Lieberman takes swipe at Democrats, Obama

In an Op-Ed, the Connecticut senator bemoans what he sees as a change in the foreign policy of his off-again, on-again party.

By Justin Jouvenal
May 22, 2008 1:58AM (UTC)
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By considering centrism to be collaboration with the enemy -– not bin Laden, but Mr. Bush -– activists have successfully pulled the Democratic Party further to the left than it has been at any point in the last 20 years.

John McCain? George W. Bush? Try Joe Lieberman.

The self-styled "Independent Democrat" penned a scathing takedown of the Democratic Party and Barack Obama's foreign policy in a wide-ranging Op-Ed piece that appeared in the Wall Street Journal Wednesday, adapted from a speech he gave at a dinner for the neoconservative journal Commentary. In the piece, Lieberman wrote that Democrats lost their way by lurching leftward, away from the muscular internationalism of Kennedy, Roosevelt and Truman.


Lieberman believes many Democratic Party leaders have been unwilling to stand up for this philosophy, and that "a very different view of the world took root" in the party in the 1960s, one characterized, he believes, by a vision of the U.S. as the aggressor. It was here that Lieberman reserved some of his strongest words for Barack Obama.

"Far too many Democratic leaders have kowtowed to these opinions rather than challenging them. That unfortunately includes Barack Obama, who, contrary to his rhetorical invocations of bipartisan change, has not been willing to stand up to his party's left wing on a single significant national security or international economic issue in this campaign," Lieberman writes, going on to praise John McCain, for whom he's been campaigning. "John understands something ... that too many Democrats seem to have become confused about lately -– the difference between America's friends and America's enemies."

The last bit is a jab at Obama's willingness to conduct diplomacy with foreign powers perceived as enemies of the U.S. With that, it's pretty clear Lieberman won't be on Obama's shortlist for vice president. Of course, the two weren't that close anyway, since Obama endorsed Ned Lamont in his run for Lieberman's Senate seat in 2006.


The Op-Ed has, however, sparked new talk about a possible McCain/Lieberman ticket this fall. Back in December, Lieberman endorsed McCain for president, and the pair share similar views on many issues. Lieberman has ruled out the idea in the past, however. Regardless, the "Democrat" in Lieberman's "Independent Democrat" moniker definitely looks shakier by the day.

The piece has also sparked some talk about just what Lieberman considers a foreign policy success, especially since much of his argument centered on the words of former President John F. Kennedy. At the Plank, a New Republic blog, Isaac Chotiner wrote, sarcastically, "It wasn't all that bad that JFK ordered a disastrous invasion of Cuba that almost led -- at least indirectly -- to nuclear war with the Soviets. No, that was fine when compared to Obama's 'naivete.' And as for Reagan's Iran policy, well, nothing to criticize there."

And it's worth wondering just what about Kennedy's foreign policy Lieberman appreciates -- Kennedy authorized the Bay of Pigs invasion, stepped up American involvement in Vietnam and barely avoided nuclear war during the Cuban missile crisis. Perhaps his only unalloyed success was the Peace Corps, an innovation not exactly in tune with the belligerence Lieberman so often seems to favor.

Justin Jouvenal

Justin Jouvenal is an editorial fellow at Salon and a graduate student in journalism at New York University.

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