Culture, Politics

Krugman takes on Lieberman

All I can say (as a person raised in CT) is, it’s about time. Thank you Krugman!
Here’s the link for those that have Times Select–for those that don’t, the op-ed below:

Friday was a bad day for Senator Joseph Lieberman. The Connecticut Democratic Party’s nominating convention endorsed him, but that was a given for an incumbent with a lot of political chips to cash in. The real news was that Ned Lamont, an almost unknown challenger, received a third of the votes. This gave Mr. Lamont the right to run against Mr. Lieberman in a primary, and suggests that Mr. Lamont may even win.
What happened to Mr. Lieberman? Some news reports may lead you to believe that he is in trouble solely because of his support for the Iraq war. But there’s much more to it than that. Mr. Lieberman has consistently supported Republican talking points. This has made him a lion of the Sunday talk shows, but has put him out of touch with his constituents — and with reality.
Mr. Lieberman isn’t the only nationally known Democrat who still supports the Iraq war. But he isn’t just an unrepentant hawk, he has joined the Bush administration by insisting on an upbeat picture of the situation in Iraq that is increasingly delusional.
Moreover, Mr. Lieberman has supported the attempt to label questions about why we invaded Iraq and criticism of the administration’s policies since the invasion as unpatriotic. How else is one to interpret his warning, late last year, that ”it is time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be Commander-in-Chief for three more critical years, and that in matters of war we undermine Presidential credibility at our nation’s peril”?
And it’s not just Iraq. A letter sent by Hillary Clinton to Connecticut Democrats credited Mr. Lieberman with defending Social Security ”tooth and nail.” Well, I watched last year’s Social Security debate pretty closely, and that’s not what happened.
In fact, Mr. Lieberman repeatedly supported the administration’s scare tactics. ”Every year we wait to come up with a solution to the Social Security problem,” he declared in March 2005, ”costs our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren $600 billion more.”
This claim echoed a Bush administration talking point, and President Bush wasted little time citing Mr. Lieberman’s statement as vindication. But the talking point was simply false, so Mr. Lieberman was providing cover for an administration lie.
There’s more. Mr. Lieberman supported Congressional intervention in the Terri Schiavo affair, back when Republican leaders were trying to manufacture a ”values” issue out of thin air.
And let’s not forget that Mr. Lieberman showed far more outrage over Bill Clinton’s personal life than he has ever shown over Mr. Bush’s catastrophic failures as commander in chief.
On each of these issues Mr. Lieberman, who is often described as a ”centrist,” is or was very much at odds not just with the Democratic base but with public opinion as a whole. According to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, only 40 percent of the public believes that we were right to go to war with Iraq.
Mr. Lieberman’s tender concern for the president’s credibility comes far too late: according to a USA Today/Gallup poll, only 41 percent of Americans consider Mr. Bush honest and trustworthy. By huge margins, the public believed that Congress should have stayed out of the Schiavo case. And so on.
Mr. Lieberman’s defenders would have you believe that his increasingly unpopular positions reflect his principles. But his Bushlike inability to face reality on Iraq looks less like a stand on principle than the behavior of a narcissist who can’t admit error. And the common theme in Mr. Lieberman’s positions seems to be this: In each case he has taken the stand that is most likely to get him on TV.
You see, the talking-head circuit loves centrists. But a centrist, as defined inside the Beltway, doesn’t mean someone whose views are actually in the center, as judged by public opinion.
Instead, a Democrat is considered centrist to the extent that he does what Mr. Lieberman does: lends his support to Republican talking points, even if those talking points don’t correspond at all to what most of the public wants or believes.
But this ”center” cannot hold. And that’s the larger lesson of what happened Friday. Mr. Lieberman has been playing to a Washington echo chamber that is increasingly out of touch with the country’s real concerns. The nation, which rallied around Mr. Bush after 9/11 simply because he was there, has moved on — and it has left Mr. Lieberman behind.

cross posted from jspot

17 thoughts on “Krugman takes on Lieberman

  1. On the issue of Iraq, Lieberman and Lamont’s positions on exit strategy aren’t even that different.
    As someone who has already been liberal, Lieberman is as good as, or as bad as, most Democratic Senators. The people who hate Lieberman are the ones who think that because he makes nice with Conservative talk show hosts, that he must be a traitor to them. These are people who think that the purpose of congressmen is to say things that validate their feelings on Meet the Press. As far as representing his constituents, Lieberman seems to be doing a good job.
    But it’s always possible to tap into a hidden discontent. I was in Illinois when Carol Mosely Braun shocked incumbent Alan Dixon in the primary on her way to victory in 1992. Dixon had voted to confirm Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, and Braun was able to ride that to victory. So I won’t rule out Lamont being able to do the same thing.

  2. In what sense is Lieberman liberal? In the rankings at, he is ranked #39 in the Senate, making him the sixth-lowest Democrat overall, and second-lowest Democrat representing a blue state.
    If Ben Nelson has to vote with Bush on some things because that’s what it takes to get elected as a Democrat in Nebraska, I can understand that. Connecticut can do better. Furthermore, Nelson isn’t all over the talk shows undermining his party.

  3. Most liberal interest groups rate Lieberman high. Good on pro-choice matters, good on the environment, etc. You can cherry pick all you want, but the fact is that he will generally do the right thing.
    Maybe CT “can do better” but it isn’t the blue state lock that people assume. Remember, the Reeps control 3 out of 5 congresscritter seats, and Jodi Rell is a favorite for re-election.
    CT is considered to be such a “blue” state precisely BECAUSE Lieberman is able to command such broad based support. Maybe you can get a more “liberal” Senator, but it’s not like you are guaranteed of victory.
    For all the euphoria we had with Carol Mosely Braun’s victory in 1992, she was at best a mediocre Senator and was ripe for the picking in 1998, even when Illinois was considered to be trending blue.

