Posted by: Steve Coplan | August 12, 2006

Shabbat Shalom Joe

Paul Krugman is certainly one of the commentators on economics and economic policies whose views generally have the appropriate directionality, but his opinion on more general political matters resonates with me as well. This morning’s op-ed in the New York Times could be titled ‘Joe Lieberman — good riddance.’ I share his sentiments that Lieberman has been wrongheaded on the Iraq War from the outset (including his baseline assumption that it would be good for Israel). It’s also proven to be his downfall, since even primary voters know that he has brought home the pastrami reliably for many years while Lamont is largely an unknown variable. I wouldn’t outright dismiss rumors that Republicans registered as Democrats stuffed the ballot boxes to ensure that the Democrats field a weak candidate, but Lieberman has looked precarious for a while.

For a while I was excited about his 2000 vice-presidential nomination on account of his religious affiliation, but the more strident his defense of the Iraq war became, the more I was reminded of why he found himself alongside Gore in the first place. Lieberman was the first Democrat to attack Clinton on his slippery testimony on the nature of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. It was largely thanks to his Senate floor condemnation of Clinton on moral grounds that Lieberman emerged as a solid running mate for Gore. But while he managed to elevate his own stock, Lieberman also served to weaken Clinton’s legacy and by extension strengthen the appeal of the Republicans to swing voters. It’s probably not too much of a stretch to say that Lieberman is responsible for some extent for two successive Bush Jr administrations, and all the damage they have wrought.

Some words from the Krugman op-ed:
After Ned Lamont’s victory in Connecticut, I saw a number of commentaries describing Joe Lieberman not just as a “centrist” — a word that has come to mean “someone who makes excuses for the Bush administration” — but as “sensible.” But on what planet would Mr. Lieberman be considered sensible?

Take a look at Thomas Ricks’s “Fiasco,” the best account yet of how the U.S. occupation of Iraq was mismanaged. The prime villain in that book is Donald Rumsfeld, whose delusional thinking and penchant for power games undermined whatever chances for success the United States might have had. Then read Mr. Lieberman’s May 2004 op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal, “Let Us Have Faith,” in which he urged Mr. Rumsfeld not to resign over the Abu Ghraib scandal, because his removal “would delight foreign and domestic opponents of America’s presence in Iraq.”

And that’s just one example of Mr. Lieberman’s bad judgment. He has been wrong at every step of the march into the Iraq quagmire — all the while accusing anyone who disagreed with him of endangering national security.

Many of those lamenting Mr. Lieberman’s defeat claim that they fear a takeover of our political parties by extremists. But if political polarization were really their main concern, they’d be as exercised about the primary challenge from the right facing Lincoln Chafee as they are about Mr. Lieberman’s woes. In fact, however, the sound of national commentary on the Rhode Island race is that of crickets chirping.

So what’s really behind claims that Mr. Lieberman is sensible — and that those who voted against him aren’t? It’s the fact that many Washington insiders suffer from the same character flaw that caused Mr. Lieberman to lose Tuesday’s primary: an inability to admit mistakes.

They say: Pay no attention to the fact that I was wrong and the critics have been completely vindicated by events — I’m “sensible,” while those people are crazy extremists. And besides, criticizing any aspect of the war encourages the terrorists.

That’s what Joe Lieberman said, and it’s what his defenders are saying now.

……Now, it takes a really vivid imagination to see Mr. Lieberman’s rejection as the work of extremists. I know that some commentators believe that anyone who thinks the Iraq war was a mistake is a flag-burning hippie who hates America. But if that’s true, about 60 percent of Americans hate America. The reality is that Ned Lamont and those who voted for him are, as The New York Times editorial page put it, “irate moderates,” whose views are in accord with those of most Americans and the vast majority of Democrats.

But in his non-concession speech, Mr. Lieberman described Mr. Lamont as representative of a political tendency in which “every disagreement is considered disloyal” — a statement of remarkable chutzpah from someone who famously warned Democrats that “we undermine the president’s credibility at our nation’s peril.”

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