No Success Like Failure

In Bob Dylan’s classic “Love Minus Zero/No Limit” he makes the counter-intuitive observation that “There’s no success like failure.” Well, much of the establishment of America’s politics and press have taken that to heart.

The latest example is that of the Senate Democrats who have opted to let Sen. Joe Lieberman get away with political treason. Lieberman, who was ejected from the Democratic Party by his constituents in Connecticut, spent much of the last year campaigning against Barack Obama. In the course of the campaign he declared that Obama was too inexperienced to be president, was unsupportive of the troops, may have been a Marxist, and many more insults to his character and ability.

Today Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that there would be no repercussions for Lieberman’s betrayal. Lieberman would be allowed to keep his chairmanship of the powerful Homeland Security Committee. What Reid has done is to compound Lieberman’s betrayal with one of his own. And the rest of the Democratic Caucus who went along with it are equally to blame. Reid told reporters that he didn’t want to pursue a course of vengeance. But selecting Party leadership based on loyalty and shared goals isn’t revenge, it’s common sense. And besides, Dylan also realized that, “Even the pawn must hold a grudge.”

The problem is not as simple as Lieberman being an untrustworthy weasel who ought to pay a price for his deceit. The problem is that Lieberman was an ineffective chairman even before the campaign. He has long been an advocate of George W. Bush’s policy in Iraq and he refused to hold hearings that would have provided necessary oversight because they might also have reflected poorly on the President he adored. The same is true for other matters under the Committee’s jurisdiction like Katrina, torture, and warrantless wiretapping. Lieberman should have been ousted as chair if for no other reason than that he would not represent the new administration’s priorities.

Senate Democrats have an obligation to manage their institution in accordance with the political aspirations of their constituents. They failed to meet that obligation today. But Dylan foresaw the consequences of failure, and the Lieberman affair is only one instance in recent history that proves Dylan’s wisdom.

    Successful Failures:

  • John McCain failed in the election a couple of weeks ago, yet he is now regarded as an elder statesman who has already met with the President-elect.
  • Joe Lieberman rode on McCain’s failed coattails but gets to retain his committee chair.
  • Hillary Clinton failed in the Democratic primary where she said that all Obama would bring to the presidency was a speech in 2002. She belittled his view that foreign leaders should be engaged with diplomacy. But now she may become the focal point of his foreign policy as Secretary of State.
  • Sarah Palin also failed in the election, yet she is now regarded as a front-runner for 2012 (I hope).
  • Mike Huckabee failed to win the Republican nomination, but was rewarded with a program on Fox News.
  • Corporations like AIG and Lehman Brothers failed to the tune of billions of dollars, and they get handed billions more courtesy of American taxpayers.
  • Now the automobile industry is joining the failures in financial services in line for bailout fortunes.
  • Last, but not least, are the multitude of pundits like Dick Morris, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, William Krystal, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, etc., who failed repeatedly to make a correct assessment of anything that happened in the last year, yet they keep their media megaphones, and in some cases get promotions and raises.

At some point, reasonable folks will have to wonder why losers are so often rewarded, when more deserving players are snubbed. The benefits of membership in exclusive clubs like the U.S. Senate and the Mainstream Media are clearly lucrative for the lucky few. But the rest of us are saddled with less representative government, more debt, and bigger headaches brought on by louder and stupider commentators.

Those in politics and the press who exercise such disrespect for the people, are going to regret their self-centeredness some day. They are going to learn that we will eventually find alternatives to their protectionist institutions. They can’t fail upward forever because, in the end, “Failure is no success at all.”