Joe Conason's Journal

Democrats deserve coal this year -- and give the opportunistic Joe Lieberman an extra shovel's worth.

Published December 24, 2003 7:17PM (EST)

Coal for the Democrats
Over the Christmas break, all of the Democrats running for president should consider whether they really believe what each of them has assured voters during these long, dreary months of campaigning: That removing the radical-right Republican George W. Bush from the White House is essential to America's future.

Most of them aren't behaving as if that's their true objective.

Wesley Clark and his campaign should stop squabbling with Howard Dean about whether Dean offered him the vice presidential nomination. Nobody (other than a handful of reporters) gives a whit, and both men look silly quarreling about a deal that wasn't Dean's to offer. Clark would serve himself and his party better by expressing the same degree of passion about his proposals to improve the nation. The same goes for John Kerry, Dick Gephardt and other centrist Democrats who have expended so much energy attacking Dean (and delighting Karl Rove).

And Dean should stifle his impulse to bash the Clinton presidency and the Democratic Leadership Council, as if to imply that he has always represented the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" (a line lifted from the late Paul Wellstone). His latest snipe at the party's centrists came in the midst of remarks about unifying the Democrats, a bizarre example of his inability to control his own rhetoric. The angry DLCers, who are not without fault in this intra-party backbiting, scored a point when they recalled Dean's past:

"He should know how it feels to be on the receiving end of the insulting charge of crypto-Republicanism, since it was hurled at him by self-styled Democratic 'progressives' in Vermont throughout much of his tenure as governor."

The other players are less and less relevant -- and on the eve of Christmas perhaps it is most charitable to let that assessment stand without further elaboration. But what I won't let pass is Joe Lieberman's opportunistic snark at people who don't affect his kind of ostentatious piety. None of us, faithful or skeptical, need a politician to lecture us about "faith."
[11:12 a.m. PST, Dec. 24, 2003]

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By Salon Staff

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