The Plank

Lieberman vs. Nelson

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At National Review, Tevi Troy wonders why liberals are so exasperated with Joe Lieberman. In so doing, he proceeds from a false premise to an erroneous conclusion:

I’m not sure why Lieberman in particular inspires such hatred on the left.  Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson is at least at obstructionist to the Democrats, and not just on the abortion issue.   According to the AP: “Bucking the Democratic party on a major issue would not be a first for Nelson who is generally seen as a moderate in the Senate. During his tenure Nelson joined with Republicans to support President George W Bush's tax cuts and reject certain issues important to organized labor.”

The false premise here is that liberals are irked with Lieberman solely because of the content of his position. The truth is that Lieberman has been so irritating because he's operating in bad faith. As Marc Ambinder reports, "Lieberman blessed the Gang of Ten deal privately before those talks were completed, then reversed himself as soon as it became evident that the left saw a silver lining in the consolation prize of a Medicare buy-in proposal." Lieberman's new position is that he is willing to filibuster health care reform, a goal which he promised to help fulfill in 2006 when he won his seat, if it includes a provision that Lieberman himself was advocating three months ago. Lieberman is displaying a total lack of moral and intellectual seriousness on an issue upon which many lives rest.

It's true that Ben Nelson is also far from an easy vote. But Nelson is bargaining in good faith. Moreover, Nelson's objection is his long-held position on abortion, an issue he obviously regards with genuine and consistent concern. I don't consider Nelson the brightest star in the Senatorial sky, but his motives seem sound.

The fact that liberals aren't furious with Nelson strikes Troy as proof of some nefarious double standard. In fact it's proof that his premise about liberal anger at Lieberman is incorrect.

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