Want A Friend - Stay Away From Joe!
Sex and scandal,
What a mess;
Worse can be,
It was Harry Truman who said, "If you want a friend in Washington,
get a dog." Bill Clinton did that, but it was too late.
He was already stuck with Joe Lieberman.
Clinton probably felt he could expect some measure of loyalty
from the senator. He had worked in Lieberman's first campaign
for state senate. They had labored together to set up and sustain
the Democratic Leadership Council, They consulted often on affairs
of state. Their relationship was both personal and political.
In most cultures, one blossom of such a rela-tionship would be
But not in Washington. In that hothouse, loyalty is a rare blossom
indeed. Friendship runs a slow second to personal advancement.
Thus, seeing a chance to consolidate his position as self-appointed
moral authority of the Senate, Lieberman turned on his old friend.
It's the stuff of playwrights.
Editors have largely been supportive. Some have compared him
to Hugh Scott, Barry Goldwater, and, of course, Lowell Weicker,
who all turned on their president over Watergate. Commentators
have showered praise on him for placing country over party.
Such praise is misplaced. Watergate was serious stuff. It involved
the criminal attempt to change the course of an election. It
sat roughly in the company of the Iran-Contra affair, where a
president ran an illegal war from the White House basement. Or
perhaps the recently revealed disclosures of President Nixon
orchestrating the overthrow of democracy in Chile. The Lewinsky
affair, thank God, is different. It's about sex. And lying about
sex - If truth about sex were required for positions of public
trust, the Halls of Congress would echo from lack of occupancy.
More than a few pulpits across the nation would also fall silent.
Mr. Lieberman himself made oblique reference to unnamed indiscretions
of his own. So have many other congressmen and senators, as though
their muttered admission of sin somehow gave them clearance to
cast the first stone.
It didn't. Perhaps if Mr. Lieberman and others would care to
detail their own transgressions, their words would carry more
weight. As it is, they ring hollow. At the very least, hundreds
of lawmakers, Mr. Lieberman included, have forsaken their wedding
Also instructive is the high state of anxiety among Republicans.
They fear that the White House may have launched an investigation
of its own into their sexual misbehavior. It is alleged that
many, from the Speaker on down, have a lot to hide. Already three
of the most self-righteous, Reps. Dan Burton, Helen Chenowith,
and Henry Hyde, have been found out and severely discredited.
But among his former political allies back home, Mr. Lieberman's
be-trayal of the president is not his worst deed. Rather, it's
his betrayal of principle. His forsaking the president, they
can (barely) endure. Forsak-ing the worker, the poor, and world
peace, they can't. Just last week the senator joined the Republicans
in voting to expand Star Wars. But years ago he stood in the
very room where this column is being written, to speak movingly
in support of reform and compassion.
Now he is the handmaiden of the political old guard and the titans
Thus when it comes to moral values, the president may make the
juicier target, but the senator may be the greater danger to