Why Joe needs to go
(Ed. note: Please welcome Edward Copeland, our newest guest blogger. Edward writes an extremely informative blog called the Copeland Institute for Lower Learning, where he traces the incompetence of the Bush Administration and otherwise provides round-ups of the latest news. Like the rest of us, he's been writing about the Israel-Lebanon-Hezbollah conflict, but that hasn't prevented him from addressing in recent days such diverse topics as Medicare, the minimum wage, Darfur, Ethiopia and Eritrea, the economy, immigration, and the NSA eavesdropping scandal, not to mention Iraq and Afghanistan. (Plus, fellow cinephiles, he has his own film blog, Edward Copeland on Film.) His first post here offers a persuasive argument against Joe Lieberman. Read on -- and check out his two great blogs. -- MJWS)
Next week, Democratic voters in Connecticut will go to the polls for the Senate primary that will decide whether they toss longtime incumbent Sen. Joe Lieberman in favor of newcomer Ned Lamont. Until this past weekend, the media has mainly tried to cast this primary fight in terms of Lieberman's support for the debacle in Iraq, but the truth is that it's not that simple and opposition to Censorin' Joe has been building for a long time.
This election battle has been mischaracterized as antiwar Democrats attacking Lieberman only for his position on Iraq, but single issues don't disqualify Democratic candidates. There is no rallying cry against Harry Reid or Pennsylvania Senate candidate Bob Casey for being pro-life. Long before the Iraq war was even contemplated, Lieberman's addition to the Gore presidential ticket is what prompted many Bush opponents to abandon the Democratic ticket for Ralph Nader and other alternative tickets -- the Gore-Lieberman appeared to them to be an endorsement of Democratic censorship efforts through Gore's past affiliation with the Parents Music Resource Center seeking to label music and Lieberman's attacks on Hollywood, television and video games. Last week alone, Howard Stern of all people came out blasting Lieberman for his censorship efforts.
However, that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of why Democrats don't like Lieberman. Another side effect of 2000: people resented his hedging his bet by running for both vice president and his Connecticut Senate seat at the same time, much like his enormous ego is planning to run as an independent if Democratic voters dare choose Lamont over him in the Aug. 8 primary:
Some political observers think the seeds of Lieberman's problems with Connecticut voters were planted in 2000, when Al Gore picked him as his vice presidential running mate and as a precaution Lieberman refused to give up his bid for a third Senate term. "It's called covering your bases, rather than being a loyal party guy," said John M. Orman, a Fairfield University politics professor who briefly challenged Lieberman before Lamont entered the picture.
In Censorin' Joe's mind, he was placed on his Senate throne as if by God himself and no one else is entitled to it. Many people conveniently forget how Lieberman came to gain his Senate seat. Conservative Republicans, angry that an honest-to-goodness liberal Republican, Lowell Weicker, held the seat, organized against Weicker in 1988, with conservative icon William F. Buckley Jr. personally recruiting Lieberman as a challenger to Weicker. In a delicious irony, Buckley is now a harsher critic of the Iraq effort than Lieberman is.
Other issues in which Lieberman has alienated Democrats beyond his self-interest, Iraq and free speech issues include:
1. Expressing interest in Dubya's plan for private Social Security accounts.
2. Backing the joke of the GOP energy bill.
3. Supporting Congress sticking its nose in the Terri Schiavo case.
4. Refusing to support a filibuster against Samuel Alito.
5. Opposition to same-sex marriage.
6. Supporting private school vouchers, which has cost him the support of two teachers' unions in Connecticut who have endorsed Lamont.
I could go on, but I'm just scratching the surface (I haven't even mentioned the divorced senator's pose as a moral exemplar during the Clinton-Lewinsky controversy). As The New York Times wrote in its editorial endorsing Lamont:
It's true that Mr. Lieberman has fallen in love with his image as the nation's moral compass. But if pomposity were a disqualification, the Senate would never be able to call a quorum.
This is not to say that his position on Iraq is unimportant. It certainly is the straw that broke the camel's back. Many Democrats backed the war, only to hurriedly try to change their tune when things went sour, but Censorin' Joe has remained steadfast, even aping the administration's loony rose-colored outlook of the situation on the ground after a trip there. His support has also raised another question in my mind: There have been few more solid Israel supporters in Congress than Joe Lieberman, but when Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki expressed support for Hezbollah, the silence from Lieberman was quite noticeable. Did he boycott al-Maliki's address to Congress? Did he say anything? If he did, I didn't hear about it. He's stuck: His pride prevents him from criticizing anything that's gone wrong in Iraq (namely everything) and he would never question Israel's tactics either. What good is a lawmaker so stymied by past stances he can't make a decision.
As the Times editorial pointed out, Lieberman's worst decisions have been to be a willing participant to the imperial power grabs by the Bush administration.
Should Ned Lamont prevail in the primary, there is no doubt that Censorin' Joe will run as an independent -- his ego is too large for any other outcome. He might even retain his seat running as an independent, but I make this plea to Sen. Lieberman: If you mean what you say about being a good Democrat, accept the voters' verdict with grace and bow out. Don't blame the bloggers and the antiwar activists -- your 18-year record of being at odds with the bulk of the Democratic Party brought this situation about. Find some humility and step aside.
In his effort to appear above the partisan fray, he has become one of the Bush administration's most useful allies as the president tries to turn the war on terror into an excuse for radical changes in how this country operates.
Citing national security, Mr. Bush continually tries to undermine restraints on the executive branch: the system of checks and balances, international accords on the treatment of prisoners, the nation's longtime principles of justice. His administration has depicted any questions or criticism of his policies as giving aid and comfort to the terrorists. And Mr. Lieberman has helped that effort. He once denounced Democrats who were "more focused on how President Bush took America into the war in Iraq" than on supporting the war's progress.
At this moment, with a Republican president intent on drastically expanding his powers with the support of the Republican House and Senate, it is critical that the minority party serve as a responsible, but vigorous, watchdog. That does not require shrillness or absolutism. But this is no time for a man with Mr. Lieberman's ability to command Republicans' attention to become their enabler, and embrace a role as the president's defender.