Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Whither Joe?

Sen. Joe Lieberman,

You've lost the Democratic primary for your seat from Connecticut to someone who, by all accounts, is as decent and hard-working a man as you are. There are lessons to be learned from your defeat, but also warnings to be had.

First, it's a bit disingenuous to hear you whine about the divisive politics of the primary, when for the past six years, you've been occupying a seat in Congress. You want to be an uniter? We've heard that before, from the administration that stole your election. That wasn't enough to get your blood up a little? A little more competitive?

Oh. Yes. I forgot. You ran for Senate while you ran for Vice President! Nice move, Joe. Every one should have a back-up plan, but this one stinks to high holy hell: by diving your electoral focus, by giving even an ounce of thought to your re-election in 2000, you might have cost Al Gore, ohhhhhhhhhhhh, 537 votes in Florida, for example.

Even just the act of running for re-election while running for VP sent a message that you honestly believed you didn't think Al Gore could win. Americans love a fighter, Joe. They don't cotton to wimps. Ask either of the Bushes. You should have refused the Vice President's nomination.

Maybe you ought to look yourself in the mirror on that one, Sparky, but there's more. Your political instincts served you poorly in the intervening six years. Yes, I'm talking about the Iraq invasion, but I'm talking more about your handling of your position.

Responsible people can disagree, even with the President, even during military action. Your comments in December 2005, lecturing the activist peace wing of the Democratic party, were way out of line. That you had poor Lanny Davis sweating behind his wire-rims on Meet the Press on Sunday, trying to torture a positive position out of that for you, should have been the final clue that you screwed up.

Maybe it was inartfully worded (not likely, these weren't off the cuff remarks, and I believe you meant what you said, as you said it), but the simple truth is, it was wrong. Period. To this day you stand by those words, and that is why you lost the election. Not because bloggers got their panties in a twist over it, but because you simply couldn't see past your upturned nose that dialogue was critical to formulating a real Democratic policy on the war.

In short, you went out of your way to divide the party, but you keep speaking of compromise and collaboration. How can you have compromise and collaboration when the side you represent is so deeply divided over an issue? Let all voices be heard, and damn the neo-cons and other Republicans who would chide us for a vigourous debate!

Similarly, your lecturing tone during these comments hearkened back to this:
In the meantime, as the debate on this matter proceeds, and as the investigation continues, we would all be advised to heed the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln's second annual address to Congress in 1862. With the nation at war with itself, Lincoln warned, "If there ever could be a proper time for mere catch arguments, that time is surely not now. In times like the present, men should utter nothing for which they would not willingly be responsible through time and eternity."
You made that statement during your unctious and self-righteous speech condemning Bill Clinton back in 1998, after the partisan witch hunt against the Greatest. President. Ever. revealed a personal flaw consummated with a willing adult participant.

You cautioned then against speaking rashly. Yet you did just that last year.

Sanctimony then translates into hypocrisy now, Senator. Deal with it.

Finally, The Kiss.

Perhaps if, after Bush leaned in like that, you had your political wits about you, and had jumped back, horrified or at least surprised by his actions, you would be the nominee today. But you didn't. You clearly welcomed a calculated manuever by W to embarass you and polarize you from the Democratic party. Face it, Joe, you were buttfucked by Bush, and smiled all the way through it.

What were people supposed to believe?

OK, so all this was the prelude to what I have to say to you, finally: Don't.

Don't run as an independent. You might win, yes, and your voting record indicates that you'll be siding with the Democrats 90% of the time, so it's not like we'd lose your seat. But...

A) You will have exahusted any credibility you have as a Senator, and be seen as a traitor, particularly should the Democrats regain control of the Senate, as seems likely. Ned Lamont would have more standing as a rookie Senator in the apportionment of committee seats than you would. Your only hope for any real power in the body is if the Republican retain control (something you seem to have calculated on before....say, in 2000...)

B) You have a chance, a real chance, to do good in the coming months, both as a Senator but more, as a Democrat. Let me show you how:
A responsible elder statesman/woman needs to be the face of this rift, and go on the record with a major effort to heal it. This statesman (because my first choice is male) shouldn't have a dog in the hunt, nothing at stake in November, and he would garner an awful lot of goodwill for and in the party with his actions. Bill Clinton might be the obvious choice, but Hillary still has a political future, and so while he could heal the rift, there would still be a sense of partisanship. Ted Kennedy would be ideal, except that the public perception of him is one that would tend to distract from the message.

So my first choice is Joe Lieberman. Naturally, this means he'd have to give up his re-election campaign. In truth, he's running on fumes as a Senator in Connecticut, and a concerted effort to replace him with Ned Lamont may not succeed but will cripple the Democratic ticket in Connecticut in November, whether he wins or Lamont wins. As a lame duck who voluntarily sacrifices one more term (because, Joe, in truth, that's really all you could possibly eke out here), he will position himself as a man in 2008 who has chips left to play. Further, as the public face of this dust-up, his word with the general public will carry great weight, because they're paying about as much attention to the activist effort to unseat him as they did to the World Cup or Tour De France.

The general perception is that the Lieberman is taking one for the team on an issue that has divided his party, thus taking responsibility for that division. It would go a long way to making the general electorate realize that we're in this to win, and that our chief players have their game faces on.
It's really very simple, Joe.

C) Which brings me to my final argument to you: by doing this, essentially you've made yourself a power-played in the 2008 Presidential race. While I doubt the nomination is anything but a pipedream for you, ever, or even another pass at VP, I think you would stand an excellent chance for a major Cabinet post, like Defense Secretary in a Hillary White House. And you could solidify your legacy beyond being the first Jewish national candidate for a major political party, a Trivial Pursuit answer in 20 years.

Do it, Joe. Give it up. Don't run as an independent.