The Good Lieberman
George Szamuely
New York Press


Two weeks ago in these pages, I wrote a column entitled "W's Oil Warriors." I pointed to the intimate connection among George W. Bush's advisers, the oil industry and the push to build an oil pipeline from the Caspian to the Mediterranean. Taki, who has made no secret of his wish to see George W. elected in November, was not pleased. He told me he did not want to spend money helping to secure a Gore victory. I pointed out that journalistic credibility demands one should attack without fear or favor. It is no good criticizing the Clintons if one then keeps silent when the Republicans behave badly. This is what distinguishes a journalist from a hack: an Alex Cockburn from a David Corn; a Mickey Kaus from a Joe Conason.

As a matter of fact, there are very few genuine journalists around. We are overwhelmed by hacks – all agendas and double standards. Amid the flurry of stories a few weeks ago about George W. and the death penalty, how many bothered to point out that the Clintons and Gore all support capital punishment? The nation's prison population stands at two million. Yet if you just went by the papers, you would assume they were all housed in Texas.

Income inequality has been growing at a steady clip during the Clinton years. Yet reporters choose to write only about the meaningless GDP growth rate. There are a record number of people without health insurance today. Yet this issue, which seemed so urgent in the latter years of George H.W. Bush's administration, is now of only minor concern. At the recent Camp David summit, the United States pretty much adopted Israel's policy as its own. Yet the media parrots the line that it was the Palestinians who had been obdurate.

Few have benefited so handsomely from such double standards as Sen. Joseph Lieberman. Last week we heard ad nauseam about his moral uprightness, his devoutness, his bipartisanship, his moderation and his thoughtfulness. Yet a Republican with his sorry record on civil liberties would have been roasted alive. Lieberman is supposedly much exercised over the terrible temptations afflicting America's youth. However, this did not stop him from sponsoring legislation last year to fund and arm the Kosovo Liberation Army – an "army" in name only, and more concerned with drug trafficking and racketeering than "liberation." Protecting children from drugs all of a sudden lost its urgency. At the height of the U.S. onslaught on Yugoslavia Lieberman popped up on NBC's Meet the Press to declare: "I hope the air campaign, even if it does not convince Milosevic to order his troops out of Kosovo, will so devastate his economy, which it's doing now, so ruin the lives of his people, that they will rise up and throw him out." So here was this model of rectitude, this living reproach to all partisanship, demanding that the United States commit a war crime.

Lieberman's specialty is censorship, longing for which is deemed reprehensible when it is Republican, but evidence of seriousness and high moral purpose when Democratic. For years, Lieberman has waged war on the entertainment industry. He championed the V-chip. He wants to slap a label on anything he finds offensive. He is cosponsor of the Media Violence Labeling Act of 2000, which would impose a single national rating system on videogames and movies.

And he has not been above shamelessly exploiting tragedy for his own ends. Following the Columbine school shooting last year – and without any evidence – he blamed what happened on Hollywood. "None of us wants to resort to regulation," he declared. This is standard throat-clearing. It invariably precedes the announcement of regulations. "But if the entertainment industry...continues to market death and degradation to our children, and continues to pay no heed to the real bloodshed staining our communities, then the government will act."

Lieberman is a great one for "acting." A couple of months ago, he served notice that his next target was the Internet. He told the Children's Online Protection Act Commission that the U.S. government should consider creating a new top-level domain such as ".sex" or ".xxx." "This idea," he explained, would "establish a virtual red-light district" to which just about anything he finds distasteful would be shunted off. Like all censors, his professed desire is to "shield children from pornography... [W]e cannot afford to do nothing," he wailed in his usual stentorian voice, "to continue tolerating the intolerable, to continue dumping the burden solely on parents and abdicating any larger societal role in protecting our children." Lieberman concluded with the menacing suggestion that unless the Internet industries started to censor themselves, Congress would have to step in and get the job done. Piously, and insincerely, he denies any intent to "criminalize speech."

Last November Lieberman and Tennessee Republican Fred Thompson introduced the Government Information Security Act, a bill supposedly meant to protect federal government information systems from the latest scare – cyberattack. "The government's computer-reliant infrastructure," he explained, "is frighteningly vulnerable to exploitation not only by troublemakers and professional hackers but by organized crime and international terrorists." Yet the only cyberattack so far has come from the government, when the office of the drug czar took to tracking visitors to its website.

Read George Szamuely's Exclusive Column

Archived Columns by George Szamuely from the New York Press

The Good Lieberman

Nader-Buchanan 2000

W's Oil Warriors

Rupert's Hillary

The Veep's No VIP

Hollow Mexico

Death of Innocents

NATO's Home Free

Poll Attacks

Israel's Powerful Friends

Defense Against What?

God Bless Rehnquist!

Long, Hillary Summer

Communicating Power

Law as Ordered

What Threat?

Peculiar Yet Brave

Closed to Debate

Arrogance of Power

Prison Love

Gore's Oil

Rough Justice

Race Race

Al the Coward

Intruder Alert

McCain's Money

Haider Seek

Out of Africa

Prosecute NATO

Villain or Victim?

Intervention, Immigration, and Internment

Home-Grown Terrorism

Who Benefits?

Laws of Return

Embassy Row

Selling Snake Oil

Chinese Puzzle

That Was No Lady, That Was the Times

The Red Tide Turning?

Pat & The Pod

United Fundamentalist States

Let Them All Have Nukes!

Liar, Liar

Gangster Nations

Puerto Rico Libre – and Good Riddance

Leave China Alone

A World Safe for Kleptocracy

Proud To Be Un-American

All articles reprinted with permission from the New York Press

Who cares? Joe Lieberman will continue to suppress free speech undisturbed. And Frank Rich will continue to chill us with tales of the doings of Jesse Helms and Jerry Falwell.

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