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Friday, June 23, 2006

Joe Lieberman and Iraq

joe lieberman george bush kiss kissing iraq Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman has once again proven that he would rather prop up a disastrous war and Lame Duck President George Bush than stand up and do the right thing. From today's Washington Post on Joe Lieberman and Iraq:

Lieberman Splits With His Party on War Votes
Senator's Opponent May Benefit

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) further inflamed his party's liberal base yesterday by opposing two Senate measures seeking to limit the scope of the war in Iraq.

In doing so, Lieberman may have further jeopardized his chances of defeating businessman Ned Lamont in the state's Aug. 8 primary. Lamont, a political unknown until a few months ago, has drawn national attention and rising poll numbers at home in recent weeks -- especially after he drew support from a third of the delegates at a recent state party convention.

"This is further evidence of why a lot of people call Joe Lieberman 'George Bush's favorite Democrat,' " said Lamont spokeswoman Liz Dupont-Diehl.
Out of touch?
Connecticut, by contrast, went strongly for Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), the Democrats' 2004 presidential nominee, and polling done since then has shown rising opposition to the war in Iraq, especially among Democratic voters. [...]

Quinnipiac polling conducted earlier this month, however, showed Lieberman ahead of Lamont by 15 points among likely Democratic primary voters, a somewhat slim margin, given that the challenger was virtually unknown statewide and Lieberman has a long tenure in elective office.
Lieberman's problem isn't just that he is wrong and out of the mainstream on Iraq, his problem is that beyond losing support, he is losing respect from those who have admired him since the 1970's. Mark Schmitt penned a must-read:
I have a lot of residual respect for Lieberman, which goes way back. And I mean way back: As I often note, Lieberman is probably the first politician I was aware of when I was a little kid. When I was about seven years old, my view of politics could probably be summed up as Nixon=bad/Lieberman=good.

This was when he was a state senator in New Haven, following the last great anti-war rebellion in the Connecticut Democratic Party.

That was then, what about now?

So I ought to be a Lieberman "dead-ender." I've respected him for 30-some years, I don't mind his idiosyncratic positions, I don't demand party loyalty, and I don't insist on any particular position on how to end the war. But I'm not. Because something happened to Lieberman, and it's more than his position on the war. It is not, as John Dickerson wrote on Slate this week that he "symbolizes" all the other Democrats who voted for the war or won"t take a firm stand. Above all else, it's simply his self-righteous anger, his hostility to those who differ. He alone among Democrats seem to think that opponents of the war are not just mistaken, but will cause us to lose. (Just as he alone can continue to describe the choice in the war as "winning" or "losing," as if "winning" were somehow still possible, as opposed to salvaging a bad situation.) He alone would say something like, "We criticize the commander-in-chief at our own peril." And he alone would suggest, as he did to David Broder, that Democrats who criticized Bush on the war were acting from "partisan interest" while he was thinking of "the national interest." He alone seems more focused on what he sees as the errors of the war's opponents than those who launched the war. As Michael Tomasky said of Peter Beinart's New Republic position on the Iraq War, it was not so much that they supported the war as that they "opposed the opposers."

It seems to me that Lieberman is following the path, quite literally, of the neo-conservatives - not the Rumsfeldian nationalists who incorrectly wear that label now, but the original neo-cons of the 1960s, driven to the right above all by their irritation at the left, often based on domestic politics. (Hence the title of this post, an allusion to one of the most famous original documents of the neocons, Norman Podhoretz's 1967 essay, "My Negro Problem - And Ours".)

Is that enough of a reason to oppose Lieberman? Sure, because it's a huge error on one of the most fundamental questions of our time. It's an error not of policy or of political loyalty, but of attitude. And it is not an error that I see others making.
This is the movement that has been reflected in the recent polls. Ned Lamont officially announced his campaign on March 13. Check out the tracking approval number movement for Senator Leiberman since then (the first graph shows approval among all Democrats and the second among Liberals):

joe lieberman approval rating

Since March 13, Joe Lieberman's approval rating from Democrats has gone from +21 to -4 and his approval rating from Liberals has gone from +8 to -16. The trend lines are great news for Lamont and bad news for establishment politicians who think they have been elected for life.

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