It is very important that Joe Lieberman was defeated in the Democratic primary in Connecticut on Tuesday, for the following reasons.
First of all, the man was brain dead on the Iraq issue. He seems seriously to have believed that the violence in Iraq only affected a third of the country (he appears not to have heard of Maysan or Basra provinces), and kept saying the most wildly optimistic things about the near future in the face of masses of evidence that Iraq was sinking faster than a two-ton truck in a quicksand patch. This Panglossian narrative about Iraq gave enormous aid and comfort to Bush and the Republican Party.
Second and more important, Lieberman had aimed a poisoned arrow at the heart of every Democratic candidate when he said,
‘ “While dissent about the war is critically important and American, partisan dissent has no place when it comes to our national security, particularly when we have 130,000 Americans over there in uniform,” he said. “So I refuse to take partisan shots at the president or anybody else about the war.” ‘
Lieberman’s stance would have been quoted ad nauseam in Republican Party advertisements. They would have used a leading Democrat to swiftboat the rest of the Party.
Lieberman had bought into the Rove Master Narrative. Bush went to war electively, thus very conveniently making himself a war president and therefore above criticism. He got a second term that way despite having been among the worst presidents in history. Lieberman ceded to Bush a kind of invulnerability on the most important Republican Party SNAFU since its policies contributed to the onset of the Great Depression. Why would a Democrat do that?
The answer is that on foreign policy issues, Lieberman is a Neoconservative, and supports the Iraq project for the same reasons that Douglas Feith and Paul Wolfowitz (then number 3 and 2 respectively at the Pentagon) did. He tried to put himself in the tradition of Hubert Humphrey, but he was more honest when he also listed Scoop Jackson. Perle and the rest started on Jackson’s staff.
In keeping with his foreign policy neoconservatism, Lieberman has McCarthyite tendencies and actually joined forces with Lynne Cheney to attack academics for being “un-American” if they questioned the central narrative of the Bush administration, which is that terrorism springs from intrinsic evil and that it is so powerful a threat that we Americans must now give up our traditions of free speech and dissent. Lieberman’s McCarthyism is shameful, and all thinking Americans must rejoice to see Lynne’s partner in auto-da-fe go down in flames.
Lieberman had been allied with Christian fundamentalists in making an assault on the separation of religion and state.
Finally, it is important because whether or not the liberal blogosphere played a significant role in dumping him, many will say that it did. Being perceived as powerful is almost as good as being powerful.
Lieberman may run as an independent, and we cannot know what will happen in that case. But for the reasons given above, it is important that he has been repudiated by Democratic voters. The rest of the party now has a shot at taking the House, without risking having their colleague’s pro-Bush sanctimonies on Iraq constantly thrown in their faces. And the menace of senatorial McCarthyism and a further assault on the liberties of all Americans may have been forestalled.