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Oh, dear! Moderates!

Senators Saltonstall, Chaffee, Salazar

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, September 13, 2006.

I don’t know how many of you might recall Edwin Newman, an NBC reporter and commentator, retiring decades ago when he began to write books about the English language and the English. Covering the blessed isle after its collapse of Empire, Newman was confronted with the myriad ways the British dealt with their fall in the world’s status.

This painful concern was reflected right down to sports commentary and the most trivial social exercise. Media types insisted that the world was looking towards England for a lead on how to do something, whether sending off a colony to prosperity and affectionate relations or how to handle a sports scandal. It was all hallucinatory; nobody looked to England including the English, who looked to America.

Of course, this brings us to Lincoln Chaffee, a Senator from my former neighbor state of Rhode Island, which - for you CU Ethnic Studies degree holders - is the smallest of the United States cuddled in the armpit of Massachusetts, where it belongs. Mr. Chaffee is what used to be called a moderate Republican, although now they’re called Gay Satanic Flag burning Traitors, and previous to moderate, they were called Rockefeller Republicans, and before that Saltonstall Republicans, the last a reference to Leverett Saltonstall, who was a Senator from the Bay State under Kennedy and Johnson, and every bit as patrician as Rockefeller and Chaffee. Saltonstall was often mocked for his very Anglo/protestant/upper class accents by his opponents, which fazed him not at all. He once campaigned in the middle of Boston districts noted for their Irish, Catholic, Democratic voting ways, and while he carried none of them he was given solid props for doing so, literally, in top hat and tails and working the lines like the pro politico he was. It was no act. Saltonstall had the touch and his concern was sincere for the people. It is no coincidence he was followed in office by fellow GOP Ed Brooke, an African American, for whom he campaigned heartily, and this during racial violence in Boston. He was socially liberal for the time and conservative in the old sense, looking with cancerous eye on all huge spending bills, including military.

Devoid of ego, by today’s standards, Saltonstall was minority whip in the Senate and on speaking terms with everyone and well liked. He disdained speeches and did his work in committee. He was not quotable. The closest thing we have to memorable utterance is this: "I love people and you see plenty of them in politics and government. No job is more satisfactory than one of working out problems with people that affect us all." Snore.

Lincoln Chaffee reminds me a lot of Saltonstall, and a lot of what is missing and disappearing in American politics. In the age of DeLay and Duke Cunningham and Cynthia McKinney, of MoveOn and Dick Cheney, there is something noble and even virile in having the sincere self confidence to let go with an obscene tirade like Chaffee does, which is – FCC and this station forgive me – “Oh, dear.” Yes, he says that, and in public.

More to the point, Chaffee is so palpably a decent and highly qualified person, boring, hardworking, socially liberal and conservative with other people’s money, it’s sort of feel good for even a Democrat, and I am a Democrat, to see him in the Senate, where, frankly, he belongs. Chaffee just won his Republican primary over his very conservative and not entirely trustworthy opponent yesterday. Don’t know anything about the Democratic opponent he now faces, just saying that candidate better be real good. While normally, Bush’s party would have campaigned against Chaffee, because he votes manfully against Bush a lot, being the only GOP Senator to vote against the Iraq War, they’re so scared of losing their majority now, they wanted him in. Because committee leaderships go to the majority party. They sucked up his damnation of his President’s administration and supported him.

Compare and contrast with the opposite that took place in Rhode Island’s 20, Connecticut. Here, in its earlier primary, the moronic Democrats did not support moderately liberal Joe Lieberman and nominated Ned Lamont, whose sole attraction is he says he’s against the Iraq War, but not for the same reasons MoveOn, Daily Kos fans choose to think. And now Lieberman will win as an Independent, handily, and in a close race nationally his presence will not count in the majority, and over one issue – yet again – the Democrats may fail an easy slam-dunk. In virtually every social issue, Lieberman has been a consistent voice of liberal moderation, almost like Chaffee. And here in Colorado they’re turning on our own Senator Ken Salazar, a freshman Senator who has achieved more power and respect for his moderate and keenly felt views than any in memory from any state. But the idiot far left vetting process is starting in.

All three Senators have stood up to their friends – which even Harry Potter knows takes more courage than to stand up to enemies – and done so over principle to no political gain.

After the years of this administration, I doubt anyone anywhere looks to the United States for a lead, anymore, even in England. It’s too bad that the moderates of both parties – rare birds – aren’t given more attention. We have better people in government than we deserve, sometimes, and not disregarding the more prevalent times of the opposite.