I have been reading the material of both sides of the debate over the primary battle between Joe Lieberman and Ned Lemont. As someone that worked at the DLC, I should be outraged that leftie groups like Moveon.org and DFA are pushing for the "purge" of Joe. Yet I would like to see Joe go, and almost none of it has to do with reasons either side is pushing.
The whole debate is juvinile, or should I say Joe-vinile.
To sum my view in seven words: Joe is a politican with bad instincts. That is my main problem with him. Everything he supports turns to crap and Democrats would be well advised to treat him as another haplessly comic character, George Costanza: do the exact opposite of what Joe would do or suggest. Having him in the Senate as a national figure creates the temptation for Democrats to listen to him and shot themselves in the foot again in 2006 and 2008.
Let me give you some examples (besides the obvious Iraq war one): the Department of Homeland Security. It was Joe's idea that Senate Democrats, then in the 50-1-49 majority, support a Department of Homeland Security. The idea was that the next 9/11 would be averted if we put all security type agencies under one roof who reported to the president at a cabinet level. But the idea really was, let's go to the right of Bush on terrorism and security and show him Democrats can be trusted with national security. Initially it worked, for months, Bush said no department or cabinet level position was necessary, wishing to avoid Congressional supervision.
Then Bush figured out that DHS could be used AGAINST the Democrats, and went further to the right than Lieberman proposed: no unions for DHS employees, all would be at will. Of course, Democrats balked; that was what Bush was counting on. He then claimed that moderate Democrats couldn't be trusted with national security because they were putting Big Labor ahead of those sacred swing voters.
It worked, every moderate Democrat lost except Mary Landrieu (who ran opposite of Joe's free trade advice), and Democrats lost control of the Senate. When Joe suggested going to the right of Bush on Iran, again it seems like Iraq and DHS all over again.
Joe's political strategy might have worked in 1960, when John Kennedy ran to the right on security to an unprepared Nixon ("missle gap"), but it won't work on the modern GOP. They learned that lesson 46 years ago Joe.
Same goes for big bills like the Cap and Trade Carbon Emissions bill. It is a pretty decent idea, not perfect but certainly better than nothing. But the problem is, Joe keeps working with John McCain on such big bills in a way that McCain gets all the credit for "crossing the alise" while Lieberman gets none of it.
Joe has been unwittingly helped McCain burnish his raging moderate reputation to disguise his raging conservative views on just about everything else. Again Joe is enabling Republicans to beat Democrats by propping up John McCain for 2008. Joe is not a statesman who gets things done, or a well-respected senator. He is a tool; a usefull well-meaning fool Republicans use. Ted Kennedy, like him or not, is a statesman. He has more legislation under his belt that actually has done great things for American than any other politican alive in America today. He is like Henry Clay good at getting his finger in the pie and making sure he gets the most out of his name being on there.
Joe has been against regulations and financial reporting of companies until Enron broke, and then he ran to the microphone, causing harm to the American worker and 401k holder while weakening Democrats who disagreed with him by calling them anti-corporatists.
He told Democrats not to attack Bush when George W. started his downward spiral in the polls. He fudged on Social Security while other Democrats stood down the swaggering president. He fudged on conservative judges because he thought Democrats would look to shrill complaining about this radicals. He is part of the "please let's not talk about Iraq!" coalition of consultants and pundits in the Democratic Party who think that "Kitchen Table Issues" will carry the day if we just ignore the number 1 issue on American's minds.
I don't want to get rid of Lieberman because he talks within GOP talking points, or he was the first to applaud Bush, or that he kissed Bush on the cheek, or even the War. I hope that Connecticut primary voters ditch Joe because his very presence in the cloakrooms, strategy sessions, talk shows, articles, etc. are a cancer on the Democratic Party's hope for reclaiming governing power.
Russ Feingold is right that Democrats need to stand for something. We agree 80-90% on what that something is. So let's go out and stick to it. And come to some sort of agreement on how to talk about Iraq for real. And keep Joe out of the room, he's bad for business.