Political Animal


January 03, 2013 3:50 PM Joe Drifts Away

By Ed Kilgore

David Lightman, who spent nearly two decades covering Joe Lieberman when he was with the Hartford Courant, pens a fairly long farewell to the retiring heresiarch, with this nut graph:

He exits as a voice often without an echo, an independent without a comfortable spot in either political party, a man in the middle of a political system that prizes partisanship over moderation.

Well, that’s the nice way to put it. Here’s how I explained it in a TDS post when Lieberman announced his retirement early last year:

Lieberman’s trajectory since his appearance on the Democratic ticket in 2000 has been in the steady direction of representing traditions he’s misinterpreted, and constituencies that no longer exist. It was fitting that when he crossed every line of political propriety and endorsed the Republican ticket in 2008, he embraced his friend John McCain precisely when McCain was reinventing his own political identity at the behest of the conservative movement, which in turn vetoed Lieberman as a possible running-mate.

I’ve never been a Lieberman-hater like a lot of progressive bloggers (though I did recommend he get booted out of the Senate Democratic Caucus after his endorsement of McCain), and remain gratified by his late renaissance in helping repeal Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell. But treating the man as a victim of polarization is just wrong. He went his own way, repeatedly and deliberately, beginning with his more-Catholic-than-the-Pope advocacy of the Iraq War, intensifying with his refusal to respect the decision of Connecticut Democrats to deny him renomination in 2006, and then culminating in the McCain endorsement, which violated basic rules of political loyalty that existed long before the current era of polarization. If he was isolated, he was self-isolated, and he was never “independent” of the varying and mostly misguided causes he chose to embrace as his career descended into incoherence.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Rich on January 03, 2013 4:06 PM:

    DADT was something he didn't have to do and his voting record was predominantly Democratic. The problem was his playing Sarah Bernhardt when he did buck the caucus and his love of sharing the "maverick" spotlight with McCain. Basically, he was a concern troll who liked the limelight and that's easy to hate. I was brought up in environment that was unforgiving to brown noses and self-promoters. Lieberman's membership in that latter category makes it easy to wish him good riddance.

  • Lee Gibson on January 03, 2013 4:14 PM:

    He is a sanctimonious douchebag and we are well rid of him.

  • Gandalf on January 03, 2013 4:15 PM:

    Boy this falls right in the category of call em as you see sm. Lieberman was an unrepentant asshat.

  • Honeyboy Wilson on January 03, 2013 4:20 PM:

    Say what you want about Joe Lieberman, but he represented his constituency very well. It's just that his constituency was Israel, not Connecticut.

  • BillFromPA on January 03, 2013 4:21 PM:

    Starting with his holier than thou condemnation of Bill Clinton during the faux Monica scandal, Holy Joe took every opportunity to stick his finger in the eye of his party, weakening Obama Care, endorsing McCain nad days ago, he took the floor in one of his last Senate speeches to flog Benghazi. Fuck you Joe, you and your lobbyist wife can eat shit and die.

  • candideinnc on January 03, 2013 4:23 PM:

    His concern for radical, right wing fanatic Zionism outstripped his dedication to America. He never saw a war he didn't embrace. He was a corparate shill, and an embarrassment to the Democratic Party. Goof riddance!

  • RaflW on January 03, 2013 4:26 PM:

    Bye bye, Joe. I hope you have a very quiet retirement.

  • T2 on January 03, 2013 4:27 PM:

    ego-driven preener. a blowhard. wishy-washy. turned his back on his own Party. Bye, Joe. stay gone......unfortunately I have a feeling we'll be treated to this guy every Sunday morning until his demise, telling us how Democrats are supposed to act and why he'd have done it better.

  • Quaker in a Basement on January 03, 2013 4:29 PM:

    I'll remember Joe for his very public cave-in on the Florida vote count. That alone may have cleared the road to the White House for GWB.

  • mkrrpc on January 03, 2013 4:31 PM:

    There was another Conn Senator who was truly independent, his name Lowell Weicker. Who called him as he saw em. And he couldn't stand Lieberman. That tells you everything you need to know about Saint Joe.

    Wrong on Iraq war, wrong on Bill Clinton/Monica Gate, and wrong on John McCain. History will not be kind to St Joe.

  • boatboy_srq on January 03, 2013 4:59 PM:

    Lieberman's "more GOP than the GOP" attitudes on the GWoT are one very sore point for this Navy brat. Joe, please take your Eternal Armament for Victory attitudes back to Groton: I'm sure there are some out-of-work ex-submarine-welders who'll nod sagely along with you.

  • smartalek on January 03, 2013 5:16 PM:

    @Honeyboy Wilson:

    And the insurance companies that are headquartered in CT (plus, I'd venture to guess, many located elsewhere).
    SourceWatch sez (in unfortunately unclear language): "In his 2006 re-election campaign, Lieberman ranked second in the Senate in accepting insurance industry contributions."
    Of all the reasons he's given us to despise him ("how do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways" -- oh, wait; they're innumerable), the worst to me was the betrayal not just of Americans, but of his own long-stated positions favoring universal health-care, in the final negotiations over the ACA.
    Though I wish no person dead, I heartily say fuck him and whatever horse he rides out of our capitol on -- tho I'm quite sure his shade will be haunting us on Fox, and the Sunday shows, for decades to come.

  • Doug on January 03, 2013 6:20 PM:


  • exlibra on January 03, 2013 6:49 PM:

    Good riddance to bad rubbish.

  • mb on January 03, 2013 8:41 PM:

    I've often thought that one positive to come out of the disaster of the 2000 election was that Joe Lieberman never got anywhere close to the oval office.

  • Anonymous on January 03, 2013 9:13 PM:

    I can't help being reminded of an old joke about two rural rustics who go to a brothel where the madam, seeing their total innocence, gives them inflatable dolls instead of companions.

    On their way home the first says "I think my girl was dead, she never moved"

    The second one said "I think mine was a witch. When I jumped on her she let out a huge flatulence and flew out the window."

    That's kinda how I think ole' Joe leaves the scene.

  • pjcamp on January 04, 2013 1:40 AM:

    Look for Lieberman to become a lobbyist for CIGNA within the year.

  • R on January 04, 2013 9:11 AM:

    The Democrats in Connecticut who voted against him in the primary had it right -- they were clearly paying attention to what the "Senator from Israel" said and did. Ugh, I bet you're right, T2 -- I'm glad I don't watch those silly Sunday shows.