Skip to comments.Silly Jim (Vermont's political conscience, Sen. Jim Jeffords, calls it quits.)
Posted on 04/24/2005 9:45:47 PM PDT by nickcarraway
WASHINGTON -- In case you hadn't noticed it, Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords announced last Wednesday that he won't seek re-election. After 17 years in the Senate, he's packing up and going home.
Don't feel bad if you did miss it. Few in the media thought it was a big deal. The Washington Post reported it on page A-7 and the New York Times on page A-15.
The Wall Street Journal devoted exactly one sentence to it. The Journal must have needed the space for "Hotel Industry Begins to Wake Up to Bedbug Problem."
It was a stark change from four years ago. Back then, Jeffords was the most important person in Congress. His 2001 decision to abandon the GOP and deliver control to the Democrats was -- rightly -- called a political earthquake. Pundits fawned all over him, some even comparing him to Abraham Lincoln.
The moment proved to be fleeting, though, and Jeffords soon returned to his prior obscurity. His moment of fame and adoration will almost certainly be remembered as an odd blip in an otherwise thoroughly unremarkable career -- if he's lucky. In reality, it was just about the dumbest thing he ever did.
Granted, it didn't seem that way at the time. In fact, it looked like pretty savvy maneuver. He was able to dump his own party for political gain and yet get the media to cast it as a matter of the highest, noblest principle.
But if was a matter of principle, why exactly did Jeffords wait until 2001? After all, he had long been a liberal uncomfortable inside his own party.
He was, to cite just one example, the only Republican House member to vote against Ronald Reagan's tax cuts in 1981. Yet he never seriously thought about leaving the GOP until after the 2000 election.
The key factor in 2001 was that the Senate was split 50-50. If he switched Senate Democrats would owe him big time for bringing them to power.
Democrats Harry Reid and Tom Daschle sweetened the deal by promising him the chairmanship of the Environment and Public Works Committee, which Jeffords wanted badly.
He also had to know that if he waited any longer, Daschle and Reid might not be so generous. South Carolina's Strom Thurmond, then 98, had recently been the subject of a series of ghoulish stories alleging he could drop dead at any minute, tilting Senate control to the Democrats all by himself.
So, on May 24, 2001, he made the jump. Overnight Jeffords became a political superstar, a hero to Democrats still smarting over the Florida recount. Senator John Kerry was reported to have literally skipped through the Senate halls.
The media meanwhile regurgitated the Democrats' spin.
Jeffords' "unassuming demeanor draws comparisons to Jimmy Stewart in 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,'" said the Washington Post. E.J. Dionne argued, with no apparent irony, "Jeffords's departure may have been a profound act of loyalty toward his fellow embattled moderates."
The New York Times engaged in some particularly naked schadenfreude. "The Mean Strategy Backfires" said columnist Bob Herbert, arguing the Republican extremists had forced Jeffords to do it.
Maureen Dowd wrote a dippy -- even by her standards -- fantasy in which a ghostly Prescott Bush dressed down his grandson for being a "bully" to Jeffords.
Republicans who pointed out that Jeffords had, in fact, betrayed them for A chairmanship were dismissed as sore losers.
For a guy like Jeffords who rarely got noticed in Washington, it had to be intoxicating. But if he had paid more attention he'd had noticed that his new admirers didn't really love him. Rather, they loved what he did: give Bush and the GOP an embarrassing black eye.
Once the excitement died down, it turned out that Jeffords's power in Washington had actually diminished. The new 51-seat Democratic majority couldn't do much for him and the Republicans weren't about to forget his betrayal.
Unlike Senators John McCain or Chuck Hagel, he had lost the power to wring concessions from Republican leaders on tight votes. By switching parties, Jeffords had no trump card left to play.
His two biggest concerns, funding a 1975 education bill he wrote and a maintaining a price-fixing cartel for New England dairy farmers, quickly fell by the wayside.
By December of 2001, the New Republic reported that Jeffords was despondent over his situation and venting to the Democratic leadership.
"For an afternoon, a few senators actually wondered if he could possibly do the unthinkable -- switch back," TNR's Michael Crowley reported.
He must have been even more depressed the following year when the GOP returned to the majority and Jeffords lost his chairmanship and what remaining clout he had. Instead he had to watch as McCain and Hagel became powerbrokers.
After 9/11, Jeffords's switch became a faint memory. The biggest issue surrounding his departure is whether it'll enable Vermont Congressman Bernie Sanders to become the Senate's first (avowed) socialist.
And so the great irony of Jeffords's career is that the one time he showed genuine political savvy, even cunning, it actually turned out to be the biggest miscalculation he ever made.
He made his mark all right. But it was an example of what not to do.
Jeffords was always an intellectual zero, with zero influence. Now it appears that he is losing his mental capacities, which is sad. That is what is causing him to quit, not the blather in this article.
Whats going to interest me, is who he supports in the senate race, Sanders or Douglas (if Douglas runs).
It should be noted that Governor Douglas is actually personal friends with Jeffords.
That is an incredibly disturbing image.
Whom Jeffords supports is largely irrelevant. I suspect he will duck in any event. I suspect Vermont will go with the Socialist for the attention factor.
Since I suppose no R has a chance in Vermont,Commie Bernie would pull the dems further to the left,distancing them even more from the average American.
If things progress, Jeffords wont remember being in the Senate....
Good riddance to a worthless POS.
Jumpin' Jim will not be missed.
Sorry to hear of Jeffords poor health. I simply assumed that he knew he wasn't going places without either party.
It's kinda funny, but whenever I'm looking for a chuckle or a smile I can simply type in JEFFORDS at the FR search engine,...and somebody is having a party someplace cutting up on the Jumster. Pretty harmless and I can't think of anyone else that desrves the abuse more.
Fortunately - or possibly unfortunately - I can still use that very same search engine to locate BYRD or SHAYS - libs have given much to the cause of mirth and witty banter on their account.
Adios Jumpin' Jim give Ben and Jerry my regards!
No doubt he can't recall who financed his last campaign!
I had the pleasure of making Calvin faces at J.J. in a small Chinese restaurant just weeks after his defection. I was visiting my lib Ma in VT, and when we were being shown to our table, I recognized his radiant, beaming "Come hither and worship Me" puss. I grabbed the seat facing his table so I could mouth unpleasantries at him throughout the meal. My brother almost threw up he laughed so hard.
No big loss.
Sanders will be the first avowed socialist senator? Really? I thought there would have been one or two from the period about 1890-1930.
Yeah. You do have to feel sorry for Jeffords in a way. I read his family was dismayed at the party switch.
The sad and mildy humorous thing about Jeffords is nothing he did, including the party switch, was about principle. He became an Independent as a result of not being invited to a Teacher of the Year ceremony at the White House- he threw a hissie fit and left the party. After the brief honeymoon, he was similarly unliked in the Democratic Party for his emotional instability and general difficultness.
The DNC does have a lost & found department, right?
That is an incredibly disturbing image.
Yeah, I almost choked on my pizza and died when I read that! What a sight that must have been.
Similar to the Leakster, Patrick Leahy.
Both are venal and vain men.
Not even Douglas? He won the governorship after the screamer. I know there are a lot of moonbats in VT, but I still hold out hope that they are not a majority of the state's population.
Jeffords even wrote a book about it.....MY DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. If you hurry, you can buy a hard copy of it at Amazon for 70 CENTS. LOL
If that were the test..50 senators (44 Libs/6 Reds) would be gone by now. :/
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