Ed Driscoll

Lieberman: "A Tough Man To Love"

Immediately preceding a long, detailed post about key documents of the Saddam Hussein regime that the Pentagon refuses to release to the Weekly Standard, Ed Morrissey has some thoughts on Joe Lieberman, currently a “new prize to be claimed — or shunned” in Washington, as Ed describes him:

When [Democrat Congressman Jack Murtha] went specific, the Republicans finally took the initiative and forced a vote in the House on immediate withdrawal. Murtha complained that he didn’t mean “immediate” — at least at that time — but the logistics of disengaging 150,000 troops on active missions and evacuating them and their equipment and support from the theater of battle would take at least that long under the most expedited of schedules. That folly resulted in the abandonment of Murtha and the notion of retreat on a devastating 403-3 vote, or at least so we thought. We thought the Democratic leadership would finally act responsibly out of sheer survival instinct, but instead they became more unhinged — forcing voices of reason within their own ranks to publicly oppose the defeatism they espouse so passionately.

That brings us to Joe Lieberman, a tough man to love. He has long been a voice of conscience in the Democratic Party. He was the first to officially denounce Bill Clinton’s activities with Monica Lewinsky, making his stinging rebuke on the Senate floor while still speaking against impeachment. That led to his partnership with Al Gore for the 2000 election, and the resulting mess when Gore tried to sue his way into the White House. (Yes, it started with an Al Gore lawsuit because he wanted to change the rules for recounts; you can look it up. They lost the initial lawsuit, too.) Instead of acting as a conscience, Lieberman silently assented to this bald attempt to take through the courts what the Democrats failed to take at the polling stations, a verdict eventually reached in three separate recounts, the last conducted by the media themselves.

How did the Democrats repay Lieberman for his loyalty? They shunned him in 2004, when he should have been the leading candidate for the presidency. He waited too long, perhaps, to announce his candidacy, wanting to give Gore another shot at running so he could endorse the former VP. Gore then shivved Lieberman by endorsing Howard Dean instead of his own former running mate — just three weeks before Dean’s campaign completely collapsed. The Democrats could have waltzed into the White House on a Lieberman-led ticket, but instead chose John Kerry and ignominious defeat at the hands of their most hated enemy.

One has to wonder why, under the circumstances, Lieberman hasn’t left the party that so obviously has left him. His dogged loyalty probably explains that, and that makes his latest stand all the more remarkable. Lieberman is no babe in the political woods; he understands perfectly what his statements did to the Democrats. Instead of openly wondering what motivated Lieberman to take this kind of action, Reid and other Democrats in party leadership should ask themselves why they made it necessary for him to do so.

In the meantime, the Bush administration should continue to show Lieberman respect — not just as an ally on Iraq war strategy, but also the respect due an honorable and formidable political opponent. Lieberman is not and will not be a Republican if he hasn’t switched by now, and the GOP should remember that.

I’m not sure if Ed’s right that “The Democrats could have waltzed into the White House on a Lieberman-led ticket”–it still would have been a brutal, bruising battle, but it would have been a fought against a very different media landscape. For one, the MSM would have had to tone down their relentless assault in 2004 on progress in Iraq, as it would have affected both candidates. But on the other side of the equation, there would have been no Swift Vets to sink Lieberman, either.

But hey, what-ifs are certainly fun to argue.