Sunday, August 13, 2006

Turning on Lieberman

There are a few columnists out in the MSM I tend to read on a regular basis. Jonathan Chait of the L.A. Times is one of them (not least because he's also an editor of, and frequent contributor to, The New Republic, one of my daily reads and in my view an outstanding publication).

Chait argues today that Joe Lieberman "should drop out of the race" for Senate in Connecticut. So do many others, of course, but Chait did not sign on to the Lamont bandwagon before the primary, is generally (like Lieberman) hawkish on foreign policy (including Iraq), and works for a magazine (TNR) that has supported Lieberman in the past and that continues to be supportive of many of his views. I wouldn't call him a Lieberman Democrat, but his argument against Lieberman here is persuasive in part because he hasn't been anti-Lieberman.

I recommend his entire column, but here's the core of his argument:

The best rationale for Lieberman's candidacy all along was that he was an important spokesman for Democrats who take seriously the threat of Islamist radicalism. Unfortunately, Lieberman was never an ideal messenger for that ideology. He has supported capital-gains tax cuts, ultra-loose financial regulations and the crucial vote on the grotesque bankruptcy bill. He has an almost pathological need to be liked by the far right.

Above all, he has maddeningly failed to acknowledge just how badly the Iraq war has turned out, which is different from insisting that we have to fix the mess we created. After all, many hawkish Democrats such as Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware supported the war and don't want to retreat but fully acknowledge President Bush's catastrophic management of the occupation.

Not that many of you need another reason, or any more convincing, not to support Lieberman, but, obviously, even some of Lieberman's former sympathizers are turning on him. I didn't take sides in the Lieberman-Lamont primary, and, as a "big-tent" Democrat, I've been fairly sympathetic to Lieberman over the years. He's never really been my kind of Democrat (although at times I've shared his hawkishness on foreign policy), but the party, I've argued, should have room for him.

And now? Well, the party should still have room for him, if he chooses to remain a Democrat, but it does seem to me that his independent candidacy in Connecticut is counter-productive, the elevation of self above party. Chait: "What's the point of running to uphold Democratic hawkishness when you're running against the Democratic Party and its chosen nominee?" A rhetorical question. There is no point beyond the pursuit of Lieberman's own self-interest. This "has stopped being a battle for the soul of the Democratic Party and become a battle for Lieberman to keep his prestigious job".

It's time for Joe Lieberman to step aside.

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