Stop Harassing Joe Lieberman!

Word to the Democratic Party, eagerly frothing at the mouth with the prospect of the ascension of their anointed one, Barack Obama: Leave Joe Lieberman alone!

Simply put, the Connecticut senator -- after years of service to his constituency and his party, including backing up Al Gore (not an enviable job) on the 2000 ticket -- got completely hosed by the Democratic Party in 2006 over his support for the U.S. mission in Iraq, when he was bumped out in the senatorial primary. Showing the chutzpah of a true leader, he won the seat as an independent. And lefties haven't known what to do with him since.

Especially in this, the election year that is supposedly destined to be the Dems' for the taking, the claws have come out against Lieberman. He caucuses with the Dems, and if he shifted to the GOP he'd ruin their power advantage in the Senate. So there's been a certain amount of kiss-up and toleration of his campaigning for fellow senator John McCain.

But they can't very well have the Dem defector running around mouthing off against the anointed one, can they?

Or so seems to be the attitude that develops in a Sunday Associated Press story, which crosses the line into editorializing by leading off with "Joe Lieberman is fast becoming the Democrats' public enemy No. 1," and calling Lieberman's recent criticisms of Saint Obama "the latest betrayal."

Pray tell: Who betrayed whom?

The Dems cast out Honest Joe for, essentially, having his own mind and following his conscience on key issues. Shouldn't all politicians grace us with such qualities?

The story singles out Lieberman joining in a McCain conference call the day after Obama secured enough delegates to win the Democratic Party's nomination.

"Sen. Obama today argued American foreign policy in recent years has essentially strengthened Iran," Lieberman said in that call, in which he also congratulated the Illinois senator on seizing the nomination. "At one point he almost seemed to suggest it helped to elect [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad and has made Israel less safe. I just disagree with that. Iran[ians] elected Ahmadinejad for their own reasons.

"If Israel is in danger today, it's not because of American foreign policy, which has been strongly supportive of Israel in every way. It's not because of what we've done in Iraq, it's because Iran is a fanatical terrorist expansionist state. Iran has a leader -- and leaderships -- that constantly threatens to extinguish the state of Israel."

The AP noted that hours after that call, "Obama led Lieberman to a corner of the Senate floor for a pointed private conversation." Bring on the bullying, because in the flock led by Obama the only type of bipartisanship that counts is that which parrots their policy objectives pound for pound.

And here's how their story ends, with talk of knocking Lieberman out of his chairman's seat at the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee: "While there's no serious talk afoot about punishing Lieberman, [John] Kerry said, 'I can't tell you what happens next year.'"

Didn't the Democratic Party lose its right to send Lieberman to his room without supper?

It's been speculated by campaign-watchers who don't want to accept that a Democrat can support the war that Lieberman's stumping for McCain is all about Obama having backed Ned Lamont, the anti-war standard-bearer who thought he could come to Connecticut Democrats' rescue but instead took a mighty blow from Independent Joe. It's conveniently overlooked that Lieberman is instead following his brain and his conscience on foreign policy at one of the most crucial junctures in American history, and from this comes his endorsement.

Lieberman's experience -- from his 2006 comeback to Sunday's skewed wire coverage of his campaign activities -- has exposed a disturbing trend in American politics today: Dissent will not be tolerated.

It seems that the GOP has thankfully pulled itself back from the brink of that abyss, where it teetered during the early primaries in the days when McCain was equated with Satan and those pundits who dared to tout his candidacy were routinely pummeled for supposedly betraying conservative ideals. And hopefully Lieberman will be invited to the podium of the convention, no matter which party he's caucusing with at the time.

Lieberman will continue to back McCain. The media will continue to accuse the senator of betraying the party that hung him out to dry. His smiling mug may appear on a dartboard or two at the DNC.

And the Democratic Party will likely never realize the gravity of the damage that its shunning of Lieberman did to the principles of free thought and conscience -- instead of embracing an agenda in blind lockstep.