Stuck in the middle with Joe

by Beacon Staff • September 20, 2006

If one needs a reminder of how warped and meaningless today's political language tends to be, look no further than the Connecticut Senate race, where Democrat Joe Lieberman has fallen so far beneath contempt that you need to go deep-sea drilling just to find his last shred of credibility.

Lieberman, who was already defeated once by Connecticut Democrats in an August primary, has decided to run again, this time as an Independent.

Somehow, Lieberman's supporters-mostly Republican hawks-have created a parallel universe where the senator is a measured, pragmatic "centrist" who, unlike the rest of the world's polarized zealots, looks to both sides of the political spectrum for answers.

Inside this parallel universe Ned Lamont is a fringe leftist whose victory, if you believe the rhetoric of our vice president, will appease "al-Qaida types."

"I call him Nedsama bin Lamont," quipped Stephen Colbert, the best satirist of our time.

There can be a maddening level of sanctimony among self-identified "centrists." They paint themselves as lonely voices of reason in a world full of divisive political thinkers who are incapable of taking a measured look at anything.

These moderate voices, it is often said, are capable of seeing past the ideological blinders that keep people like Ned Lamont from seeing the screen from the pixels.

This rhetoric is particularly egregious when it comes from Joe Lieberman, who does not actually represent the political center of America at all.

Was Lieberman representing moderates when he scolded fellow Democrats for criticizing the president? "In matters of war, we undermine presidential credibility at our nation's peril," he said.

Is it politically moderate to not only vote for, but to co-sponsor legislation that gives a president power to wage pre-emptive war at his own discretion, as Lieberman did in 2002?

Is it moderate to lose a primary and then decide to run again? Or for a "Democrat" to accept money from Republicans, as Lieberman has done, according to The Washington Times.

The answer is, of course, no-these actions are actually quite radical.

Moderates do not get verbal accolades from radical conservatives such as: Sean Hannity ("I'm thinking 'Hannity Conservatives for Lieberman'"), Ann Coulter ("I think he should come all the way and become a Republican"), Michelle Malkin ("one Democrat still stands by his vote on the war") and Rush Limbaugh ("the lone voice of sanity in that party when it comes to the war").

But much of the media perpetuates this myth of moderation. Consider Anderson Cooper's question on a panel discussion on CNN following Lieberman's Aug. 8th primary defeat. "How do Democrats try to bring more people into the political tent and win national elections if the candidates who are trying to do that, are trying to sort of be more moderate, can't get past the primaries?"

Cooper simply starts with the premise that Lieberman is moderate, which is typical. Virtually every pundit and talk show host lazily refers to Lieberman as a centrist and Lamont a member of the hard left, despite evidence to the contrary.

While Lamont's candidacy is a jolt to our electoral system, in terms of policy, he is by no means a radical.

He supports universal health care, which according to the latest New York Times poll, is in line with most Americans. He is pro-choice, and according to the latest CNN poll, 74 percent of Americans favor legalized abortions. He has unambiguous support for Israel, as virtually all Senate Democrats do.

As for Iraq, Lamont's desire to start withdrawing troops from Iraq soon-which more than any other issue is used to paint him as a radical-is actually what most Americans believe.

In fact, according to Zogby International, 72 percent of U.S. troops said we should pull out within in a year. Are Lamont's opponents willing to accuse 72 percent of our troops of being "cut-and-run" fringe lefties?

The Washington Post endorsed Lieberman's decision to run as an Independent on Aug. 10, arguing, "compromise is not the equivalent of weakness," referring to Lieberman's "bipartisanship."

This is flawed logic. Compromise entails getting the other side to give something up-otherwise, it is merely capitulation. And Lieberman's capitulations have been complicit in enabling and maintaining the biggest foreign policy disaster since the Vietnam War.

Some argue that Lieberman is being purged from the party because he has dared to support the war and therefore has violated the anti-war orthodoxy of liberals. "What's happening to Lieberman," wrote New York Times columnist David Brooks, "can only be described as a liberal inquisition."

This is beyond absurd.

Anti-war Democrats in Congress have been a rare breed until recently. Contrary to the views of most Americans, most Democrats have been hesitant to call for a withdrawal of troops.

In June, when Sen. Russ Feingold and Sen. John Kerry introduced a bill to withdraw troops by July 1, 2007, only 12 Senate Democrats voted for it.

The argument that Lieberman is being purged because the Democrats are not ideologically inclusive enough is laughable. Ned Lamont is the one that represents a viewpoint ignored by Democrats in leadership positions.

Joe Lieberman is not a fearless renegade putting his country ahead of his party, nor is he a pragmatic centrist who sees past partisanship.

He is a man who has allied with conservatives at the worst possible time-on Terry Schiavo, on Dick Cheney's energy bill, on emergency contraception, on illegal wiretapping-and now he is desperately trying to hold on to power.

The era of pseudo-centrism-of Joe Lieberalism-is over. Americans are fed up with incumbents on both parties who do not represent the interests of the people.

Lieberman was unable to figure this out after one election loss. Maybe he will figure out when he loses, again, this November.

But it doesn't matter if Lieberman learns this lesson. What matters most is that the people already have.