In my last column, I wrote of the recent right-wing infatuation with Hillary Clinton, dubbed “the Lieberman of the Democratic party” by National Review‘s Rich Lowry. Now let’s take a look at the qualities in Lieberman himself that our pundits so admire.
Though he ran as an “independent Democrat” and bragged of his deep connection to traditional Democratic interest groups, Lieberman has finally come out of his private closet as a right-wing Republican, not merely endorsing John McCain for President but embracing virtually every accusation against Barack Obama that Republican operatives can manufacture.
Roll the clock back to 2006, when the punditocracy saw apocalypse in Lieberman’s impending primary defeat. Pundit “dean” David Broder bemoaned the “terrible tug” of a Ned Lamont victory. Slate‘s Jacob Weisberg complained that “the 2006 Connecticut primary points to the growing influence within the party of leftists unmoved by the fight against global jihad.” Martin Peretz denounced the “thought-enforcers of the left,” and Lanny Davis detected evidence of “liberal McCarthyism.” These were polite ripostes compared with those heard on cable news, however, where CNN anchor Chuck Roberts termed Lamont “the Al Qaeda candidate” (before apologizing) and Fox’s John Gibson explained, “The Khmer Rouge wing of the Democratic Party is making a bid for a complete takeover.” And yet even these comments somehow paled in comparison with the complaints of The New Republic‘s Jonathan Chait, who decried the “pack of crazed, ignorant ideological cannibals”–a description he attributed to “Lieberman’s Allies”–“fanatics” operating on the basis of a “paranoid, Manichean worldview brimming with humorless rage”–a characterization he embraced as his own.
Lieberman’s blinkered critique of the Democrats–offered in a speech at a dinner for Commentary magazine and published in op-ed form in the Wall Street Journal–is a stale, forty-year-old whine that could have been written by any member of the extended Kristol/Podhoretz mishpocheh with nary a comma moved. More emotive than historical, it oversimplifies and mischaracterizes the past fifty years of US foreign policy to a degree that might have impressed Soviet ideologist Mikhail Suslov. Lieberman, for instance, seems not to know that Franklin Roosevelt allied himself with the Soviet Union, or that John F. Kennedy never committed to full-scale war in Vietnam. Meanwhile, he complains, Obama has “embraced our worst enemies.”