If the Pentagon can use football analogies to describe the bureaucratic give and take of administration then it is left for the Senate to be described in terms of baseball analogies. In many ways Connecticut’s relationship with Joe Lieberman is in its 9th inning. In 2000, when Lieberman was the Vice Presidential Candidate and later in 2004, when Lieberman ran for the Democratic Presidential nomination, Lieberman was in baseball parlance, looking for a trade. The national political stage is the big show, and on it Lieberman has opened himself up to criticisms of being too much of anything but a true Democrat.
But the real question for Democrats to ask is not whether Lieberman is a purer bluer Democrat than the next guy, but whether a lifetime of service to the state can be tossed out because of post game comments that seem to provide “appeasement” to the enemy, in political terms the Bush administration.
And like a baseball game, the Senate, a body of only 100 players, there is no single Senator that drives policy single-handedly. It’s a body of deliberation, of give and take and of compromise. Where the unruly House can vote on party lines despite misgivings on any position, the Senate has held itself to a higher standard. The Senate is the check to the impetuous House. And like any good baseball team, there are roles to be played in the Senate that require special skills and hard work in order to win the game.
Under this reality, Senator Ted Kennedy can broker a deal with the Bush administration and push horrible legislation such as NCLB. And Senator Diane Feinstein can vote for a Medicare Bill that is also horrible legislation. But for Joe Lieberman, his comments in support of the Iraq war are deemed a betrayal to the Democratic party.
It wasn’t always so. In 1998, when the House Republicans were screaming for the impeachment of Bill Clinton, it was the deliberative Senate that checked the partisan fury. Bill Clinton would have been impeached had it not been for Joe Lieberman, stepping into the breach, and providing the very public moral scolding that diffused the momentum of the rancor amongst his colleagues.
The NYT has insisted that this race is not about resumes. But it is. In its endorsement of Ned Lamont, the NYT had one sentence to say about Lamont. The unfailing truth is that if Ned Lamont had been a Senator these past 6 years, nothing would be different. We’d still be mired in Iraq, Bush would still be appointing hacks to federal agencies, and the vote totals in the Senate would still reflect the reality of a Republican majority.
It was just last year when the Republicans under Bill Frist were threatening the so-called nuclear option, over the decision that some within the Democratic caucus wanted to stop Bush's high court appointments. Frist’s reaction was to threaten to change the Senate rules to permanently bar the use of filibuster for Supreme Court nominations. Lieberman and other moderate Democrats then worked a compromise, with some more tempered Republicans, the gang of 14, that protected the right of the minority to filibuster court nominees in the future in extreme circumstances.
But back to Iraq. The war against the war, was fought and lost in 2003 and then again in 2004. Bush was re-elected, and gained stronger majorities in Congress. Instead of focusing on the defeat of Republicans Connecticut Democrats have put in office, the anger against the Bush administration has been pushed onto Lieberman, not because of his votes, but because of what he’s said in punditry land. Never mind that Lieberman’s position to liberate Iraq from Saddam Hussein dates to 1998, before Bush took office. In 1998, he co-sponsored the Iraq Liberation Act, which passed unanimously in the Senate, and made regime change the official policy of the Clinton administration.
Washing our hands of Iraq may sound appealing as a campaign tactic, but that debate revolves around our politics, and not about what is good for Iraq. And this thinking is so short term. Just as the Clinton administration understood the need for a stabilizing force to prevent Bosnia from igniting an extremist breeding ground of terrorists, so we must look at Iraq under the pragmatists eye of what could go more terribly wrong were we to abandon the country to Shiite fundamentalists.
To abandon Lieberman because he is willing to have this debate is an injustice to the ideals of a democracy. If nothing else, there has been too little debate about Iraq, and to stifle the very thing that a deliberative democracy is known for harkens another era in another sea change of armed conflict.
Lamont campaigns solely on his one note on his one issue, that he is not Joe Lieberman. But being principled despite the prevailing election winds is what marks Lieberman as the most JFK style Democrat of politicians. As John F. Kennedy wrote in Profiles In Courage, “In whatever arena of life one may meet the challenge of courage, whatever may be the sacrifices he faces if he follows his conscience - the loss of his friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow men - each man must decide for himself the course he will follow."
For these reasons we dissent with the majority and support Joe Lieberman.