents.
Now, if you listen to the chatter from the anti-war left (antiwar.com, daily kos) and the "paleoconservative" right (The American Conservative), you might recognize William Kristol as a member of the Project for the New American Century, editor of the Weekly Standard, and one of the grand architects of the neoconservative-Zionist conspiracy for perpetual warfare.

Others, however, might recall another side to his political career:

In 1996 he signed his name to The America We Seek: A Statement of Pro-Life Principle and Concern, a joint statement by Catholics, evangelicals and conservatives. In his opposition to human cloning, Kristol has allied himself with Charles Colson, William Bennett, Fr. Neuhaus, James Dobson, George Weigel and other major pro-life religious and conservative voices.

Kristol has demonstrated a personal interest and keen grasp of the issues involved in the recent debate over ESCR (embroyonic stem cell research) and human cloning. In February 12, 2001 he authored an editorial "The Future Is Now" in that infamous neocon propaganda machine otherwise known as The Weekly Standard. Drawing from C.S. Lewis' prophetic The Abolition of Man, Kristol concluded that

"Before this prospect [of genetic human conditioning], before this possibility, every other issue pales not into insignificance, for many other issues are significant, but at least into lesser significance. The challenge of the scientific revolution in genetics and biotechnology, of scientific "progress" loosed from natural, human, or religious moorings, is the challenge we face."
Together with Eric Cohen (editor of the Ethics & Public Policy Center's journal New Atlantis), Kristol co-published The Future is Now: America Confronts the New Genetics (Rowman & Littlefield, 2002), providing a substantial introduction to the debate (see contents and excerpts here).

In May 2004, he co-authored another article with Eric Cohen, "The Politics of Bioethics: Playing Defense is Not Enough", The Weekly Standard, Volume 009, Issue 33.

It's because of Kristol's thought on these issues and the overall nature of his writing that I can't help but take umbrage with Pat Buchanan's -- and Mark Shea's -- depiction of him. Frankly, I think the choice of phrase tells us more about a personal animosity toward the elusive neocons and the war in Iraq than it does about Kristol himself.

Lieberman's Pro-Choice Credentials

Shea/Buchanan base their criticism of Lieberman largely on his pro-choice credentials. But, correct me if I'm wrong, Ned Lamont's record on the life issues is no more admirable than Lieberman's -- and if you happen to read some of the more liberal blogs, they're characterizing NARAL's support of Lieberman as a scam, calling into question his loyalty to the pro-abortion cause:

There is much one could -- and should -- rightly criticize about Lieberman's record on the life issues, but at the same time we should recognize that his "pro-choice" credentials, as touted by Buchanan, aren't as stolid as he makes them out to be. In the end, given as how Republicans haven't exactly offered any contenders with a fighting chance against the Democrats, we are left with the choice of Lieberman or Lamont in Connecticut. Which leads us to the question:

What's wrong with Ned Lamont?

And as one of Mark's commentators ("Ed the Roman") observed,

Everything for Mark to dislike about Lieberman is there in Lamont, except that he's anti-war.

The problem is that based on comments like "we are strongest when we negotiate with our enemies", he's against the entire war, not just the part in Iraq. Lamont isn't necessarily going to stop with a withdrawal from Iraq. He shows no signs of willingness to do anything about Iran's onward march to nuke Haifa.

Forgive me for the lengthy quotation, but Clifford D. May, president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, has put it best:
Spin it as he may, the central plank in Lamont’s platform is for the U.S. to accept complete and utter defeat at the hands of terrorists and insurgents in Iraq — and, by implication, before long, elsewhere too. It does not fool most of the people to say, as Lamont did, that he will bring the troops “home to a hero’s welcome.” In the real world, that is not what awaits those who suffer defeat — however painful their wounds, however great their courage under fire.

The war we are fighting — in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere — is nasty and bloody and we are not doing very well. But this is the face of war in the 21st century. We either learn to win such battles or we get used to getting whipped; maybe we even start to like getting whipped. Think of John Murtha almost bragging about the retreats he has favored in the past, from Beirut in 1983 and Somalia in 1993 — as though those retreats did not pave the way to 9/11/01.

What’s worse is that Lamont and his supporters believe America deserves defeat. They don’t say it the way Ward Churchill does but you can read it between the lines. They claim it will not be them or the U.S. that is defeated; only Bush and the hated neocons will be vanquished by the forces formerly led by Saddam Hussein and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. That is akin to a passenger on a ship saying that when the vessels sinks, only the captain and crew will drown.

So this is a bad day for America, too. There was a time when Americans united against their enemies. But our enemies in this war have been allowed to divide us. Bush may deserve some of the blame for that. But disunity has been the goal of the Lamont/Sharpton/Jackson/Murtha/Soros/Sheehan/Moore/Kos wing of the Democratic party., the wing that triumphed last night in Connecticut.

In the end, we are faced with the question: Is it possible for Kristol to appeal for possible cooperation and common ground between "Lieberman Democrats" and Republicans on the issue of national security without sacrificing pro-life principles?

Update! For those arriving at this post by way of Mark Shea's, I've written a response to Mark here. Probably the last in this little exchange.

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