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News - Commentary : What price moderate?



Sunday, The New York
endorsed Ned Lamont, Connecticut Senator Joseph
Lieberman’s opponent
in the Democratic primary of that state. (Lest my fellow Texans find
strange, remember that in those geographically less-wellendowed
portions of the
nation, you can’t sneeze without being blessed by some
busybody across the
border.) In sharp contrast to NPR apologist Cokie Roberts, who on July
31 said
to reject Lieberman is to “punish” moderate
politics, the Times eloquently
argued that it’s no use having your bird in the bush if he
just gives you the
finger all the time. My meanin’ being that Lieberman may have
pull with his
cross-aisle rivals, but all he uses it for is gaining more pull with
cross-aisle rivals. To adapt a somewhat applicable aphorism: Influence
is like
manure; you’ve got to spread it around or it starts to smell.
Issues at which
the senator from
style="font-size: 14pt;">Connecticut style="font-size: 14pt;"> declined to throw his weight
(sometimes simultaneously
rubbing salt in the Dems’ wounds for soundbite effect): the
Abu Ghraib prison
scandal, the ephemeral Weapons of Mass Destruction, civil rights (all
crazy “immoderate” issues).

the August 8
style="font-size: 14pt;">Connecticut style="font-size: 14pt;"> primary, we will know whether that
state’s Democrats think
it is more important to preserve the influence (read: ability to direct
monies home)
that comes with a senior senator, or to stand up for the founding
principles of
this country. (But get ready for Lieberman redux: If he loses the
primary — as
polls indicate — he’s vowed to run as an
independent, and already has a party
ready to pop onto the ballot. This is a man who clearly has achieved
ideological parity with the administration: He only follows the rules
of the
road if they don’t impede his road map.)

stakes are incredibly
high. In June, the Supreme Court rejected the Bush
Administration’s use of
secret military tribunals to try enemy combatants in the war on terror,
observing that it violated domestic law and the Geneva Convention.
Thanks to
Alberto Gonzales, we already know what Bush-Cheney-Rove think of the
And with the Hill controlled by Republicans (and one devout Republican
the time is ripe to overturn the first obstacle. The Associated Press
Friday that the administration has drafted legislation that not only
legalize Stalinesque tribunals, but could allow the government to deny
style="font-size: 14pt;">U.S. style="font-size: 14pt;"> citizens suspected of terrorist
activities access to
civilian courts, as well.

a time of ongoing armed
conflict, it is neither practicable nor appropriate for enemy
combatants like
al Qaeda terrorists to be tried like American citizens in federal
courts or courts-martial,”
reads the proposed bill. Nor does the executive branch seem to think
that American
citizens necessarily ought to be tried like American citizens in a
“time of
ongoing armed conflict” — a time of our choosing,
lest you forget the heady
post-9/11 rhetoric of yesteryear. Didn’t think that one would
come back to
bite, did ya? Among the protections that could fly out the courtroom
the bar on hearsay evidence (for a quick tutorial on the effectiveness
hearsay in the hands of well-meaning fanatics, see The
), the guarantee
to a “speedy trial” (I know, I know, but imagine
how much longer it could
take), and a defendant’s access to evidence (the stuff with
which your
attorney, assuming you’re still entitled to one, builds a

who could save us from
this out-ofcontrol, power-hungry administration? The Senate Armed
Committee — where Lieberman holds court — was
scheduled to discuss the measure
today. But you already know what to expect from Lieberman: a big, fat
with a dash of fatuous rhetoric thrown in.

administration has
proved time and again that we and our elected representatives are the
forces that can constrain it, making it all the more important that
voters put
senators and congresspeople in place who will check and balance the
If Lieberman doesn’t take this moment to confront
Bush’s plan to rewrite the
Constitution in favor of totalitarian government, he deserves to lose
Lamont, and lose soundly. But let’s not just point our finger
to the Northeast.
John Cornyn sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, too. You can
call his
local office at 224-7485, his D.C. offices at (202) 224- 2934; or you
can email
him via his website, And, if all else fails,
he’s up for
reelection in 2008.