Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Lieberman Leaves

Sen. Joe Lieberman’s post mortem began even before he officially announced his retirement.

Here in Connecticut, a politically battered Susan Bysiewicz rushed to announce in advance of U.S. Reps. Chris Murphy and Joe Courtney her availability for the seat hours after she had told bewildered reporters and commentators she would be spending the next few years ensconced in her new job with a prestigious law firm, drying out from a recent political dunking and acquiring active experience before the state’s bar. Mrs. Bysiewicz has been portrayed in the state’s media as an ambitious Lady Macbeth, but she probably is not much more ambitious than the usual political specimen.

Well… maybe a wee bit.

Connecticut can expect the same scramble for political crumbs that occurred when U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd announced his retirement. The frantic melee would be a little less over the edge if the state had term limits, a process that would allow a more dignified free for all. The present political rumble is for a senate position that, in the case of Mr. Dodd, is about half the reign of King George III. The senator who replaced Mr. Dodd, Dick Blumenthal, held his previous position of attorney general for 20 years. The average term in office of U.S. Senators has increased 300 percent since the first decade following the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. As of October 2008 there were four U.S. Senators -- Robert Byrd, Edward Kennedy, Daniel Inouye and Theodore Stevens – who had been in office over 40 years. The prospect of such a secure roost in office makes the rough and tumble scramble up the greasy political pole a matter of political life and death.

Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy congratulated Mr. Lieberman in a prepared statement on a “remarkable career of public service” and pointed out that the senator stuck to what he believed was right for his constituents and countrymen.” Acts of courage such as the senator’s steadfast support of “policies that have brought political freedom to Iraq and to Afghanistan when many Democrats sought to end that commitment prematurely,” Healy said, “almost cost Sen. Lieberman his political career in 2006 when radical liberals ousted him as the candidate of the Democrat Party, which once supported the foreign policies of both Republican and Democrat administrations.”

The “Nedheads,” of course, would not agree with this assessment, though many of the anti-war activists among them have been far less vocal in their opposition to the war in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama’s “war of necessity,” than had been the case when Ned Lamont successfully challenged Mr. Lieberman in a primary, losing in the general election to Mr. Lieberman, who was able to draw support from Republicans and Independents.

Pretty nearly everyone seemed to agree that the prevailing circumstances that allowed Mr. Lieberman to snatch an earlier general election victory from the jaws of a primary defeat – a weak Republican candidate, a primary victor whose experience in office was shallow and a residual affection for Mr. Lieberman for having earlier defeated then Sen. Lowell Weicker, widely regarded as a Republican Party scourge -- would not be present in the general election two years after then Sen. Chris Dodd had left office.

By the time Mr. Lieberman made his announcement in Stamford at noon on Jan. 19, the news that he was retiring was old news. Nate Silver of the New York Times speculated that “The scariest possibility for Democrats would be if Ms. Rell decided to run for the seat.” Roll Call adjusted Connecticut’s race from “toss up” to “leans Democrat.” The New York Post advised that Connecticut Democrats should seek a centrist Democrat to run for Mr. Lieberman’s seat, which will be vacated in 2012. Salon noted that Mr. Lieberman was “Every Republican's favorite Democrat.” The American Prospect noted the New York Times noting that Bill Curry said of Mr. Lieberman, “It’s the first thing he’s done in 10 years to make Connecticut Democrats completely happy.” And Emily Bazelon, writing in Slate, cordially explained to readers of the on-line political magazine why she loathed Mr. Lieberman in a piece appropriately titled, “Good Riddance Joe Lieberman: Why I loathe my Connecticut senator.”

As Louis Prima sings in “Just A Gigolo” – “Life goes on without me.” Owing to a Prima release in the 1950’s, that song was inescapably linked with “I ain’t Got Nobody.”

History may show that Mr. Lieberman did have a few honorable people in his corner. Non-bilious historians may be kinder to Mr. Lieberman than the foaming at the mouth progressives who continue to loathe him, well after leading Democrats in Connecticut have agreed that civility in politics, going forward, should shape political discourse.
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