WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The week has witnessed the departure from the Democratic presidential race of the party's last authentic man competing for the nomination, Sen. Joe Lieberman.
The remaining candidates are all hucksters. They are the masters of such lines as "Ah ... let me clarify what I said the other day," and, "Oh, allow me to apologize to my distinguished colleague," and, "Well, what I really meant to say was ..." From frontrunner Kerry to bottom-of-the-heap Sharpton (and a well-upholstered bottom it is), each remaining candidate lives in fear of what a Lexis-Nexis search might reveal about his past policies and euphuisms.
Lieberman had few such worries. He campaigned as a gentleman, making no cheap shots and filing no fibs. Moreover, if one compares his positions to the positions taken by the great Democratic presidents, proceeding from Roosevelt to Kennedy and after whom the field pretty much petered out into the ribaldry of Clinton, one will note that Lieberman was in the great tradition.
Recall his heartfelt lament in 1998 over the Boy President's perjury. Lieberman in 2004 stood for a strong foreign policy against enemies who are today every bit as treacherous and diabolical as the Nazis and the communists once were. His domestic programs were not the other candidates' sleight-of-hand, though they accepted larger government involvement than economic growth can sustain. Actually, in fiscal terms his policies were probably a bit more conservative than Roosevelt's or Truman's. At any rate, they were forthright and arguable.
It tells us a great deal about how the passions of Democratic primary voters have been manipulated by the hucksters that so many of them would ignore the legitimate heir to the modern Democratic Party's best instincts. Now the Democratic primary voters are left with the snake oil salesmen. Lieberman's only lapse came when in withdrawing he paid brief respect to the phony candidacy of the Rev. Al Sharpton, a fraud whose full buffoonish mountebankry could not have been dreamed up by the late comic genius W. C. Fields. That black voters in South Carolina only gave him 18 percent of their vote is a tribute to their good sense and to the Democratic candidates' underestimation of black Democrats' essential prudence. No candidate should curry the favor of a Sharpton.