I can't say I much care for Joe Lieberman's foreign policy views. He would, by all appearances, gladly court global war and human catastrophe on an historic scale in the pursuit of his support for Israel. He is hostile to any attempt to reach out diplomatically or economically to the Palestinians, whose very existence he questions. He thinks, for reasons that elude me, that escalation of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would further Israel's interests, and he advocates attacking Iran for the same reason, although what would happen next if the US attacked Iran is anybody's nightmare: it would be a classic instance of the dog catching the car. He is an Israeli defense hawk more belligerent than majority public opinion in Israel itself, sitting in the United States Senate. And he pursues this apocalyptic agenda at the expense of any other political interests he may have: amazingly enough, this is someone who votes with the Democrats 90 percent of the time. You read that right.
Which brings me to my reason for discussing him today: you've got to love the audacious political career that this man has charted for himself. He was Al Gore's vice-presidential candidate in 2000, the first Jew on a national ticket (and a practicing Orthodox Jew at that). In that election, Lieberman's credentials as a foreign policy hawk and (remember?) an avatar of "values" were considered to be an asset to the ticket. And of course he was very nearly elected. Then, by 2006, anti-war sentiment in the Democratic Party had built up such a head of steam that Lieberman lost the Connecticut Democratic primary for nomination to the Senate to the anti-war candidate Ned Lamont. At that point, politics being what it is, his old cronies (ie Chris Dodd) went over to campaigning against him. But wait: the Republican candidate was a disaster, and the meltdown of that campaign freed up enough conservative voters that Lieberman was elected as an independent. That was, I thought, tip-your-hat sort of stuff: now Lieberman could do anything he wanted, and that included continuing to caucus with the Democrats. If that were the end of the story it would be a great story.
But it goes on! Lieberman, caucusing with the Democrats and continuing to vote with the Democratics on most Senate votes, went out on the stump for McCain in the 2008 election. He didn't just say "I support McCain." He traveled around at McCain's elbow for months, whispering handler's instructions in his ear, and the final audacity was to go to the GOP convention in Minneapolis and address the delegates. At which point many Democrats said OK, you've pushed us too far, you're out. But wait: the Dems didn't get the 60-seat majority they needed to have a veto-proof Senate (and there will be battling over filibusters as well). So Lieberman goes on. Harry Reid talked tough about throwing him out as Homeland Security chairman, but when their post-election meeting finally came it was Lieberman who was calling the shots, walking away from the meeting saying that the Majority Leader's propositions were "unacceptable." And there we sit. After all, Lieberman is an independent, and not only that but it was the Party, not him, that declined to put him forward as the Democrat senator from Connecticut. He asked for the nomination.
No, I don't like a messianic Middle East hawk. Don't like that one bit. But the career? Brilliant. At some point you've just got to hand it to the guy.