Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
November 13, 2006
I had the misfortune of watching Joe Lieberman on Meet the Press Sunday.
He was his usual, insufferable, unctuous self.
And he was parroting the conventional wisdom that the elections represent “the return of the center of American politics.”
That’s convenient for him, though it ignores the victory of socialist Bernie Sanders in Vermont and populists like Sherrod Brown in Ohio and Jon Tester in Montana.
Lieberman claims to be in the center, though he won 70 percent of the Republican vote, which gives you a better indication of his leanings.
And he may tip over soon.
I’m sure Democratic leaders in Congress were not delighted by his response to the following question from Tim Russert: If the Democrats “ask for discipline in the Democratic caucus, and you start to feel uncomfortable with it, would you consider going across the aisle, and joining the Republicans, if they gave you the same chairmanship that you had, and respected your seniority?”
Lieberman responded: “Yeah, well, that’s a hypothetical, which I’m not going to deal with there. I’m going to be an optimist, and take some encouragement from the fact this was an election in which, in the House and Senate, Democrats came to the majority of both chambers by electing moderates mostly.”
Russert pressed him by asking, “You’re not ruling that out at some future time?”
To which Lieberman said, “I’m not ruling it out, but I hope I don’t get to that point.” And then he added that he appreciated the support he had received from Republicans.
Lieberman also implicitly impugned the patriotism of Democrats who fight for partisan goals. Early on in his interview, he said he told his constituents in Connecticut, “I promise you I will put progress and patriotism ahead of partisanship and polarization.” Later, he added: “The American people are considering both major political parties to be in a kind of probation, because they’re understandably angry that Washington is dominated too much by partisan political games, and not enough by problem solving and patriotism.”
So if Democrats take a principled stand on, say, the issue of withdrawal from Iraq or impeachment, Lieberman already has his brush dipped in paint to smear them with the word “unpatriotic.” Then he just might jump ship.
The man who ran as Gore’s running mate on the 2000 Democratic ticket may end up a Republican yet, and swing the Senate back to Bush.
A snake is a snake.