Joe Lieberman, Round Iii

by James Kirchick | April 18, 2008

For those non-Plank obsessives: I wrote an item in defense of Joe Lieberman yesterday. Jon Chait wrote in an item in response. He has some
fair points and others that I take issue with. To respond to his specifics:   

1. I apologize to Research2000 for calling them "obscure." After all, just because I haven't heard of something doesn't make it obscure.

2. Still, I find the problems with their survey sample meaningful. Lieberman won re-election in 2006 with a 10% margin. The Daily Kos-commissioned poll cuts that margin in half. So while the difference between Lieberman's 50%-40% share of the electorate and the poll's 48%-43% sample may fall within the statistical margin of error, the poll is nonetheless weighted in favor of Lamont.  

3. Do I too have a dog in the fight between Joe Lieberman and the Daily Kos, as Jon suggests? Guilty as charged.

4. So, is Lieberman some sort of a sellout? And has he duped the voters of Connecticut? Surely, Lieberman could have saved himself a lot of professional grief if, faced with an antiwar primary challenger, he followed most of the Democratic party and renounced his support for the war and claimed that the Bush administration tricked him. But he stuck with his stubborn view -- shared by McCain, by the way -- of supporting American victory in Iraq. This was clearly his core position and he never obscured it when talking to voters. And with the exception of this issue, as Harry Reid repeatedly pointed out, Lieberman has loyally continued to stand by the Democratic caucus on the vast majority of issues. Several committee chairmen owe their gavels to the man they abandoned in 2006. You have to really strain to paint this as nefarious.

Which bring us to this presidential contest: John McCain has been Lieberman's best friend in the Senate, a friendship forged over innumerable battles they have fought together against the extremes in their respective parties. If Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee were the nominee, Joe Lieberman would not be on the ramparts. He is supporting McCain because he is his friend--and because he believes him to be the best candidate.

Does his loyalty--and honest attraction to McCain--make him "disloyal" to Obama? It's true Obama endorsed Lieberman in the Democratic Senate Primary (along with nearly every Democratic Senator). But the day Lieberman lost the primary Obama donated $5,000 to Ned Lamont's campaign. He didn't have to align himself with Lamont. Several Democratic Senators--Salazar, Carper, Pryor, Nelson and Landrieu--stuck with him. I'm not sure Lieberman has any great debt to Obama. And I don't think he's acting "ungrateful," for supporting the candidate with whom he agrees--and for criticizing his opponent.

Obama talks about bipartisanship. And so I find it ironic that his supporters -- who tout this talk and his ability to "transcend" this, that, and the other -- would denigrate the one guy who's actually endorsed someone from the other party. Maybe bipartisanship only works in one direction. Agree or disagree with Lieberman, you have to give him points for following his convictions. Should Lieberman really have endorsed the candidate that he considers lesser? Is reflexive partisanship something to applaud?

--James Kirchick 

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/the-plank/joe-lieberman-round-iii