Thursday, August 10, 2006

Why Joe Lieberman is like George W. Bush and Mickey Kaus

Brendan has a great post today that came out of a conversation we had last night about how Joe Lieberman is annoying for the same reasons as Mickey Kaus. As Brendan writes, Liberman (and Kaus) "seems to spend his time criticizing liberals rather than going after the Republicans who have made a mess of the federal government. In short, he's still fighting the 'new'/'old' Democrat wars of the 1980s-1990s."

But not only does Joe Lieberman neglect to criticize George W. Bush, he's starting to talk like George Bush. He's specifically picking up one of Bush's worst, most anti-democratic, rhetorical tricks, one we criticized extensively in "All the President's Spin."

Here's Lieberman talking at his primary concession / independent campaign launch speech on Tuesday:

I am disappointed not just because I lost, but because the old politics of partisan polarization won today. For the sake of our state, our country and my party, I cannot and will not let that result stand.


I expect that my opponent will continue to do in the general election what he has done in the primary … partisan polarizing instead of talking about how we can solve people's problems, insults instead of ideas. In other words, more of the same old partisan politics that has assailed Washington today.


This is a classic George W. Bush: accuse your opponent of engaging in "partisan polarization" because he disagrees with you. The definition of non-partisanship is of course, agreeing with Joe Lieberman or George W. Bush 100%.

Because Ned Lamont has substantive disagreements with Joe Lieberman -- especially on whether we should have invaded Iraq; how much the President deserves to be criticized for his poor conduct of the war; and whether we should set a timetable to pull out -- he is a partisan.

Bush does this all the time, especially in his first term when he often claiemd he wanted to "change the tone" in Washington. To quote page 114 of "All the President's Spin": "This formulation defined his own agenda as 'what's right for the people' and those who criticized him as 'acrimonious and bitter.' In practice, of course, 'changing the tone' is impossible unless one party simply gives in to the other. As Bush defined it, the standard would prohibit vigorous disagreement between parties -- the essence of democratic debate."

Joe Lieberman should just be honest about his substantive differences with Lamont and run on those. Lieberman is a centrist (right of center on national security, left of center on many domestic issues). So he should run as a centrist against Lamont the liberal. Then let the voters decide. Instead, he portrays his centrism as a holier-than-thou rising above the partisan fray. It's not only dishonest, but in an era when the Republican congressional leadership and President Bush have made have made bipartisanship as quaint as the Geneva Conventions, it's not very politically tenable. I suspect that's why the majority of Connecticut Democrats decided to lean to their left and vote for Lamont, rather than their right for Lieberman.

Update (2:30 PM PST): Wow it didn't take long for Lieberman to start copying even more of Bush's nasty spin tactics. Look what Mr. non-partisan said the very same day that authorities stopped a (seemingly) major terrorist plot:

“If we just pick up like Ned Lamont wants us to do, get out by a date certain, it will be taken as a tremendous victory by the same people who wanted to blow up these planes in this plot hatched in England,” Mr. Lieberman said at a campaign event at lunchtime in Waterbury, Conn. “It will strengthen them and they will strike again.”


News flash, Joe: It wasn't insurgents from Iraq who were planning to blow up those planes. It was, according to the NY Times, "mainly British-born Muslims some of Pakistani descent." I highly doubt our staying in or withdrawing from Iraq would deter such terrorists. There's certainly no evidence connecting the two.

Notice Joe didn't exactly say they were connected. He just said a withdrawal from Iraq "will be takent as a tremendous victory" by the alleged terrorists who were arrested today. Of course that could be true. Who knows what they would think. That's not factually wrong. It's just implying a connection where there's no evidence at all.

Why, it almost reminds me of George W. Bush's tendency to imply a connection between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attacks, even though there was no evidence linking the two, by saying things like "we know that after September the 11, Saddam Huseein's regime gleefully celebrated the terrorist attacks on America."

Again, this is a nasty, dishonest, undemocratic rhetorical tactic President Bush uses all the time that we criticized at length in "All the President's Spin. Now that Connecticut Democrats have rejected him for being too close to W., Lieberman seems determined to prove them right by sinking to the President's level of spin.

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