Senator Sanctimony

Joe Lieberman is better than you, smarter than you and knows more about what's good for America than you do.

Published August 4, 2008 3:17PM (EDT)

Holding aside David Sirota, few people despise Joe Lieberman as much as I do, and the Connecticut senator did nothing to change that Sunday when he appeared on "Meet the Press."

When Tom Brokaw asked Lieberman to discuss the Spears-Hilton smear ad, Lieberman said: "We all ought to relax a little bit. It's a bit of humor, it's a way to draw people into the ad. The McCain campaign, incidentally, has another ad comparing Obama to Moses, which in my book is as good a comparison as you can ask for -- in the book, I should say, it is about as good a comparison as you should ask for." Is there a more disingenuous and sanctimonious dissembler in American politics than Lieberman? If McCain put out an ad superimposing images of Hitler over Obama speaking recently in Germany, Lieberman would go on national television the next day and, with a straight face, argue the ad was a compliment because it was favorably comparing Obama's popularity among Germans and his charismatic speaking style with Hitler's dynamic stylings six decades ago.

Brokaw pressed Lieberman to explain what Barack Obama's candidacy has to do with Britney Spears or Paris Hilton. "This ad raises the question -- we're not deciding who’s our favorite celebrity, who we are fans of," replied Lieberman, before of course invoking Sept. 11 and calling Obama a "good young man." I'm surprised Lieberman didn't show up with an Obama bobblehead so he could pat it gently and condescendingly on the head as he spoke. Thanks goodness John Kerry -- whose one great triumph in 2004 was his superb debate performances -- was there to scoff at his Senate colleague.

Why does the national media continue to give the clearly embittered and borderline-unhinged Lieberman a platform? Members of the Progressive Caucus and/or other nonwhite members of Congress rarely get invited for such appearances, but he does. And if the intent is to be inclusive of congressional independents, where is Bernie Sanders on "MTP"? (Whoa … I think I am channeling Sirota right now.)

Lieberman's politics and his views, and certainly the disgusting way he comports himself, make him a bizarre outlier in Congress and in American politics more generally. He ought to, accordingly, be marginalized. I can't wait until January 2009, when Senator Sanctimony's political and partisan irrevelancy finally becomes official.

By Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." Follow him @schaller67.

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