Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Lieberman: It's About the Battle, Not the War

I've been reading on-line and mainstream discussions about the rise of Ned Lamont and attempts to explain (or explain away) the anger towards Joe Lieberman and it strikes me that nowhere have I seen someone who quite gets it right.

The usual explanation from the pro-Joe crowd is that those voicing opposition to Lieberman are just trying to punish him for supporting the war and going easy on (read: kissing the boots of) Bush. The Joe's-Got-To-Go faction retorts that the opposition runs deeper and that the basis is to be found in issues like Lieberman's support of the bankruptcy bill and his refusing to stand up and oppose the cloture vote on Alito. But I don't think either of these accounts really nails it.

Most of the nation was introduced to Lieberman during the Clinton impeachment silliness. He held himself up as the orthodox defender of morality. He was willing to seemingly put politics aside and voice moral disapproval towards his own friend and DLC political brother -- a disapproval that many of us felt too, but on a certain level could not fully voice because we knew that the whole nonsense was not really separable from politics.

This, of course, is why he was selected by Gore for the VP spot in the Gore campaign's boneheaded attempt to run as far away as he could from all things Clinton and still be a Democrat. In the running mate role -- usually reserved for a hatchet man -- Lieberman was a puppy dog. "Ok," we thought, "it's an interesting move to contrast the nice guy Lieberman with the big, bad Cheney and show that big time Dems are as sick of politics as usual as the people are." It worked and it didn't.

Then came the Bush administration and the marginalization of all things progressive (moderate, scientific, environmental,...) The attack on all dissent during the first term, especially during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, was stunning. It was not opposition we found, but oppression. Rank and file Democrats were angry, not only about the war but about being told that we are not real Americans, that we are traitors who hate the country they love, and that we should sit down and shut the hell up. We were getting the crap knocked out of us in a political bar fight...and we were pissed.

We needed champions, we needed our big guys to stand up, take, and throw some punches with us. Kucinich was willing to run into the fight, but he was too scrawny to do much. Then there was Howard Dean who walked right up to the biggest thug in the room and poked him right in the eye. Whether you thought he was electable or not, the fact that he was unafraid to get hit in the face and keep on fighting made him a hero.

John Kerry was being Bush-light, but Lieberman was being Bush's heavy. After being a lapdog in the last go-round, inexplicably he turned into a pitbull -- he went light on Cheney, the guy who was leading the charge against us, and then he was backstabbing Dean, the guy who was standing up for us. Even if you didn't support Dean, it was clear that Lieberman was echoing the STFU that was getting under our skin. Not only was he not there to stand with us in our time of need, but like Squealer in Animal Farm, he was trying to sweet talk us into surrendering all resistance to the oppressive authority of President Napoleon.

It was the disjointed images of the self-righteous moral authority and defender of civil discourse in 2000 juxtaposed with the nasty, self-righteous turncoat of 2004 that caused the anger. It isn't that Joe supports the war -- lots of powerful Dems like Daschle, Clinton, and Biden were there too -- it's that when we were trying to stand up and be heard in the run-up to Iraq, the Daschles, Clintons and Bidens were lying around being jellyfish, Lieberman was actively undermining us appearing on FOX News and other mainstream outlets allowing all of the horrible excesses of this administration run amok to be cast as "bipartisan." It isn't the war, it's what happened when we needed our big guns before the war, and Lieberman, our former VP candidate and therefore one of our biggest guns, fragged us in the heat of battle.