January 03, 2013
When 2013 gets you down, find a quiet room, close your eyes, and
whisper: Joseph I. Lieberman is no longer
a U.S. Senator.
As a youth, Joe developed
two great loves: 1) “public service” and 2) himself. In his reality, of course,
the two quickly became one. After earning undergrad and law degrees from Yale, and
well before his 30th birthday, Lieberman joined the Connecticut legislature. In the 1980s, he
set the standard for the hyperactive attorney
generalship that plagues many states today. At 46, he finally landed in Washington, and enthusiastically
took his public-nuisancing national.
To the diminutive solon, no corner of American life was immune
from federal regulation, prohibition, or “incentivization.” Lieberman believed he could do a better job
protecting children from offensive television programs, films, and videogames
than parents. He wanted electricity to be generated at politically correct
power plants. He warned his countrymen that the “lawncare-chemical problem is a
ticking public-health time bomb.” He considered himself qualified to determine
miles-per-gallon rates for automobiles.
But the sine qua non of Lieberman’s D.C. career was
the global crusade to promote “the values of freedom and justice and
opportunity,” which “are universal and eternal values … right and true not only
for us in our own time, but for all people in every time.”
As was so
often the case with the most odious fedpol of the last quarter-century,
Lieberman’s high-horse bluster had replaced an earlier, less expedient posture.
In the ‘60s, education and family deferments helped him escape Indochina’s
slaughterhouse. His 1970 arms-control book, The Scorpion and the Tarantula, got its title from a historian who
wrote that the U.S.-U.S.S.R. standoff was “like the case of the scorpion and
the tarantula in the bottle, and we may properly feel sorry for both parties.”
later, running for the U.S. House of Representatives, Lieberman had morphed
into a zealous Cold Warrior. In a debate, he grilled the Communist Party’s
nominee “about the Polish workers’ struggle,” asking whether it represented “a
failure of communism in Eastern Europe to
benefit the very people for which it presumably took power.” (Multiple terms in
Connecticut’s Senate had surely prompted Lieberman’s
awareness that an enormous number of “defense” dollars made their way to the submarines, helicopters, and fighter engines manufactured in the Nutmeg State.)
But 1980 brought
disappointment for Democrats, and Lieberman would have to wait eight years for a
trip to Washington.
He rapidly compensated for lost time. Panama,
Iraq, the Balkans, Afghanistan, Libya
-- as writer George Szamuely put it, the senator never encountered “a United States
military intervention that he was not willing to fund to the hilt or to pop on The NewsHour
with Jim Lehrer to defend with his usual sanctimony.”
Conservatives once hewed to the principle
that militarism, in Derek’s
Leebaert’s phrase, is “the idealization of a determinedly backward stage of
life.” But the modern right, in the thrall of bloodlusting neocons, swooned
over Lieberman’s unfailing commitment to chickenhawkery. The American Conservative Union assigns him
a lifetime score of 16 -- that’s on a 0-to-100 scale -- but “The Conscience of
the Senate” was habitually eager to go to war, so all was forgiven.
unlike those Democratic perverts from places like Hollywood
wasn’t the senator an Orthodox Jew? Not exactly. In 2000, social conservative Don Feder noted that while
Lieberman “may keep kosher and observe the Sabbath, in the political realm, [he]
has the same allegiance to Torah values that Ted Kennedy has to Catholicism.” (In
a 2003 address, The Conscience of the Senate praised NARAL Pro-Choice America’s
“principled and effective advocacy over all these years in support of American
the moral tenets of Orthodox Judaism wasn’t a priority for the twice-married
Lieberman, but he tirelessly peddled the claptrap that the U.S. cannot be safe
unless the Jewish State’s enemies
are vanquished. In his shilling for Israel -- a country the senator
wasn’t born in, and is unlikely to immigrate to -- no tactic stooped too low. As
Greenwald observed in 2010, led by Lieberman, “neocons have repeatedly
shown their willingness to cynically exploit extremist Christian Rapture dogma
for greater American fealty towards Israeli actions.”
has been liberated from the man Chris Matthews once called “the horniest, most
ambitious politician I have ever seen in my life.” It’s wonderful news in a
year that promises little progress in Washington.
Savor Lieberman’s departure -- and be on guard against those
who aspire to his level of preening priggishness.
D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.
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