Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Joe Lieberman And His Enemies

U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman’s principled stand in favor of ending the invidious “don’t ask don’t tell” policy in the U.S. military has elevated him to heroic status among some liberals, but the news continues to rasp the more tender consciences of puritanical progressives who feel they must applaud Mr. Lieberman’s efforts even as they strenuously condemn the man.

All this hero worship, Greg Hladky writes in the Fairfield Weekly, is a Washington beltway distortion: “Isn't it interesting how different the Lieberman situation appears down in Washington compared to the Lieberman reality back home?... Lieberman stands virtually no chance of winning the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination.”

Here at home in the progressive camp, Mr. Lieberman’s dark deeds will not easily be forgotten or forgiven. Mr. Hladky ticks off a familiar bill of particulars:

“It wasn't just Lieberman's unquestioning support for the Iraq war that produced the hostility. It wasn't just Joe's affectionate closeness to George W. Bush, or his decision to speak at the 2008 Republican National Convention and campaign for his buddy John McCain and against Barack Obama, or his suggestion that he might support Republican Linda McMahon in Connecticut's U.S. Senate race this year.

“It was all those things and the feeling that Joe has for a long time considered himself better than the Connecticut Democrats who used to believe in him, who used to think they knew who he was.”
Mr. Lieberman’s position and perseverance on the issue of gays in the military received at the more moderate New London Day an encouraging response: “Sen. Lieberman's determination to reverse the policy may help redeem his reputation in his home state, with which he has had a love-hate relationship in recent years.”

The loss of a party primary “due in large part to his unrelenting support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan” forced Mr. Lieberman to run as an independent in 2006 and “compelled him, ill-advisedly, to support John McCain for president in 2008, and ironically the GOP senator from Arizona emerged as one of the most vocal opponents of ‘don't ask, don't tell.’"

Some progressives might quibble somewhat with the word “compelled”; the senator is, after all, a grown man and well above the age of reason. Politicians generally are “compelled” to do or say this and that in the same sense that the denizens of bordellos are compelled to do business with each other. Time and chance have not treated kindly some legislators who bolted their parties to run as independents. Neither Charlie Crist (R-I-Fl) nor Arlen Specter (D-R-D-PA) are serving any longer in the U.S. Congress.

Mr. Lieberman incautiously has left in his wake a rich store of UTube clips tracing the outline of what progressive consider his rank betrayal of the left wing of their party. Could he defend himself, Mr. Lieberman likely would say, along with former President Ronald Reagan, that his party left him, though at least one progressive in Mr. Lieberman’s party, President Barack Obama, has since assuming office veered to the middle on issues of war and peace. Tactically, Mr. Obama’s position on Afghanistan bears a striking resemblance to former President George Bush’s position on Iraq.

Similar campaign killer clips – which save lazy commentators the necessity of thinking seriously about issues – were used successfully to torpedo Linda McMahon’s campaign for the U.S. Senate. These bloody slices of demagoguery are the equivalents of knives drawn across the throats of people who cannot argue with damning visuals: wrestlers slamming each other in the ring, Mr. Lieberman bussing Mr. Bush on the floor of congress. Mrs. McMahon was also unfortunate enough to have earned her millions to self finance her campaign; and while Mr. Lieberman is no multi-millionaire, he does have more than a million campaign bucks socked away under his pillow in case one or another of his potential Democratic challengers should summon the courage to attempt to beard the lion in his den.

Mr. Lieberman’s challengers so far are being coy, perhaps hoping that the senior senator from Connecticut will follow U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd’s sterling example and leave the senate after his weak points have been sufficiently probed by assassins in the media who really should be supporting term limits.

That’s right, term limits. Good for what ails you, term limits would have the same beneficial effect on a sclerotic political system that the retirements of Mr. Dodd Mrs. Rell this year have had in Connecticut on media sales. When time servers leave the political arena, things begin to pop. People come out of the woodwork to vote, patriotism flutters from every street corner, and nearly everyone sinks happily into the comforting illusion that this time the country as a whole will enjoy, in the immortal world of Mr. Abraham Lincoln “a new burst of freedom.”

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