Thursday, July 06, 2006

Joe Lieberman: Gettin' by with a little help from his friends

Yesterday, Creature commented on Senator (for now) Lieberman's lame attempt to distance himself from President Bush (and to vilify his "zealous" pro-Lamont critics -- presumably those in the Kossack blogosphere). That's a tough triangulation play. I don't think it'll work. Lieberman is indeed "out of touch," and his unwillingness (or inability) to take responsibility for hovering between the two parties (his own and the one that loves to promote him as a renegade), as well as for cozying up to Bush over Iraq, is, well, distasteful (to put it nicely).

Regardless, I'm not as anti-Lieberman as some of my friends and colleagues in and around my corner of the blogosphere. Not that I support him, mind you. I just haven't signed up yet for the bandwagon to run him out of town. I realize there's no turning back for some of Lieberman's harsher critics, and I respect their commitment to a Democratic Party that doesn't compromise its values and principles, but I would urge caution before cheering on his prospective demise.

And, it seems, I'm not alone in this. The Post reports: "Sens. Joe Biden of Delaware, Barbara Boxer of California and Ken Salazar of Colorado plan to campaign in Connecticut for Lieberman between now and the Aug. 8 primary. Their goal is to reassure the party faithful of the three-term senator's loyalty to Democratic causes, including women's issues, labor and the environment." Similarly: "Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, have pledged support for Lieberman in the primary."

Now, look, before you get the wrong idea, let me say as clearly as I can that I'm not a Lieberman apologist. I just don't think he's "pond scum," as one friend put it to me recently. Like Senators Clinton and Kerry (you know what states they're from), I wouldn't support Lieberman as an independent candidate. If he loses to Lamont in the primary, I'll go with Lamont from there. (And I may yet go with Lamont in the primary.) It bothers me that Lieberman seems to be hedging his bets, just as he did back in 2000, when he ran for re-election to the Senate even as he stood alongside Gore as his vice-presidential nominee. He should have picked one office or the other back then and he should pick the Democratic Party or an independent candidacy now. It's that simple.

Many of you, no doubt, have already made up your minds. And, I suspect, many of you are firmly in the Lamont camp. That's fine. 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.

And, furthermore, there is no issue like Iraq, and that's precisely where Lieberman has shown the most independence (to put it nicely once again), the most Bush-friendly tendencies.

But Lieberman isn't some crazy Republican (even on Iraq). He's no Ted Kennedy, of course, but nor is he anti-liberal. From all the bashing he's been getting from his critics on the left, you'd think he was Rick Santorum's Democratic clone. Sure, it would be better, I suppose, to have a more liberal senator from the fairly liberal state of Connecticut, just as Republican senators from extremely conservative states tend to be themselves extremely conservative. If Republicans go extreme for safe seats, shouldn't Democrats?

Well, let's see how this plays out. While I do not wish to see values and principles compromised, I consider myself to be a big-tent Democrat. Our party should be big enough and broad enough to allow someone like Lieberman, hardly a conservative, to coexist alongside, say, Kossacks (and I have posted diary entries at Kos myself).

For now, Lieberman still has some powerful friends. I hope they know what they're doing and that they, his colleagues, are comfortable with him at their side in this divided Senate. (Does their support mean nothing?) And I hope Democrats -- all Democrats -- support him if he beats Lamont in the primary and faces the electorate once again in November.

Support Lamont if you so choose -- and by all means criticize Lieberman's pathetic attempt to have it both ways -- but don't forget that Joe Lieberman is still a Democrat and, generally, a liberal. In other words, he isn't all bad.

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