Wednesday, July 5
Joltin' Joe has left and gone astray.
Surely I'm not the only one who's realized just how much alike these two guys sound.
I haven't talked much about Joe Lieberman on this blog, mainly because I figured everybody was smart enough to suss out that I highly disapproved of his new chosen role as Bush's lap dog. But permit me to rant for a spell about Lieberman's latest spectacularly ill-advised escapade, an attempt to collect 7,500 signatures on a petition so that he can run as an independent in the event that he loses the Democratic primary to Ned Lamont on August 8.
First of all, it was monumentally stupid for Lieberman to basically admit there's a chance he could lose the primary to a previous unknown. And anyone in the state of Connecticut who can still fog a mirror should quickly recognize Lieberman's insistences that he's still a "loyal Democrat" as being distinctly of the methinks-the-lady-doth-protest-too-much variety, since while Lamont has vowed to support Lieberman in the general election if Lieberman wins the primary, Lieberman obviously never had any intention of doing the same in the event of a Lamont win.
The knee-jerk response to all of this from the conservative wing is "You only care if he's a Democrat; you value party loyalty above everything else." Well, that's some mighty ironic righteous indignation coming from the people who tore Jim Jeffords a new one when he jumped from the GOP back in 2002. But to actually answer that accusation, no, I'm not opposing Joe Lieberman because he's thinking about jumping ship; I'm opposing him because he's wrong. He's wrong as a Democrat, he'd be wrong as an independent, and he'd be wrong as a Republican. And no, I don't value party loyalty above everything else -- I value competent government and a respect for the will of the people above everything else, and it's become clear that Lieberman values neither of those things. His lack of concern for the first is evident in his insistence on supporting every single stupid thing the Bush administration does vis-á-vis the war on terror, no matter how half-assed or misguided, to the point of accusing people of imperiling the country if they dare to criticize the president; his contempt for the second is evident in his apparent willingness to thumb his nose at the Connecticut electorate. If they choose Lamont in the August primary, I don't see how anyone can interpret that as anything other than, "Sorry, Mr. Lieberman, we've decided you're not the person who can best represent us in the Senate"; Lieberman, evidently, intends to respond, "Am so! NYEEEAHH!"
In short, not unlike John McCain before him, Joe Lieberman is showing all the signs that he's started believing his own press. Trouble is, that press is coming from neocons whose most defining character trait up to this point has been a near-total inability to differentiate their asses from a hole in the ground.
This all reminds me of a particularly embarrassing episode from Bob Dole during his unsuccessful 1996 presidential bid. At a late-October rally in Houston, with Dole's prospects looking grim and the campaign shifting into desperation mode, Dole began reciting a list of various "ethical lapses" from Clinton's first term -- which, naturally, were mostly molehills that had been built into mountains by the Republican Congress and the right-wing media -- and then asked, "Where is the outrage? When will the voters start to focus?", as if it was the voters' obligation to get mad about these things and carry Dole into the White House.
What Bob Dole apparently did not understand -- and he paid for this lack of understanding in the end -- is that it is not the voters' responsibility to please a candidate to the point where he considers them worthy of voting for him. It is the candidate's responsibility to please the voters, and if he doesn't do that, they vote his ass out. It's kind of the whole point of an election.
After 18 years in Congress, and after five years of being stroked and petted by the Bush administration for being a good little non-critical lap dog in terms of their infuriating mismanagement of the war on terror, Joe Lieberman has apparently developed an awfully big head, to the point where it's the Connecticut voters' responsibility to appreciate and applaud his so-called principled stance on the war, rather than his responsibility to explain how that so-called principled stance is doing his state (or his country) a lick of good. He's right, goddammit, and if the voters of Connecticut refuse to recognize his unimpeachable rightness in the primary, the he's just gonna bounce right up again and force 'em to recognize it in the general. For Joe Lieberman, his senatorial seat has gone from being a sacred responsibility to being a birthright, and when he says he has "loyalties that are greater than those to my party," that may be the one sincere, correct thing he's said in the last two years: It's starting to look like Joe Lieberman's greatest loyalty is to Joe Lieberman.
I think Atrios is right in predicting that Joe's "true loyal base -- Republicans" will not rush to his aid nearly as quickly as the Lieberman campaign almost assuredly believes they will. The current GOP is nothing if not opportunistic to a cutthroat degree, and given the choice between keeping a loyal (if big-I Independent) lapdog and picking up a Senate seat for the Rs -- particularly in a year when the Rs are in real danger of losing their Senate majority -- the Republican Party will aim for the latter and leave Lieberman twisting in the wind. I also think that if Lamont beats Lieberman in the primary, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee continues supporting Lieberman even though he's an independent, then I may just have to cut ties with the national Democratic Party myself, at least until they get over their near-terminal case of Republican Lite Syndrome. But if Lieberman beats Lamont in the primary, then despite my disappointment, I'll shut up about this and accept it, because again, it's the will of the people that counts. If only Joe Lieberman felt the same way.