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Book of Matthew: Where have you gone, Joe Lieberman?

Published: November 14, 2008
Section: Opinions

What do we do about Joe Lieberman?

It’s a question that has been hovering over the heads of the Democratic Party leadership for months. They’ve successfully avoided it for a while, instead focusing on more important campaign issues. But the campaign season is over, and the Lieberman question must be answered.

You see, Senator Lieberman is currently the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, a position he first attained back in 2001, when he was still a Democrat. But he isn’t a Democrat anymore. After losing the 2006 Connecticut Democratic primary, thanks to his unpopular pro-Iraq War stance, Lieberman ran as an independent in the general election and beat Democrat Ned Lamont. He then spent the next two years attacking any and all Democrats who opposed the Iraq War. He even endorsed John McCain for President in the recent election.

For this disloyalty, the Democratic Party leadership has considered stripping Lieberman of his Chairmanship. But the decision hasn’t been easy to make. Some Democrats hope Lieberman can be persuaded to side with them in the event of a Republican filibuster, therefore making it easier to achieve a 60-Senator cloture vote.

Personally, I don’t buy it. My short answer? Toss him.

It’s not that I have anything personal against the man. I used to like him, I really did. As an eleven-year-old watching the election of 2000–the first presidential election that paid I any attention to–I was all for the Gore/Lieberman ticket. After all, I was raised in a liberal, environmentalist, half-Jewish household. It was the perfect fit.

Don’t deny it, Democrats. You supported Lieberman as well. He and Al Gore were the intelligent, liberal alternatives to the Bush/Cheney machine (I want to say Bush/Cheney fiasco, but in 2000, we didn’t think things could get this bad).

Unfortunately, only one member of that Democratic ticket would go on to be an internationally acclaimed environmental activist. I’m not talking about Joe.

Many, even Democrats who oppose Lieberman, have said publicly that the Senator has a strong, progressive domestic policy record that helps to offset his right-wing foreign policy ideals. This is their one rationale for allowing him to keep any sort of power in the Senate. For a while, I believed this little nugget of conventional wisdom, but like most conventional wisdom, it just isn’t true. With just a little bit of digging through Lieberman’s recent speeches and voting record, I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s fallen off the deep end… and landed in Red America.

Here are a few examples:

As you should already know, Senator Lieberman is what we call a “war hawk.” He has publicly attempted to link Iraq to the terrorist attacks on 9/11, and still believes the US was right to invade Iraq. He is openly critical of his Senate colleagues (mostly Democrats) who call for an end to the war, and instead feels that we would be better off expanding the war into Iran and Syria.

But what you may not know is that Lieberman has also thrown his support behind many Republican economic ideas. He endorsed Senator McCain’s plan to give massive tax cuts to the wealthy, while simultaneously calling Senator Obama’s tax plan “socialist” or “Marxist.” He also called increased offshore oil drilling a “sensible” way to reduce gas prices, despite massive amounts of evidence to the contrary.

Even when it comes to privatizing Social Security–an idea so unpopular that it’s hard to find more than a short paragraph about it on Senator McCain’s own campaign website–Lieberman took the conservative route. As far back as May of 1998, he was telling reporters, “I think in the end that individual control of part of the retirement/Social Security funds has to happen.” And yes, he did defend Senator McCain’s privatization plan during this campaign.

Most interesting is Lieberman’s record as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs. Despite the growing list of wrongs committed by the Bush administration, Lieberman did not hold a single oversight hearing on the administration in 2007. This includes a refusal to investigate Bush’s slow response to Hurricane Katrina, or the Blackwater incident in Iraq. In fact, in Lieberman’s own words, “We don’t like investigating … just to see who is at fault.”

I have news for you, Senator Reid. It is not a good bargain if you give a Republican-leaning, independent Senator a powerful chairmanship and hope that he will join your cause. All you will do is hand over power to the GOP that should be yours.

So toss Joe Lieberman. As far as you can throw him.