LEAVE us begin with Brendan's mention of Brooks' howler, here, since I saw it before I got around to reading the column:
Lieberman played an important role in saving Bill Clinton from impeachment. As momentum for impeachment was growing, Lieberman gave a crucial speech on the Senate floor that scolded Clinton for his behavior but resolutely opposed removing him from office.
Now, I like to think that I'm not altogether unreasonable, and that it's the circumstances of our politics since 1946 which are at least partly responsible for my habitual irascibility. It's likely that the vast majority of Americans could confuse "impeachment" with "conviction by the Senate". It's not a hanging offense, even for someone with a kiosk on the Times' Op-Ed pages. But then Brooks uses it twice, and the second time should have reminded him. I suspect that thoughts of Bill Clinton's impeachment are to Brooks what thoughts of Uschi Obermaier were to my fifteen-year-old self. Let's step over the sticky spot on the floor and move on.
But not far; even correcting for the junior-high civics mistake, Brooks is full of it. Conviction by the Senate was already a dead letter before the House began selecting the most blatant public hypocrites it could find for its Management Team. The only thing Holy Joe's speech did was give aid and comfort to Congressional Republicans who were looking for a place to hide. Which, no doubt, is why it's remembered so fondly, if fuzzily, by Mr. Brooks.
Okay, it did one other thing: it made Lieberman a national figure, in the stick-figure cartoon fashion which is most effective: he's Moral! He's Religious! He Takes A Stand!
We have a regular theme around here, which runs something like this: When do you have to stop pretending this shit is a brave, insightful, hard-headed response to the Intractable Power of Washington, and start admitting that it's the way we've done business for forty years now, and a big reason why we're so Fucked? As in, when does School Reform admit we've been "reforming" public schools since Back to Basics became the first movement to piggyback on the racism and anti-fluoridationism of the Fifties? When does the Republican party--which managed to tie up the signature legislation of a popular President despite a fillibuster-proof Senate--have to stop playing Outsider? When does Reaganism get the blame for the greased-rail economic roller coaster ride that followed, or incontinent tax-cutting for the wealthy face the unemployment rate?
And when does the notion of the Pore Forlorn Centrist Democrat Beset By the Ravening Leftist Mob get laughed out of court?
These policy makers are judging Lieberman by the criteria Max Weber called the “ethic of responsibility” — who will produce the best consequences. Some of the activists are judging him by what Weber called an “ethic of intention” — who has the purest and most uncompromising heart.
Okay, first: this construction has officially done whatever memes do to indicate the completion of a slide into risible self-parody now that Jump the Shark has Jumped the Shark. Second, it ain't as though this doesn't happen on the Right with considerably less provocation: they're still barking at Dick Fucking Lugar here because he voted for Sotomayor, and Mr. Brooks himself is the object of scorn from his party's "purists", which hasn't exactly derailed his career.
But mostly there's this:
In the end, it wasn’t even close. Forty-two Democratic senators voted to let Lieberman keep his chairmanship. Thirteen voted against.
As Ezra Klein of The Washington Post noted recently, this turned out to be one of the most consequential decisions Obama and Reid made. If Lieberman had not been welcomed back by the Democrats, there might not have been a 60th vote for health care reform, and it would have failed.
Which seems to suggest, for starters, that Lieberman's vaunted, fearless, call-'em-as-I-see-'em 90% liberal independence is dependent on what's in it for him.
But of course that's not the case (or, rather, it's not the explanation); what Democrats got in return for having placated the inexplicably-reelected Lieberman was one more Cloakroom sneak thief who helped derail Single Payer for the sake of insurance companies. Funny how Holy Joe's liberal moral conscience coincided with that.
And funny, also, how it dragged the process into a second year, demanded more complexity, and handed the defenders of corporate interests narrowly defined enough cobblestones to break every window in the joint. Only I'm not laughing. If Biden, Reid, and Kerry really imagine this is responsible action, and aren't just saying nice things at Lieberman's stagy pre-funeral, then they're bigger idiots than I imagine. And I didn't imagine they could be.
Let's can the shit. It's real easy to praise the compromisers, quislings, and principled double-dealers of the other party. Especially when your own can be counted on to march in lockstep toward your abiding, single-issue concern with a marginal tax rate of zero for the Elect. If the Democratic party really was run by its activists, those pie-in-the-sky, never satisfied, politically benighted bloggers, there wouldn't have been any negotiations over Joe Lieberman's chairmanships. Because he'd have been on his ass in 2006.
For fuck's sake, Mr. Brooks: people on the Left in this country get more pushback on their ideas in the average week than you've had since you first touched Milton Friedman's hem. Don't tell me about consequences; I've watched the consequences of Democratic appeasement since 1972. I'd just like to try something different, for once, not only because we're right, but just to see what it might feel like.
There’s a theory going around that Lieberman was embittered by the trauma of 2006 when Democratic primary voters in Connecticut defeated him because of his support for the Iraq war. There’s little evidence to validate this.
I think it's more that the evidence is confused; Lieberman was already so embittered by the WTF reaction to Gore nominating him for Veep, and the subsequent, wholly accurate criticism of his pathetic performance on the campaign trail, that you can't really figure out which footprints belong to which episode.
Lieberman has always sat crossways between the two parties and has often served as a convenient bridge, infuriating Democrats, but then serving the party’s interests at important moments.
For cryin' out loud. Fucking Senate Democrats have more bridges to the other side than Königsberg does.