Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Why Lieberman deserved to lose

An interesting race is shaping up in Connecticut, with Joe Lieberman recovering from his initial stunning loss to Ned Lamont, and now leading in the race to keep his seat, as an independent. Lieberman lost the Democratic primary to Lamont, and all the pundits made this out to be a single-issue loss, ie., a referendum on the war in Iraq. Whether it is Dick Cheney, claiming that the Democrats didn't “get” 9/11, or Lamont, campaigning almost entirely against the policy in Iraq, everyone focused on Lieberman's support of the war as his defining issue. For someone with his longevity in politics, that seems almost sad, but has it turned into his political reality.

That is too bad. Iraq is not, and should not be, the defining issue for anyone, not even for George Bush, though he seems determined to make it so. Ultimately, history will judge it as a tragic mistake, but it will also be seen as only one of many important mistakes, by many presidents, along the way to wherever it is we are headed. Yes, Lieberman's fate does seem to ride on this one issue, but, unfortunately, that has distracted us from the real reasons he no longer deserves our votes.

Of far more long-term importance than Iraq, is the fact that Lieberman also took sides with the regressive wing of the Christian "right" regarding the role of religiosity in politics. He began doing this during his run as the Democratic Vice Presidential candidate, and he continues to throw bones to the fundamentalists. No one minds that he takes his religion very seriously, but unfortunately, he debased himself, with his staged photo-ops at various Jewish holidays, and his obsequious pontificating about the role of religion in his political life. It was a blatant attempt to appease religious conservatives, and there is no indication he persuaded a single person to vote for him because of it.

The only thing most people remember about Lieberman is his cozying up to the President’s Iraq policy, and that is a problem, because in the long term it is the war between reason and unreason that is going to determine what becomes of us, not a pointless war in Iraq. Lieberman got a well deserved slap from the voters in Connecticut, but will probably win in November. He did at one time have a reasonable record as a centrist. The question is whether he is going to have the courage to stand up to his friends in the Administration on the really important issues, such as global climate change and science education in our schools. Don’t count on it.

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