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Obama's First Big Mistake on the Job: Rescuing Sen. Joe Lieberman
By Dave Lindorff
The word is that Barack Obama, in keeping with his promise of a new post-Bush/Cheney era of “civility in government,” is telling Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid not to eject the treacherous Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) from the Democratic caucus.
This is a terrible mistake. Joe Lieberman is a wretched example of a man without principle—a back-stabbing slimeball of a politician whose only allegience, apparently, besides to himself, is to Israel.
Now I don’t want anyone to think I’m some rabid anti-semite. My wife and kids are Jewish, we have good friends who are Israeli, and no, I don’t think the Jews run the media or the country. I do, however, think that Joe Lieberman thinks more about what, in his warped and shriveled worldview, is good for Israel, than about what is good for America.
This senator from my childhood state of Connecticut, who back in 2000 ran as a standard-bearer of the Democratic Party as Al Gore’s running mate, since 9-11 has been a warmonger of the first order, even joining the right-wing Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) in trying to pass a resolution in the senate last year which, had it made it through as he originally worded it, would have effectively enabled—even invited--George Bush to attack Iran at will as a part of Bush’s megalomaniacal global “War” on Terror.
It is Lieberman’s obsession with having the US obliterate first Iraq and now Iran, with nukes if need be, that led him to abandon his party and become a leading supporter and apoligist for George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, and later to become a key endorser of Sen. John “Bomb-bomb-bomb-bomb-Iran” McCain.
Lieberman also signed on enthusiastically to the worst excesses of Bush’s and Cheney’s eight-year-long assault on the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and International Law. As head of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Lieberman became the leading advocate of fascist policies in the Senate, rivaled only by such ranting Republican proto-fascists as Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) and Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN). It was Lieberman who at least initially enthusiastically backed Attorney General John Ashcroft’s mad proposal (thankfully never implemented) to establish an Operation TIPS (for Terrorist Information and Prevention Service) program that would have recruited millions of Americans to spy on their neighbors and co-workers, replicating the dreaded Stasi of Communist East Germany. Only after libertarian-minded Republicans like former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) came out strongly against the scheme did Lieberman have second thoughts, Initially, in fact, Lieberman had personally, in his role as chair, blocked efforts by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to delete funding for Operation TIPS from a Homeland Security Department funding bill before his committee.
The Democrats, who already are assured of 56 solid seats in their caucus in the next Senate, with a chance at a couple more when all the 2004 Election races are settled and runoffs completed, don’t need a weasel like Lieberman mucking up their ranks. If they need four more votes to kill some Republican filibusters, they have Republicans they can turn to, or cajole. If Barack Obama is smart (and he certainly is that), he can also add a few—perhaps even four—Democrats to Senate ranks by naming as many Republican senators as he needs to replace to cabinet posts. As long as he names people like Sens. Susan Collins or Olympia Snowe of Maine, or Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who represent states with Democratic governors, those governors will be able to appoint, as replacements, Democratic senators.
The other reason to shun Lieberman, and to cast him into the legislative purgatory he so richly deserves, is that it would be an object lesson to other potential Iagos in the party’s legislative ranks that such treachery will not be tolerated. What, after all, is the point of having a party at all, if its members can be as back-stabbing as Lieberman and get away with it?
It would be a good lesson to the Democrats of the state of Connecticut, too, who voted in a Democratic primary two years ago to oust Lieberman as their candidate for re-election, but who then turned around and joined Republicans in re-electing him when he ran as an independent against a Republican challenger and against Ned Lamont, the Democrat who had bested him in the primary. This was treachery by a class of Democrats in the state of Connecticut that should also not go unpunished. Connecticut voters should no longer have the benefit of a powerful senator with seniority when that senator has so betrayed his party.
Let Lieberman go over to the Republicans hat in hand. Let him squirm as the Christian fundamentalists among them talk in tongues and as others of them mutter their anti-semitic obscenities behind his back. Let this one-time self-described advocate of civil rights blush in shame as his new colleagues crack their racist jokes about the new president in the lilly-white Republican caucus room.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe in redemption as much as the next atheist. I’d be perfectly happy to see Joey Lieberman back in the Democratic caucus, but first he should be made to make a full public apology both to Obama and to the millions of Democrats who elected the nation’s first black president, as well as to the Democrats of his home state of Connecticut, whose resounding 61-38% vote for Obama was the biggest repudiation of Lieberman of all. That 38 percent tally is the one he should have gotten when he ran for re-election last time. It’s probably higher than he’d get if he ran today in Connecticut against Lamont or any other Democrat.
DAVE LINDORFF, a Connecticut native, is now a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback edition). His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net