Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Atrios in LA Times

Duncan Black, the blogger Atrios, has written an oped piece for the Los Angeles Times on why the left is furious at Joe Lieberman. He touches on most of the reasons for our unhappiness with Lieberman's policies:

For too long he has defined his image by distancing himself from other Democrats, cozying up to right-wing media figures and, at key moments, directing his criticisms at members of his own party instead of at the Republicans in power.

Late last year, after President Bush's job approval ratings hit record lows, Lieberman decided to lash out at the administration's critics, writing in the ultraconservative Wall Street Journal editorial pages that "we undermine presidential credibility at our nation's peril." In this he echoed the most toxic of Republican talking points — that criticizing the conduct of the war is actually damaging to national security.

Lieberman has a long history of providing cover for the worst of Republican actions while enthusiastically serving as his own party's scold. After the Senate acquitted President Clinton on all impeachment charges, Lieberman called for his censure. More recently, he rejected a call by Sen. Russell D. Feingold (D-Wis.) to censure Bush over the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping program, calling the attempt "divisive."

The usual defense of Lieberman's actions is that he is a centrist, someone who is willing to be bipartisan, someone who is not blindly following party discipline. The problem with this defense is that it's hard to see why a Democratic centrist would be willing to be the cheerleading team for the most extreme right-wing policies of the Republican party. And this has been Lieberman's role in the last few years.

I agree with Atrios when he states that "Lieberman's relationship with the Democratic Party has been one of convenience, not principle". Lieberman is a Democrat because you need to be one to be elected in Connecticut, but the inner Lieberman has slowly grown into a wingnut. The crucial question for the voters in Connecticut is whether they accept this combination.

Atrios also notes the way the real news about Lamont's challenge to Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic primaries has been the power of bloggers:

Much of the interest in this race is not because of Lamont but rather his perceived base of support from bloggers, including me. One prominent pundit claimed that Lamont's online backers were practitioners of "blogofascism"; another called the campaign an "inquisition." Online political discourse can indeed be caustic and combative, like talk radio. But too many in the Lieberman wing of the party have elevated civility and the illusion of bipartisan comity over challenging Republicans' failed policies. In the process, they have echoed GOP jargon in dismissing critics as "angry" and "hate-filled."

Politics is a contact sport. Those who would paper it over with a veneer of false propriety are pretending it's something that it is not. More than that, loud and raucous debate is a healthy part of our democracy.

There probably wasn't enough space for further words about the pretend civility of the GOP covering up very nasty threats, usually presented by the pet pundits but seldom protested by the wingnut establishment. The left blogs may allow nasty language but the right blogs also allow witchhunts and free-wheeling debate on the best way to execute New York Times editors. Yet somehow this is not newsworthy in the establishment media.

I'm not convinced that we should think of politics as a contact sport, though. You don't have to know how to take out a person wielding a knife in thirty-seven different ways to be able to kick ass in politics, and sports metaphors tend to discourage women from getting interested in the solving of shared problems. At the same time, I can see the point of that little paragraph. We on the liberal/progressive side have far too long taken the veneer of politeness as something more genuine than it has ever been, and we are still suffering the consequences.

All in all, Atrios has done a good job of summarizing both the reasons why Lieberman is disliked and the way the media has misrepresented these reasons. Now let's see how the establishment media responds to him.