HOLY JOE


I am exasperated by no high-profile Democratic politician more than I am by Joe Lieberman.

Before anyone deigns to slug a politician as “liberal” or “conservative,” the slinger might actually want to familiarize himself with the politician’s voting records and interest group’s ratings. I have located a website that has Senator Lieberman’s voting records:

and interest group ratings:

http://www.vote-smart.org/voting_category.php?can_id=S0141103

http://www.vote-smart.org/issue_rating_category.php?can_id=S0141103

A very crude summary of these pages:

2005 According to the National Journal – Composite Liberal Score‘s calculations, in 2005, Senator Lieberman voted more liberal on economic, defense and foreign policy issues than 66 percent of the Senators.
2005 According to the National Journal – Liberal on Social Policy‘s calculations, in 2005, Senator Lieberman voted more liberal on social policy issues than 65 percent of the Senators.
2005 According to the National Journal – Composite Conservative Score‘s calculations, in 2005, Senator Lieberman voted more conservative on economic, defense and foreign policy issues than 34 percent of the Senators.
2005 According to the National Journal – Liberal on Foreign Policy‘s calculations, in 2005, Senator Lieberman voted more liberal on foreign policy issues than 54 percent of the Senators.
2005 According to the National Journal – Conservative on Economic Policy calculations, in 2005 Senator Lieberman voted more conservative on economic policy issues than 25 percent of Senators.
2005 According to the National Journal – Conservative on Foreign Policy‘s calculations, in 2005, Senator Lieberman voted more conservative on foreign policy issues than 45 percent of the Senators.
2005 According to the National Journal – Liberal on Economic Policy‘s calculations, in 2005, Senator Lieberman voted more liberal on economic policy issues than 74 percent of the Senators.
2005 According to the National Journal – Conservative on Social Policy‘s calculations, in 2005, Senator Lieberman voted more conservative on social policy issues than 29 percent of the Senators.

What does this show? That overall, Lieberman is left of center (a moderate-to-conservative Democrat), and that on foreign policy issues, he is more conservative than pretty much anyone in his party (to paraphrase Spock in Star Trek II, “that would explain a great many things.”)

Lieberman is up for re-election this November (in 2000, he wisely decided to run for re-election for the Senate at the same time he ran for Vice-President), and is facing a fierce primary challenge from Ned Lamont. Lamont’s campaign strategy has been a simple, effective one: he has chosen to play up Lieberman’s support of the Iraq war, his feeling up (and being felt up) by President Bush, and anything else that might suggest in voters’ minds the notion that Lieberman and Bush are birds of a feather. Lamont has, in short, decided to run against George Bush, and, in a span of several months, the little-known Lamont has, in some polls, recently taken the lead against the junior senator (with 18 years of service) from Connecticut.

Of course, Lieberman resents being compared with Bush (if only Lieberman made it his business to avoid any more photo-ops with the man!), and has implored Lamont to run against Lieberman and his record, not against George Bush. Such a plea comes from a candidate who smells trouble in the air; indeed, Lieberman has already announced that if he loses the primary, he will run for the Senate as an “Independent Democrat,” whatever that means. Whether he could defeat the Republican candidate, whomever that will be, if he runs on this ticket, is not clear; the contest could shape up like the 1912 Taft-Roosevelt-Wilson election, with Lieberman as Roosevelt and the Republican as Wilson.

So, what does one make of that voting record, by the way? Well, Lieberman has taken some stances on certain issues – stances that I do not feel comfortable with. He seems to support school vouchers for the sake of supporting them, and would support the current regime’s censorship of “violence” in video games and television. While his motives for these positions may be genuine (even if the genuineness stems from his privileged social class and moral aloofness), I don’t believe Lieberman is solicitous enough of the First Amendment. Or of the Second, for that matter. I think he is also subtly (and sometimes none-too) patronizing of women, in terms of what he believes about their abilities, and what their rights should be. I cannot quite articulate why I feel this way; reading between the lines sometimes make you see (or makes you think you see) things that cannot come into the light of description. As far as Lieberman’s status as an Orthodox Jew, and his frequent usage of the word “God” during the 2000 campaign season, Americans supposedly like religious candidates who give the impression of taking their religion sincerely and seriously. Lieberman comes off many times as pious (if not religiously pious per se), but I do not believe that he invokes God flippantly, for effect, to polarize, or to, as Sandra Day O’Connor said, disfavor certain members of the political community, as George Bush does, and as George HW Bush and Ronald Raygun did.

The fact that a ticket whose Vice-Presidential candidate was Jewish received more votes than a Waspier than a hornet’s nest ticket did in 2000 – and the fact that the former ticket in fact won the decisive state – is a sign of tremendous progress in the nation. In 2004, Lieberman ran for President and got clobbered in the primaries. Some say this was because he is simply not very animated; his wit is too dry, his manner too inaccessible. Some (including me) say while this is true, to a degree, he will, in a nutshell, never be President for the simple reason that he is Jewish, and the 2004 primary results were a reflection of the supposedly tolerant Democratic party’s intolerant attitude towards Jewish candidates (although Republicans, of course, still are more intolerant on this score; indeed, no non-male WASP has EVER been on a Republican presidential ticket).

So what do I think of Lieberman? He’s one of those people upon which I can’t render an easy verdict. I have grave misgivings about his position on Iraq – not so much because of what that position is (pro-war), but because he seems to merely function as a cheerleader – telling us to support the President and to resist the call to armlessness of the opposition – without offering any thoughts, constructive criticisms, compliments, whatever, on this conflict. He has staked out a rather safe position. Perhaps this is intentional: should he articulate his pro-war stance in greater detail, one side or the other will hate him more, and right now, he is in the unique, and uniquely bad position, of being unable to afford to be perceived as too far to the left (why vote for him when Lamont is already perceived as the real deal on that score) or as too far to the right (in which case he has the TR problem).

I agree with his position on most social and ecomonic issues generally, but what concerns me most about him is his utter silence in the face of George Bush’s constitutional power grab. To me, a truly principled war supporter would not be afraid to, while supporting Bush to the extent that he is “conducting that war,” speak out against how he has used that war to skid-mark the Constitution (note that taking these stances does not necessarily make one truly principled; these stances are necessary, but not sufficient; I am not sure if there is such a thing as a “truly principled” war supporter, or if there is such a thing as a “truly principled” opponent, because the war is more of a Roscharch test than any war before it). Does this silence (a silence that stands out within the party) reflect just silence, or is Lieberman really trying to buddy up with the Grand Dumb-Ba? And if he is, why? Why would he want to do this with someone whom he ran against six years ago? What’s in it for Lieberman? Bush won’t be President for much longer, and Lieberman must know he can never get the job himself.

The screechers on the left have a name for Lieberman that is self-explanatory: “Holy Joe”

Perhaps they, instead of cheaply ridiculing him, and Rethugs, instead of supporting him simply because of that ridicule, should ask, “Holy Joe, Holy Joe. What gives?”


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