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The bitter wilderness of Jim Jeffords

By Vincent Fiore
web posted April 18, 2005

Does anyone out there remember Piels beer? Bob McAllister's Wonderama or Quisp cereal? How about Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom nature show and K-Tel records? Surely, a few of you remember some, if not all, of these once-popular and everyday elements that were once considered by most as indisputable props of Americana.

But do you remember the senator from Vermont, Jim Jeffords? Though there are a few who will never forget Jeffords moment atop the media mountain, the vast majority of Americans would scratch their heads, furrow their brows, and say "who"?

Jim JeffordsJim Jeffords became a household name in the spring of 2001, when, on May 24, Jeffords bolted the Republican Party because, in his words, "Looking ahead, I can see more and more instances where I will disagree with the President on very fundamental issues."

Jeffords's "Declaration of Independence" caused the GOP to lose control of the Senate, as Democrats and the mainstream media embraced him as a "principled and courageous man." Jeffords became an overnight hero among the left.

Jeffords's historical switch and the notoriety it brought him as long since faded. Relegated to the back benches of the Senate, even Democrats' with whom Jeffords caucuses as an "Independent" -- know a has-been when they see one. To Democrats, Jeffords is just a vote for them, and that's all.

So it was something of a novel moment to see Jeffords again in the news, via comments he made on March 23 to Bob Kinzel, the host of VPR's "Switchboard" radio program, an affiliate of the family of NPR stations.

Jeffords's, after relaying to the host that he feels "so bitter" over the war in Iraq, went on to say that he "wouldn't be surprised" if President Bush started another war, "probably in Iran." Jeffords also states that the end result of the war in Iraq "is going to be some oil agreement."

Basking in the spotlight of notoriety again can sometimes have a heady effect on people. The problem here is that Jeffords has been so forgotten by people that he thought no one would notice that he sounds like a MoveOn.org press release:

"I feel very strongly that they are looking ahead, and that there will be an opportunity to go into Iran and try to get their son elected president. I don't know, but you do it each time they (are) going to have a new president. I'm very, very (Jeffords chuckles). Oh, well, I better be quiet."

Yes, Jim, do be quiet. But maybe the senator just can't help himself these past few years. Jeffords gave a similar interview to VPR in July 2002, when he accused President Bush of having "war fever" because "people will stick behind you."

Even Jeffords's handlers tend to sound a bit lax in the head these days. Regarding Jeffords's outburst on public radio, spokesman Erik Smulson explained: "Certainly, this is a theory that has been pretty well discussed in numerous circles, that Iran potentially will be the next battleground, and that Jeb Bush is certainly considered a possibility in '08."

Discussed, yes. Seriously entertained, no. But yet, a sitting senator of the United States decides to take water-cooler topics like Jeb Bush and Iran invasion and turn these subjects into a cause celebre of the misinformed and clueless.

Jeffords was always been a liberal Republican, or what is commonly known as a "RINO" or "Republican in name only." As disparaging as that is to some, it is a badge of honor to the media, which showers Jeffords with honorifics like "courageous," "principled," and "thoughtful."

There is nothing courageous about Senator Jim Jeffords. Leaving the Republican Party was simply a seat-change for him, and not an ideological change. Jeffords was wooed by then-Senate minority leader Tom Daschle with promises of power (which he got for a time) and a new-found adoration among his colleagues on the left and the press.

Jeffords's record has consistently been one of left-leaning mediocrity. His record on abortion is nearly 100 per cent against pro-life issues. He is for affirmative action programs and special laws for hate crimes. He opposes voluntary school prayer, a flag-burning amendment, and personal accounts for Social Security.

His most recent votes include voting against the Iraq use of force resolution in October, 2002; against sanctions applied to Syria to end its occupation of Lebanon in November, 2003; and voted with John Kerry against the 87 billion dollar supplemental for the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan in October, 2003.

Jeffords was even the "lone dissenter" on a Senate bill urging that U.S. soldiers in Iraq be given "war on terrorism medals" in October, 2003.

Since Jim Jeffords's "Declaration of Independence" in 2001, he had seen fit to give anniversary speeches every year that essentially remark upon his personal bravery and consciousness leaving the Republican Party.

In his 2002 anniversary speech, Jeffords ended with a quote from Robert Frost: "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."

In his 2003 speech, Jeffords closes with a line that criticizes the Bush Administration for its "lack of honesty," and "pattern of deception and distortion."

Since then, Senator Jeffords has discontinued these pathetic speeches of outreach, speeches designed to remind people of his heroic status and political courage. But nobody cares now, and with the GOP increasing its hold on the Senate since "Jumpin Jim" left in 2001, nobody remembers what the fuss over an embittered senator from Vermont was about anyway.

So wave goodbye to Jim Jeffords (again), as he takes the road less traveled by, and makes no difference to anyone, or anything.

Vincent Fiore is a freelance political writer who lives in New York City. He receives e-mail at anwar004@aol.com.

Other related stories: (open in a new window)

  • Jeffords out of GOP by W. James Antle III (May 28, 2005)
    W. James Antle III is a little tired of hearing from the press that Jim Jeffords' decision was one of conscience
  • GOP needs a pit bull - not a cheerleader by Nicholas Sanchez (May 28, 2001)
    Nicholas Sanchez says the talking heads who say Jim Jeffords' defection isn't a blow are flat out wrong. That said, it does give the Republicans a chance to change things around
  • Senator Jeffords did us a favor by Charles Bloomer (May 28, 2001)
    Forget the Republican Party, writes Charles Bloomer, Jim Jeffords may have actually done America a big favor
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