Thursday, August 10, 2006


Say It Is So, Joe!

That near-unanimous chorus of praise from the right for the Connecticut's junior senator's years of service after Tuesday's primary loss? It has come to a welcome end.

Reason's Tim Cavanaugh comes not to praise Lieberman --
but to bury him:
It's too bad that his support for President Bush's war in Iraq provides such an easy explanation for the downfall of Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT). The pious prig from the Nutmeg State is almost the perfect Murder On the Orient Express figure: There are so many reasons to wish him ill that the real challenge shouldn't be finding suspects, but settling on just one. To have Lieberman's Iraq stance become the default reason for opposing him (among Republicans, of course, it's also been the only reason for supporting him) is just too easy.

Lieberman is possibly the least libertarian member of the United States Senate: An infinite-state liberal who always found ways to oppose Social Security reform (which he allegedly supported), an absurd moral scold who co-sponsored the "Silver Sewer Awards" with William Bennett, a values buttinski who couldn't resist attaching himself to Terri Schiavo's feeding tube, he was in the final analysis nothing but a fake, a tartuffe, a figure able to puff enough gas into every opportunistic action to make it seem like an example of high principle.
The Post's editorial page supports Lieberman -- and my buddy Dan Gerstein has been doing some tough work for him. But I always knew there was something about the guy that didn't quite sit well with me. Cavanaugh nails the particulars from the libertarian perspective down cold.

From a slightly more conventional conservative stance -- and a few years old -- is a 2002 takedown from Wall St. Journal editorial writer
Tunku Varadarajan:

Most of all, I detest the way in which he casts himself--a Jew--as an outsider in America. After the debate with Mr. Cheney, he thanked the American people effusively, and ingratiatingly. It was the effusiveness of a man posing as an outsider, of a man giving thanks to his generous "hosts." Consider these words, which I quote in full from his closing remarks at the debate: "If my dad were here, I would have the opportunity to tell him that he was right when he taught me that in America, if you have faith, work hard and play by the rules, there is nothing you cannot achieve. And here I am, even the son of a man who started working the night shift on a bakery truck can end up being a candidate for vice president of the United States. That says a lot about the character of this nation and the goodness of you, the American people."

These are the words of a man who went to Yale. But the man who went to Yale would like us to believe that he is akin to an immigrant. More: These are not words that bear a proletarian message. These words are about his Jewishness. And they are thanking America for welcoming a Jewish candidate into the political mainstream. These words are pandering words, playing to an imagined gallery that
would see Jews as outside the mainstream, and giving thanks to that same mainstream for letting him, a Jew, run competitively for vice president.

I'm an immigrant, and Mr. Lieberman's spiel is as unappetizing to me as a cold chicken curry. I think Mr. Lieberman's a fraud. I think he's an unctuous and fulsome fraud. He's also a dangerous fraud, because he's taken everyone in, duped them into seeing him--Joe Chameleon--as a moral wind vane. He is, truly, a moral equivocator (to use a word employed by Frank Rich), a moral opportunist, a moral social-climber.

Looking back, I refuse to believe that his criticism of Bill Clinton at the time of the president's impeachment was anything other than opportunist. Mr. Lieberman's words then strike me now as having been made with an eye on the main chance. He knew that there would soon be a new dispensation in the Democratic Party--a new dispensation in America--and he was pinning his colors to a new flag. He wanted to be the first so that he could, later, be among the powerful. How else does one explain his failure to put his vote where his mouth was?

Contrast this with his vote against Clarence Thomas, on evidence that was substantially less compelling than the evidence against Mr. Clinton, and on the basis of charges that were far less severe. No, Mr. Lieberman wasn't really pained, or troubled, or horrified by the president's behavior. He was, in fact, energized by it. He saw his own future in Mr. Clinton's past.

Pretty harsh stuff. But the irony is that, eight years later, Lieberman needed Clinton to try to (unsuccessfully, as it turned out) to pull his feet out of the fire. And, he falls victim to the "outsider" forces in Democratic politics.

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