Say it ain’t so

In response to my post on the left’s crusade against Joe Lieberman, I recieved several comments from liberals claiming that it’s not just about the war. Like Duncan Black, these readers noted several other Lieberman “offenses,” particularly the fact that he appears on Fox News where he seems chummy with Sean Hannity.

If this actually is a source of the effort to unseat Lieberman, I wouldn’t brag about it. To oppose a Senator because he supports a war you hate, or on other significant policy grounds is rational and appropriate. But to oppose a Senator because he appears on a news channel you don’t like seems a bit unhinged. I can picture myself voting, on policy-based grounds, against Lindsey Graham or Chuck Hagel in a Republican primary, and certainly would have voted against Arlen Specter in the 2004 primary (but Specter had a liberal record pretty much across the board). I would not vote against them because they appeared on CNN or exchanged pleasantries with Dan Rather or Keith Olbermann.

In any case, whatever is motivating Duncan Black, Kos, and other left-win political junkies, it’s pretty clear that Lieberman’s erosion of support among ordinary Connecticut Democrats has everything to do with Iraq and nothing to do with media appearances or other political “inside baseball.” Indeed, Lieberman’s slippage is consistent with the finding of a 2004 Pew poll which found that terminating our military involvement in Iraq is the highest priority among liberals in America.

But if, as I’ve just claimed, it’s rational and appropriate for war-haters to turn against Lieberman, what is the fuss about? The fuss, I think, is a reflection of concern that mainstream blue-state Democrats are so deeply committed to a policy of capitulation in Iraq and, more generally, to a McGovern style “come home America” approach to dealing with terrorism — a concern that Bill Clinton, the most successful Democratic politician of my lifetime, appears to share.

JOHN adds: I don’t disagree with any of that, but it seems to me that there is something else going on: the left wing of the Democratic Party doesn’t like Lieberman because he isn’t a hater. I think that is what is behind complaints–otherwise absurd on their face–that he is polite to Sean Hannity. Today’s liberal movement is more about anger and hate than it is about policy, and Lieberman just doesn’t fit in, no matter how he votes.

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