Friday, July 28, 2006

The Alito Myth

Of all the outlandish myths that the Lieberman-haters peddle, none is more ludicrous than their charge that Joe Lieberman put Sam Alito on the Supreme Court.

No matter how many times you remind them that: A) Joe Lieberman spoke out against Alito's nomination; B) he voted against it; C) a filibuster was doomed to failure and thus amounted to a meaningless and ultimately destructive gesture; the Lieberman haters keep claiming that Lieberman is responsible for Alito getting confirmed, simply because he did not back the futile filibuster.

Case in point: the hysterical mailing from the National Organization of Women that was reported on in today's Hartford Courant.

In a Lamont mailing, Rosemary Dempsey, president of the Connecticut NOW, said Lieberman's refusal to back a filibuster was "a slap in the face to every woman of this state, no matter her political beliefs, economic status or race."

Beyond explaining why NOW has zero credibility in the mainstream political world, this quote epitomizes the irrationality and disingenuousness of the purge campaign being waged against Joe Lieberman. Compile a very strong record on reproductive rights and on women's rights, vote against the nomination in question, get NARAL's endorsement, and you still get accused of slapping women in the face.

It also underscores the desperate need for some perspective on this particular issue.

Up until this session of Congress, the filibuster was not even considered a fringe option for blocking Supreme Court nominees. With one notable exception, the case of Abe Fortas in 1968, the tactic had never been invoked to block a Supreme Court nomination. According to the official account by the Senate historian, Fortas was not torpedoed because of his ideology, but because of serious ethical issues.

As a sitting justice, he regularly attended White House staff meetings; he briefed the president on secret Court deliberations; and, on behalf of the president, he pressured senators who opposed the war in Vietnam. When the Judiciary Committee revealed that Fortas received a privately funded stipend, equivalent to 40 percent of his Court salary, to teach an American University summer course, [Senate Minority Leader Everett] Dirksen and others withdrew their support. Although the committee recommended confirmation, floor consideration sparked the first filibuster in Senate history on a Supreme Court nomination.

That all changed last year with the Roberts and Alito nominations. Some in the Democratic family decided that Bush's high court appointments had to be blocked by any means necessary, and the threat of a filibuster based purely on ideology was openly discussed. This of course prompted the whole showdown over the so-called "nuclear option, with Republicans threatening to change the Senate rules to permanently bar the use of filibuster for Supreme Court nominations if Democrats used the tactic against John Roberts or Alito.

Lieberman and other moderate Democrats then worked with the reasonable elements of the Senate Republican caucus -- the so-called gang of 14 -- to craft an agreement that would protect the right of the minority to filibuster court nominees in the future in extreme circumstances. That was his great sin -- finding a compromise with Republicans that helped Democrats, by preserving the precedent that had been followed for the entire history of the filibuster.

If Lieberman had supported the filibuster, it would not have changed the outcome at all. It would have, though, threatened the agreement he had made, which at the moment was the only thing standing in the way of the nuclear option being triggered and the filibuster being eliminated completely as a check and balance in Supreme Court nominations.

If Lieberman and the other members of the Gang of 14 had broken their word and backed the filibuster, it may have derailed the Alito nomination temporarily. But it would have had disastrous consequences, setting in motion a chain of events that ultimately would have resulted not only in the end of the filibuster as we know it, but in Alito getting on the bench in the end once the Senate rules were changed. Talk about a pyrrhic victory.

These subtleties are of course lost on the Lieberman-haters. By their dipso-facto kind of logic, Republicans are evil, compromise with evil is evil, and thus even a compromise with Republicans that helps Democrats is evil. Moreover, because Joe Lieberman has compromised with Republicans at times in the past, that makes him even more evil than the other Democrats in the Gang of 14 and a deserving a much higher level of blame.

Presto: Joe Lieberman's opposition to Alito is magically transformed (re: twisted) into support for Alito. George Orwell would be proud.

Sadly this is yet another case of scapegoating Joe Lieberman -- not just for George Bush's actions, but for the Democratic Party's impotence. The Democratic Party failed to put up a candidate who could be beat Bush in 2004, which was the best way to stop him from appointing right-wing judges to the court. That was not Joe Lieberman's fault.

In addition, the Senate's Democratic leadership, and the Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee, failed to make a compelling case to the American people as to why Alito was so unfit for the Supreme Court that his nomination justified the extreme use of the filibuster. That was the only way that the Democrats could have won the nuclear option showdown, by having the bulk of public opinion on their side. Again, not Joe Lieberman's fault.