  4. remember Lieberman beat Weicker in the fist place over the issue of weicker’s attendence record at senate votes, if recall correctly.

  5. He may tow the “bare minimum” Dem line on issues like abortion, etc, if you look at Lieberman’s votes, they are consistently to the right of most of his party.

  6. For all the euphoria we had with Carol Mosely Braun’s victory in 1992, she was at best a mediocre Senator and was ripe for the picking in 1998
    I’m from Illinois, and in 1998, when it was clear that Moseley Braun was vulnerable (due to scandals that had nothing to do with left-right positioning), I lamented that no one opposed her in the primary, leaving her open to lose to a Republican. I don’t think a (self-identified) Republican is going to win in CT this year (regardless of who wins the D primary), but this is another case where we shouldn’t be afraid to challenge the incumbent in the primary.

  7. Liberal and conservative are relative terms, of course, but I would strongly disagree with the idea that Lieberman has always been liberal. I also spent time growing up in Conecticut–moved there when I was 12–and my parents still live there. We moved there in 1988, when Lieberman was first running against Weicker. I remember one of my parents, both life-long Democrats, contemplating voting for Weicker, a Republican who seemed to be to the left of Lieberman. (I’m not sure how either of my parents voted, and Mom and Dad, if you read this, sorry to discuss your voting considerations online!)
    Krugman’s article details many ways in which Lieberman has been to the right of the Democratic party (which ain’t that far to the Left anyway). There are several others–remember back to the 2000 election, when Lieberman had to back off of earlier comments he’d made against affirmative action.
    Joshua, when you say that “most liberal interest groups rate Lieberman high,” can you give examples, particuilarly on how he compares to other Dems? Can you give examples of him sticking his neck out on a progressive stand?
    (I do have to give hiim this, though–Lieberman voted against building hundreds of miles of wall across the US-Mexico border last week. Maybe he did it because he had Lamont on his left flank, but he did, and that’s more than sevearl Senators can say, including Clinton and the former Presidential candidate from my state (Kerry).

  8. Dang, I’d forgotten about the “Joementum” bit! At the risk of being told that I’m not analyzing this seriously enough, I feel like claiming Joementum, particularly when getting creamed int he primaries, should be enough to merit a primary challenge…

  9. I have to agree with Krugman. I’ve always considered Lieberman to be a closet Republican. I wasn’t aware that he’d been on the talk shows, defending Bush – but I’m not surprised. I’ve had my suspicions about him for years. I could never see how a man could claim to represent the interests of the left – then be friendly with Bill Bennett (which may be the first time that a Jew has been on intimate terms with a Czar!).

  10. I have to admit to being a bit ambivalent about this; it feels like focusing on the shortcomings of a member of the Resistance while Vichy is still on the loose. On the other hand, there’s probably no way in hell Connecticut is electing a Republican, and it’s hard to reject the opportunity to safely and permanently remove Lieberman from public life. What’s most objectionable about Lieberman aren’t his positions per se (though they suck plenty), but his constant whining, his self-righteousness, and the ceaseless cultivation of his reputation as “the conscience of the Senate.” The man is a political opportunist of the crudest kind, and it would make me pretty much delirious never to have to listen to another lugubrious public scolding from that miserable prick for the rest of my life.

  11. Lieberman receives hi ratings from ADA, League of Conservation Voters, NARAL, and the like.
    Most people even admit this, but are concerned about what he says (as is Krugman). This is a concern if your life revolves around watching FoxNews, posting on weblogs, and thinking that the “chattering class” reflects the political goings on.
    Lieberman has been, among other things, a leader in the fight to stop drilling in ANWR. Plus the opposition to the draconian immigration policy.
    Meanwhile, Robert Byrd, votes for Samuel Alito, and in his speech denounces his fellow democrats for conducting a shameful hearing (i.e., daring question whether a far right jurist is good for the court). Yet Byrd was forgiven for that (as well as his past membership in the KKK).
    I don’t think Lieberman is a particularly great Senator, and I actually think Lamont is a pretty reasonable guy. But I can’t jump on a bandwagon which basically is led by people who think that a politicians primary job is to appear on TV and Radio talk shows and say things that get them excited.

  12. Lieberman receives hi ratings from ADA, League of Conservation Voters, NARAL, and the like.
    Well, he got 70% from ADA and the LCV, and 75% from NARAL. Reflective of a moderate Democrat, but not a progressive, particularly on the first 2. How exactly would you say that Lieberman has been a leader against immigration reform? I pointed out that he voted against the border wall, but I don’t personally think that one good vote equals leadership.
    This is a concern if your life revolves around watching FoxNews, posting on weblogs, and thinking that the “chattering class” reflects the political goings on.
    Wow, that’s an interesting way to dismiss a huge number of people. I’m concernerned with Lieberman’s moderate record, and I feel that what he says does lend suport to Bush’s agenda. Political leaders’ comments do impact political discourse. But I honestly rather resent the implication that this means that my “life revolves around watching FoxNews (I don’t have a TV), posting on weblogs (I blog a bit, and apparently, so do you), and thinking that the “chattering class” reflects the political goings on (as a community organizer and youth worker, I’m well aware of what grassroots politics mean).
    From your comments, I doubt that we’re too far apart in our views on Lieberman. So I don’t understand why you make the comments you’re making about who I am and what I believe. It certainly isn’t in the spirit of the Soloveitchik quote.

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