Michael Gerson has written the latest lament for Joe Lieberman, the “party of one,” which typically ignores the reasons why he became alienated from his party. More accurately, Gerson doesn’t mention the reasons why large parts of his party (and the country as a whole) came to dislike him intensely. It was bad enough that Lieberman supported the invasion of Iraq, but a lot of other Democratic members of Congress made the same error. What distinguished Lieberman was that he didn’t just keep supporting the war long after the folly of it had become clear to most people, but that he decided to hector and insult the broad majority of members of his own party for their entirely correct desire to end the war and leave Iraq.
He is one of the most prominent examples of the Iraq war dead-enders that are still convinced that the enormous blunder of the Iraq war was the right thing to do for the United States. If Lieberman’s support for the Iraq war weren’t representative of his foreign policy views, it might not have been quite so damaging to him, but it was simply the most disastrous expression of his poor judgment on when and how the U.S. should use force overseas. Rarely has someone so devoted to and closely identified with a bad cause been praised so often and so fulsomely.
To this persistent error he added his characteristic sanctimony and self-importance, which led him to present himself as if he were the last Democratic heir to Truman. When the time came for him to accept his primary defeat, he chose to ignore what the members of his party had decided. He insisted on hanging on to his job in the Senate mostly out of pique and a misguided belief that his presence in the Senate was necessary. Six years later, we can see that the Senate would not have suffered from his absence. Insofar as it would have meant one less Senator constantly agitating for aggressive policies and unnecessary wars, the Senate and the country would have been better off if he had left politics after his loss in the primary.
More embarrassing than Lieberman has been the coterie of movement conservative admirers and hangers-on that celebrate him simply because he can reliably be expected to support new wars regardless of where they are or what they might cost. As far as conservatives are concerned, there is almost nothing in Lieberman’s record that merits praise, but because he favors attacking other countries and inflicting death and destruction on other nations many movement conservatives raise him up as some sort of principled figure. Needless to say, these wars usually have nothing to do with defending the United States or our allies, and it’s insulting to describe a record of relentless warmongering as “pro-defense.”