When news reached me that Joe Lieberman had decided not to seek re-election next year, I distinctly remember feeling sorry for him. Now, I am not always sure I understand the way Joe Lieberman thinks or what motivates him, but the general antipathy directed towards him by liberals and conservatives alike might lead one to wonder why he is so reviled. The stubbornness with which he clung to his positions—caring little if democrats were incensed by his positions or not—leads me to appreciate his courage. It seemed that in Joe, we witnessed a politician who was not going to be beholden to party politics; a man who was going to fight for what he believed was the right thing even if his democratic colleagues felt differently.
That’s all changed now, hasn’t it?
Here was a man that came close to being the vice president of the country when he ran with John Kerry. Frankly, it is difficult to say at this stage, but I am sure that not a few democrats might have had cause to wonder in recent times, if the choice of Lieberman did not cost them much-needed votes. And why, you may ask? The answer is simple. Joe Lieberman, fairly or unfairly, is portrayed as a lackey for Big Pharma and Big Energy companies. His patriotism was also questioned by people who see in him nothing but a shrill mouthpiece for Israeli interests. Worse, he is viewed as being a neo-con on financial and security issues. For a self-styled democrat, he sure sounded like a conservative on many issues.
Should that quality be considered a liability? Well, it depends. When he faced a primaries challenge for the office of Connecticut’s senator, he cleverly switched and became an independent. That was his saving grace I suppose. But I’d like to say that with Joe running as an independent, his actions tend to be more accepted unlike when he was operating like a traitor to the liberal cause. Therein lies the rub: media outlets can cry and whine for bipartisanship till the cows come home; Americans can complain and decry the gridlock in Washington till they are blue in the face; pundits can say whatever they damn well please, the fact remains that when push comes to shove, the same people or institutions that are expressing their revulsion at partisanship will DEMAND partisanship if it is going to significantly further their political agenda.
So I am not particularly surprised to see that over the years, Joe Lieberman has greatly irked the liberal-progressive base he was once part of. And he has paid for it with a deafening roar of disapproval and even disgust not only from the Democrats but from his very own home state of Connecticut. How for example, were liberals going to forget his role in the 2008 presidential campaign? –you remember, don’t you, how he followed McCain all over the place, campaigning with and for him when his own party was trying their best to get everyone to consider the democratic alternative?
Be that as it may, we should not forget the pivotal roles Joe Lieberman played in the waning days of his career. His was the 60th vote that was needed to pass Obama’s health care reform. Had he not voted with the liberals, that legislative packaged would have died. Furthermore, one can’t ignore his pivotal role in the passing of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” repeal which exceedingly gladdened the hearts of many liberals. So it seems like whatever way you slice it, Mr. Lieberman has his fair share of republican and democratic critics. The sad thing is that despite the shrill calls for bipartisanship, it seems the political climate in Washington forbids such. Just take a look at the last election cycle in November of last year and you would notice how the middle-stream, blue-dog, moderately-conservative democrats were swept out. Lieberman may not be a democrat any longer; he may have grown weary of the endless partisanship; he may feel that he lived out his full convictions on Capitol Hill—the thorny truth is that with his departure next year, a long curtain will finally be drawn over non-partisanship in today’s congress.
Joe, you announced your exit too soon. Let’s hope you’ll find a way to withdraw yourself from the political limelight till you settle back in the private sector. Au revoir Monsieur Lieberman!