Wednesday, August 01, 2012

No Trip To Charlotte

Senator Joe Lieberman hasn't been invited to the Democratic (or Republican) National Convention this year and a few people are offended.

The Hill's Alexander Bolton reports

Some Democrats think keeping Lieberman away is a mistake. After all, he served as Al Gore’s running mate in 2000, becoming the first Jewish American to run atop a major party’s ticket.He also presided for several years as chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, which helped transform the ideology of the Democratic Party and laid the groundwork for Bill Clinton’s election in 1992.

“Even though he’s no longer a member of the Democratic Party, he caucuses with the Senate Democrats and provides a vote for their majority. It would be a good thing to invite him,” said Tad Devine, a Democratic strategist who served as a senior adviser to Gore’s campaign. “He doesn’t have to be invited to give a speech. He doesn’t have to have Clinton’s time slot."...

“Joe Lieberman is a victim of polarization. He’s another person cast aside by people who aren’t interested in centrist views,” said Professor Ross K. Baker, a professor of political science at Rutgers University, who has worked as a scholar in residence in the Senate.

Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California, said Lieberman’s approach is out of step with the times.

“Given how polarized the political process has become, my guess is that Joe Lieberman is taking this, appropriately, as a tremendous compliment,” said Schnur. “If there were a convention being held in the days between Tampa and Charlotte that was devoted to bridging partisan gaps and moving forward on the country’s challenges, Joe Lieberman would probably be the keynote speaker.”

In response, Hullabaloo's David Atkins (with a deserved swipe at Bill Clinton) explains

Holding contradictory partisan views doesn't make one a "centrist." Supporting lower taxes on the wealthy while supporting action on climate change isn't "centrist." A hypothetical candidate who wanted to ban abortion entirely while supporting single-payer healthcare wouldn't be a "centrist," either. A centrist is someone who supports milquetoast, inoffensive positions on a variety of issues: say, simplifying the the tax code while raising taxes slightly on just the richest incomes. Or advocating toothless carbon exchanges as a "solution" to climate change. Or decrying abortion but wanting to make it "safe, legal and rare." Or converting welfare programs into work programs.

You know, the mainstream positions of the modern Democratic Party. That's centrism. It's not the voters' fault if centrism has been wholly adopted by one political party while the other sits squarely in crazyville. That's just the breaks.

Like Baker and Schnur, Bolton is perturbed that such a deserving, open-minded guy like the Democratic-turned-Independent senator from Connecticut is being being denied what he appears to believe is a constitutional right of being invited to a party convention.   He writes

Lieberman made a memorable attempt to bridge party divides in 2008 when he endorsed Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) over then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), a move that infuriated many Democrats and nearly cost him a top committee slot.

“I am here tonight because John McCain’s whole life testifies to a great truth: Being a Democrat or Republican is important, but it is nowhere near as important as being an American,” he said in the 2008 speech.

He went on to praise McCain for taking on “corrupt Republican lobbyists” to reform campaign finance law and for trying to reform the nation’s immigration laws and “actually do something about global warming.”

In 2000, Joe Lieberman pulled the rug out from under Al Gore and did his part to make George W. Bush president.    Not content with helping one Republican enter the Oval Office, in 2008 he didn't merely endorse the G.O.P. candidate for president.  He spoke at the party's convention, slamming both the Democratic nominee for allegedly being unwilling "to take on powerful interest groups in the Democratic Party" and by implication, those very "interest groups." That would be those selfish minorities, women, public employees, members of unions.

Lieberman didn't only endorse the GOP presidential nominee, he campaigned for him.   And in so doing, he implied the Democratic nominee was unfaithful to American soldiers, accusing him of "voting to cut off funding for our troops on the ground."   Not a mention from the paragon of bipartisanship and independence, however, that, as Media Matters noted in 2008, John McCain "voted against legislation to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq or that Obama has voted in the past to provide funds for troops stationed there."

Joe Lieberman is entitled to support actively anyone he wants for any office and to advocate for what he believes in.  But when those views are antithetical to the causes central to the Democratic Party and he works strenuously to defeat a Democratic nominee for president, it would be political malpractice to invite him to the gathering which will renominate that individual he found so repugnant in 2008.

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