Joe Lieberman is pretty sure history will record that George W. Bush was just swell

The former senator trashes President Obama while heaping praise on his predecessor


Luke Brinker
November 12, 2014 4:00AM (UTC)

Remember Joe Lieberman?

The Democratic-turned-independent former senator from Connecticut, whose elevation to the national stage by 2000 ticket mate Al Gore surely ranks among the former vice president's worst transgressions, reentered the news this week when the completely asinine center-right advocacy group No Labels announced that Lieberman was replacing West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin as honorary co-chairman of the group. Joining the group -- which basically advocates slashing the budget deficit and gutting social insurance programs, but doing so civilly and stuff -- was a natural move for Lieberman. After all, his sanctimonious denunciations of ideologues -- particularly the left-wing kind -- and his long-standing servility to corporate power make him an excellent fit for the smarmy, business-backed No Labels.

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Of course, it's hard to get too worked up about Lieberman joining a group of naive plutocrats who like to get together and talk about Solving Problems, all the while revealing themselves to be utterly oblivious to how American politics actually works. But a just-released interview in which Lieberman chums around with a fawning Bill Kristol is another story.

The interview has its (inadvertently) hilarious parts, like when Lieberman calls Beltway hack Ron Fournier "a really fine reporter." But it's mostly a maddening reminder of the egomaniacal former senator's noxious role in American politics, not least when he assisted erstwhile foes George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in advancing a destructive foreign policy agenda as one of the leading cheerleaders for the Iraq War.

Recalling an encounter with Bush immediately after his 2001 inauguration, Lieberman remembers telling the new president he hoped they could work together.

"He said, with that Bush look, ‘I think we’re gonna find some ways.’ Now little did I know how much," Lieberman says, as he and Kristol break into guffaws.

"His presidency," Lieberman continues, "is going to be viewed generally more positively than it was when he left office."

Ah, yes -- in retrospect, 500,000 Iraqi deaths, regional instability and the rise of the Islamic State militant group, and the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression really won't look so bad.

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While Lieberman has warm words for Bush, he's decidedly harsh when assessing Bush's successor. Contrasting President Obama with Bill Clinton, Lieberman says, "The contrast with President Obama, unfortunately – Obama is very smart, ideas, but has not worked the Congress very well. And even those who are loyal to him don’t see him, don’t talk to him very much."

At No Labels, the notion that our politics would function better if only Obama drank more bourbon with John Boehner and Mitch McConnell may make perfect sense, but the inconvenient truth is that from the beginning of the Obama presidency, the GOP has banked on obstructionism as its core political strategy -- reaping great rewards for it in 2010 and 2014. Moreover, no amount of glad-handing could have satisfied political narcissists like Lieberman, who took great pleasure in watering down healthcare reform; it was almost exactly five years ago that Lieberman vowed to filibuster any healthcare bill that allowed people 55 and over to buy in to Medicare -- the very same proposal Lieberman himself had endorsed as an alternative to the public option.

But forget all that. To Kristol, the vaunted neoconservative is a "distinguished" statesman who puts country first -- or, as his new colleagues at No Labels put it, "a proven leader and an undisputed problem solver." One might even call him a decider.

Watch Lieberman's interview with Kristol below, via the Weekly Standard:

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Luke Brinker

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