Those who want Joe Lieberman to remain a Democrat

Anonymous, cowardly Democratic consultants illustrate why the party has stood for nothing for so long.

Published October 21, 2008 1:15PM (EDT)

Salon's Mike Madden today explores the reluctance of Harry Reid and the Democratic leadership to expel Joe Lieberman from their caucus and deny him ongoing Chairmanships "even if things break their way and the party winds up in control of more than 60 seats."  In order to advance the argument, Madden decided to grant anonymity to "a consultant close to some Senate Democratic leaders" to enable the "consultant" to say this:

And while punishing Lieberman would please the party's base, if the leadership needs his vote, that could be counterproductive. "The need to satisfy Daily Kos is not as important as making sure you have the votes you need," said a consultant close to some Senate Democratic leaders.

Voters might not be that impressed by punishing Lieberman, either. "At the end of the day, who gives a shit if Joe Lieberman is allowed to be chairman or do X, Y and Z for the Democrats? People care about if there's going to be an effort to get them healthcare, and do something about energy and all that . . . . It might be gratifying in the short term to get him, but in the long run what does it really get you?"

It's always good to be reminded of how craven and empty are the people who steer the Democratic leadership in Congress.  First, I'm always amazed at what cowards so many of these "Democratic consultants" are who are willing to express their views only if they can hide behind a protective wall of anonymity when doing so.  They're not demanding anonymity in order to leak incriminating information about the government or to criticize their bosses or because they are citizens engaged in other lines of work or even to further discussion.  They simply want to denigrate people and express controversial views without being held accountable for what they say.  That cowardice isn't merely a severe character flaw but is also rather reflective of how the Democratic leadership generally conducts itself.

Secondly, ponder what is being said here.  Joe Lieberman isn't merely someone who has deviated from Democratic Party dogma (if such a thing exists).  He has not only campaigned against Obama, but has been one of the worst disseminators of the McCarthyite slime thrown at him, linking him to Marxism and terrorism, and has spent much of the year running around South Florida trying to scare Jewish voters into believing that Obama is hostile to Israel.  Lieberman hasn't just supported the Republican nominee -- along with other GOP candidates such as Sen. Norm Coleman -- but has led the way, as he tours the country with Sarah Palin, in the ugly and demonizing tactics on which the McCain campaign has come almost exclusively to rely.

If Democrats, even with large majorities in hand, are willing to continue to embrace and empower someone like Joe Lieberman, what message does that send other than making clear that they stand for nothing, care about nothing beyond perpetuation of their own power?  If there's no line someone can cross, no idea or statement too reprehensible to express, while still being welcomed in the party, what does that say about the party?

Finally, the idea that voters would react poorly if Democrats removed Lieberman from their caucus is just absurd, the type of fact-free assertion in which "consultant[s] close to some Senate Democratic leaders" routinely traffic.  Lieberman has tied himself to a sinking political movement and to discredited political ideas that are widely rejected and even despised.   His approval ratings within his own state have even plummeted.  Who are the people who are going to object if Democrats no longer want to empower him with powerful Committee Chairs and majority status in the Senate?  

Those asserting this are the same people who claimed throughout 2006 -- idiotically, as it turned out -- that defeating Lieberman in the primary would destroy the Democrats' chances in the mid-term elections because Americans would perceive that the party was too liberal, too intolerant and too anti-war.   These are the same people who make failure-filled careers out of insisting that the Democratic Party's optimal course is to stand for nothing and never take a position on anything.  It's true that expelling the Right from power is the paramount objective -- right now, there's nothing more urgent than that -- but once that's done, targeting people who think and behave like  Madden's anonymous "consultant close to some Senate Democratic leaders" will be the next imperative.

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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