Volume 19 • Issue 14 | August 18-24, 2006

Talking point

Lieberman’s morality is code for political calculation

By Jane Flanagan

Senator Joe Lieberman continues to claim the moral high ground. He lost the Democratic primary, but it doesn’t matter. He will run in the general election because he knows what’s best for the citizens of Connecticut, even if they don’t.

This “father knows best” posture is not new. He’s been doing this for some time. During the Clinton impeachment frenzy, Joe Lieberman was the first senior Democrat to condemn Clinton. Lieberman called Clinton’s behavior “immoral” and “disgraceful” stating it had “deep moral consequences for the country.”

Clinton’s staff had asked Lieberman to hold off, as Clinton was out of the country and would need time to prepare a response. But Father Joe’s conscience was weighing too heavily on him. He had to speak. For the good of the Democratic party, for the good of the presidency, he couldn’t wait.

When the husband of Terri Schiavo, a vegetative patient kept on life support for 10 years, decided enough was enough, the Senate of the United States bizarrely decided to intervene. Schiavo’s distraught parents opposed their son-in-law, a position any parent anywhere can understand. It’s a horrible dispute which no family should have to face. But that’s why state courts were invented. A Florida state appeals court ruled that the husband had the right to remove the tube. Congress, spotting an ideal cause to whip up the Republican base, decided to step in. Somehow Lieberman failed to identify this for the sham it was. Instead, he went on national television to champion his moral reasoning in addition to voting with the Republicans to overturn the state court ruling.

Instead, he voted with the Republicans to overturn the state court ruling. He then went on national television to champion his moral reasoning.

In November 2005, after making his fourth trip to Iraq, Lieberman reported that we were making “real progress” there. He has consistently championed the war since the beginning, including rebuking Democratic Rep. John Murtha’s call to bring home the troops by saying that “We undermine presidential credibility at our nation’s peril.”

Father Knows Best was no longer simply lecturing, he was now threatening.

Lieberman also said he would never use the abysmal conduct of the war to take “partisan” shots at people. Why not for heaven’s sake? What’s wrong with saying the Pentagon is doing a horrible job?

Still he didn’t seem to have any trouble taking partisan shots at Ned Lamont, who beat Lieberman in the primary. After the foiled London airplane plot last week, he referred to Lamont’s Iraq policy by saying, “If we just pick up like Ned Lamont wants us to do, get out by a certain date, it will be taken as a tremendous victory by the same people who wanted to blow up these planes in this plot hatched in England. It will strengthen them and they will strike again.”

Through all of this, Lieberman insists his actions were in the name of bipartisanship. But bipartisan implies two parties negotiating, each giving up something to attain a greater good. What did the Republicans give him? And more to the point, what good came of it?

Lieberman’s actions seem far less bipartisan and far more political expediency. He may not have extracted much in the way of political compromise from the Republicans, but he got something better. Their approval. He wants to be a star player, and he can’t do that by playing on the losing Democratic team. The right wing faction of the Republican party has been on the rise for some time. Surely that was clear to Lieberman when he took to the Senate podium and called Clinton “disgraceful” and “immoral.” Lieberman knew which way the wind was blowing and to stay afloat he’s been huffing and puffing ever since.


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