Is Lieberman Really a Tragic Figure?
by Matt Stoller, Mon Jul 31, 2006 at 05:20:59 AM EDT
Josh Marshall asks an interesting question that I don't fully understand.
I'm fascinated by it on a personal level -- or at the level where personalities and character intersect with the subterranean tides of politics. What happened to this guy? No one seems to have had any grasp of the brittleness of his hold on the support of his constituents. Was it the sting of his rejection in 2004? The possibility of getting the Sec Def nod?
Josh Marshall keeps talking about how much he likes Lieberman, what a nice guy he is and was, and how loved he was. The narrative seems to be that this guy fell from grace, a wonderful and brilliant man beloved by all who changed recently and suddenly, becoming out of touch and angry. I've heard it said that he is by far our smartest Senator, traditionally with the best and most loyal staff on the Hill.
Maybe it's because I'm inexperienced in politics, but I don't get this at all. Lieberman's justification of torture is just a flashing red light that this guy has no moral center. But Josh isn't the only one talking as if Lieberman were once Ghandi; it's a trend among men I know that are in their thirties or above, and had a strong connection to the political establishment prior to 2001.
To me, Lieberman's vicious and reactionary nature seems quite clear and consistent. Everything from his right-wing culture warring against Hollywood to his sandbagging of Clinton's health care initiative in 1994 to his fights with Arthur Levitt at the SEC to ensure that accounting loopholes could remain to his preening about Lewinsky to his undermining of Gore in 2000 indicate that he was never the stalwart and principled man his supporters imagine. I hated each of these events separately, though I never put them together until 2001, when I really started paying attention to politics. I just sort of thought, even as a kid, who are those putzes on TV grilling carnival freak Dee Snyder? I hated the culture war nonsense, I always thought it was fake pandering.
The thing is, there are too many folks I respect who say he was once a great and likeable man to just discount these opinions. What's going on here? I'm honestly curious. Why was Lieberman ever considered a good man? Was it just that our moral universe is totally different now because of Bush's extremism? If you have insight on this, please let me know.