Sunday, July 16, 2006

Clinton stands up for Lieberman

Bill Clinton, that is. Here's what he said, via The Boston Globe:

If we allow our differences over what to do now in Iraq to divide us instead of focusing on replacing Republicans in Congress; that's the nuttiest strategy I ever heard in my life.

Also: "Clinton defended Lieberman's Democratic credentials, mentioning how the senator has been endorsed by labor unions, environmental organizations and gay groups."

As I've written before, I'm really neither pro-Lieberman nor anti-Lieberman. What matters to me is that he's a Democrat and that, along the way, he hasn't been such a bad liberal. That doesn't mean I support him, however. Let me quote myself:

Lieberman has done little to win over Democrats in recent years, and, as I mentioned, his cozying up to Bush (as if he's some sort of Zell Miller lite, a tell-it-like-it-is maverick akin to John McCain, a quasi-Democrat who, rhetorically, rises above partisanship and places love of country before love of party -- well, that's how he wants to be seen, it seems, minus the Miller comparison, although cozying up to Bush, a shameless partisan, hardly amounts to rising above partisanship (it just enables it) and working for the national interest (it lets Bush define it) has been quite the revolting spectacle.

The Democratic Party, I would argue, should be big enough to accommodate Joe Lieberman. It should not be ideologically rigid. I'm sure that to many he would be a more acceptable Democrat if he represented a red state, where a liberal can't win, rather than a blue state like Connecticut, where a liberal like Ned Lamont can win, but, Iraq aside -- and that's a huge aside, I know -- has Lieberman really been that bad?

(That's not just a rhetorical question. I still go back and forth on Lieberman and on what Democrats both in Connecticut and throughout the rest of the country should do with Democrats like him. I'm a big-tent Democrat, but just how big should the tent be? I reject efforts to enforce ideological purity within the Democratic Party, but at what point does diversity threaten to tear the party apart? At what point are our values and principles, however we define them, compromised so much that they lose all meaning?)


Update: The Hartford Courant evaluates Lieberman here (read the whole thing). The verdict:

By the numbers, Joe Lieberman is a true, consistent Democrat.

He votes with Democratic colleagues almost all the time. His record gets him high marks from interest groups close to the party, from the AFL-CIO to the NAACP.

But dig beneath the votes and there's plenty of ammunition for critics - including primary challenger Ned Lamont - who say Lieberman has a habit of straying from the party when it suits him.

And consider this (Iraq aside, once again): "The liberal Americans for Democratic Action found him voting its way 80 percent of the time last year. The NAACP gave him an 85 percent mark, the Children's Defense Fund 89 percent, the AFL-CIO 92 percent. Overall, Lieberman voted with Democrats 90 percent of the time last year, close to Connecticut Sen. Christopher J. Dodd's 94 percent, according to Congressional Quarterly's study of key votes."

Not too shabby.

But then there's Iraq. And Alito. And Bush's energy bill. And...

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