De mortuis nihil nisi bonum (don’t speak ill of the dead) suggests we shouldn’t say unfavorable albeit accurate things about the just-departed Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.). But that doesn’t cover the commenters lavishing praise on him.
In the case of Israel, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee swooned:
AIPAC mourns the passing of Senator Frank Lautenberg — a tireless champion for the US-Israel relationship and the human rights of Jews and persecuted peoples throughout the word. Senator Lautenberg’s leadership will be sorely missed because of his passion and effectiveness in taking a stand for America’s democratic ally and human rights. He consistently and persistently made his voice heard in defense of Israel. Senator Lautenberg stood up for the Jewish community of the Soviet Union when it suffered in the darkness of tyranny and assisted its liberation into the light of freedom. Although he is no longer with us, Senator Lautenberg’s legacy of commitment to the Jewish people and human rights will long endure.
You’d have thought Lautenberg was Scoop Jackson, perhaps the last liberal who really was a champion of Israel. As for Lautenberg, AIPAC’s fawning can be chalked up to the gradual lowering of the bar for Democrats in an era in which most are pro-Israel, except when inconvenient. They therefore chose to overlook Lautenberg’s support for anti-Israel Chuck Hagel for defense secretary and his demands for a unilateral settlement freeze by the Jewish state. It wasn’t so long ago (1988 to be exact) when he signed a letter to George Shultz lambasting publicly then prime minister Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir on Israel’s negotiating posture. AIPAC, I suppose, chose to overlook Lautenberg’s muteness during this administration when the president “condemned” Israel for building in its capital.
Maybe AIPAC was grading on a curve, but Lautenberg hardly deserves such accolades.
The other set of critics lionized him for being a “fighter” and running menacing campaigns. Funny that this is the crowd who finds such behavior “uncivil.” Lautenberg’s inflexible leftism was not admonished as “refusal to compromise,” nor was Lautenberg (with a 94 percent liberal voting record) cast as an “ideologue” in the manner these liberal fans routinely label strong conservatives.
It is another reminder that when these pundits say Republicans are solely responsible for gridlock or are unhinged by ideological extremism that they are applying a standard that assumes the correct, default position is liberalism. When they denounce hot rhetoric, they only direct their fire to the right.
Lautenberg was a diehard liberal who didn’t believe any campaign tactic was out of bounds. He was happy to support Israel so long as it didn’t upset the left. There are certainly worse things. But the picture painted by those extolling his unblemished virtue tell us more about them than it does about Lautenberg.