BLAST FROM THE PAST: RET-JOE-SPECTIVE


This week Joe Lieberman announced he won’t be running for re-election. This blog and Lieberman go way back. My third ever (run-on sentence-filled) post, eight years ago, was kvetching at the news he would run for president (and celebrating that Tom Daschle wouldn’t).

Lieberman has been a frequent target of this blog. Though I like to think I’ve always been fair to Joe, like in this post noting that Lieberman lent his endorsement to plenty of city- and state-wide campaigns well to the left of his national profile:

Damning by faint praise? Yes (also damning by harsh but deserved criticism).

Lieberman lived up to expectations, by declaring himself the only guy to go toe-to-toe with George Bush on values while not getting many people to vote for him – aside from Bob Kerrey and the staff of TNR.

(But I wanted him kept in the debates anyway.)

Looking ahead at ’08 candidates, I looked back to ’00 and rued Al Gore’s choice of Lieberman over another of the Senate’s Clinton critics:

Feingold’s criticism of Clinton’s use of political power in the Lewinsky investigation was far more credible than Lieberman’s self-serving reminders to America that sex outside of marriage is immoral.

Little Wild Bouquet had another rash of Lieberman coverage in his ’06 Senate battle with Ned Lamont. I noted that absent public financing of elections, the people who could pose serious challenges to incumbents like Joe were disproportionately super-wealthy like Ned. I criticized LWB-idol John Lewis’ endorsement of Lieberman on friendship grounds:

Politicians in Washington only encourage a cynical view of our representatives when they trade endorsements on the grounds of having looked into each other’s hearts like Bush did to Putin. The irony here is that politicians, with a huge assist from the media, actually use the friendship rationale to escape critical reviews of their endorsements.

But I defended Lieberman’s attack on Ned Lamont for being in an all-white club:

I’d question the invocation of Bill Clinton, who called Sister Souljah a hate-monger and Charles Murray a social scientist, as an authority on the interests of African-Americans. And I’d say the Lamont campaign is right to point out that it’s Lieberman who’s flirted with fraying affirmative action. But the centerpiece of the flyer – an indictment of Lamont’s membership in an elite country club – strikes me as a fair point (which isn’t to say that it should change anyone’s vote).

The primary gave me occasion to called out Lieberman alter ego Marshall Wittman for calling Lamont supporters “Buchanan-lite”:

It’s hard to come up with an equal and opposite absurdity to compare to the charge that war critics on the left are like Pat Buchanan. It would need to compare people on the right based on a policy view they have to a wildly unpopular figure on the left who shares it for different reasons. Maybe “Conservatives who tried to use the federal government to re-insert Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube are Ralph Nader lite!” Difference is, Ralph Nader may be unpopular, but unlike Pat Buchanan, he’s not a bigot.

(Wittman earned a fawning NYT profile I had some issues with a few months later)

After Lieberman lost the primary but announced he’d soldier on, I winced at the revival of the term “Sore Loserman.” I compared Lamont’s primary challenge against Lieberman to Tasini’s primary challenge to Hillary Clinton. I riffed on Matt Yglesias and Ben Adler’s Lieberman-inspired meditations on whether it’s worse to believe a politician is taking a bad stance because of their principles or despite them:

The right, incidentally, deploys both the “Don’t worry, he doesn’t believe it” and “But those are his principles” arguments to great effect to shield its politicians from criticism, depending on which one fits best at the time.

I argued against pundits conflating Joe Lieberman and moderate GOPers as beset by “extremists on both sides” :

Joe Lieberman isn’t the Democratic equivalent of Lincoln Chafee. Ben Nelson is more like it. As for the Republican equivalent of Joe Lieberman, there just isn’t one.

After pleading to Connecticut Democrats in ’06 that foreign policy differences were no reason to break their bond with him, Lieberman endorsed McCain in 2008. I was hoping Chuck Hagel would pop up to rebut his attacks on Obama, but no such luck. Also not in the cards: My Dodd v. Lieberman 2012 election hopes.

Most recently, I continued my tradition of “faint praise” for Lieberman by invoking him as example of how petty inconsistent behavior is not irrational per se.

With another two years in his senate term, followed by years of op-eds and TV appearances, and the chance for think tank pronouncements and journalists breathlessly anticipating which candidates he’ll share the Joementum with, I suspect this blog will have more than enough Lieberman content in its future.

(First in a series using current news hooks to excavate old content)

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