Now let me be clear: honest people can disagree over the question of whether the Alito nomination met the extreme circumstances threshold. There is a credible argument he did. My point is that the Senate Democrats did not present a convincing enough case to justify blowing up the institution over this nomination. Moreover, the question became moot when the other members of the Gang of 14 decided that Alito did not meet that test. Once that happened, if Lieberman had broken ranks and supported the filibuster, he would have accomplished nothing, other than momentarily appeasing his critics and weakening the agreement that was preserving the filibuster in the first place.

None of this will persuade or mollify the Lieberman haters, who have already convicted him in spite of the evidence. But for those voters who care about the truth, they need to know that Joe Lieberman did right by Democrats throughout this episode. He opposed Sam Alito AND protected a critical check on presidential power. To say otherwise is a slap in the face of reality.

Finally, good Lieberman ads

I have said many times privately and a couple times publicly that the Lieberman campaign's TV ads have so far been poor in both concept and execution. Lamont's quirky ads have been overly cheesy at times (the "I support this do we" tags begin to sound contrived once you've seen it a few dozen times), but have had been unquestionably better than the Lieberman campaign's duds. The strategy has been to try and shift the focus to Lamont, which will never work in a race between a 3-term incumbent who has been on a national ticket and a challenger who few have ever seen or heard of. The correct strategy should have been to highlight and burnish Lieberman's solid credentials as a progressive and a Democrat.

Finally, the campaign seems to be getting it. They have released two new ads - one featuring an endorsement from Chriss Dodd, and the other featuring Bill Clinton. The newest Lieberman ad features Clinton speaking at the rally for Lieberman:
Bill Clinton: "I'm proud that I helped Joe Lieberman in 1970. I'm proud that we've been friends all these years. Proud of his three terms in the Senate. He has been one of the leaders in the Congress. I want him elected because he understands and cares about health care. I want him elected for economy to national security, for our children and grandchildren. Go out and elect Joe Lieberman. He's earned it; he's been a good Democrat. He's a good man, and he'll do you proud. Thank you and God bless you all!"
The ads do exactly what Lieberman's camp has so far failed to do. They put a Democrats on the screen telling the audience (and the ad's viewers) that Joe Lieberman is a reliable, principled Democrat - and in a way that gets the message across.

The Dodd endorsement ad is no doubt going to be helpful, but it's the Clinton ad which will undoubtedly get the most ink spilled on it. The anti-Lieberman crowd will probably make at least two arguments to downplay the Clinton ad's potential effectiveness:
  1. Clinton is not from Connecticut, and an out-of-state politician will not hold much sway over CT Democrats.
  2. People will see the ad and instead of focusing on Clinton's obvious support for Lieberman, they'll take a mental trip back to 1998 and remember Lieberman's criticism of Clinton's personal conduct during the Lewinsky scandal.
The first point is easy to argue against. First off, primary voters rarely resent TV ads or campaign appearances by out-of-state politicians who they respect. As long as the ad's viewers don't dislike Clinton, they probably won't dwell on the fact that he's not from Connecticut. Clinton is probably particularly immune from such a connotation, since he was President and therefore in some sense did represent the people of Connecticut (along with all Americans), even though he is not actually a resident of the state.

The second point seems like very wishful thinking on the part of Lieberman's detractors. For one thing, I don't see many people making such an association unless they already dislike Lieberman or have already decided to vote against him. I think that the memory of Lieberman's speech is far, far stronger among Lamont supporters (particularly those in the blogosphere) than it is among the general population of Democrats.

Even if the viewer did make such a connection, I think that most voters are highly unlikely to hold Lieberman's 8-year old criticism against him after Clinton just went and called Lieberman his "friend" that he is "proud of" as a "good Democrat." As I wrote last weekend, Lieberman's role in the Lewinsky scandal is massively and artificially inflated by his detractors, who ignore Lieberman's staunch opposition to impeachment or any other official reprimand of Clinton and instead focus on the one speech that he made where he criticized Clinton's personal conduct - and even at the time, Clinton said that he agreed with the speech and did not find it the least bit disloyal or out of line.

The ad will finally start to rebuild the positive associations between Lieberman and progressives that have held for the vast majority of his political career. Clinton remains perhaps the most recognized and most respected member of the party, and his word that Joe Lieberman is a good loyal Democrat should (and probably will) carry much weight among Democratic voters.

Coupled with the Dodd ad, the Clinton ad hopefully is an indication that the Lieberman campaign has finally figured out the strategy they need to take in order to stop the free-fall in the polls (maybe even throw it in reverse) and remind Connecticut Democrats why it's more than ok to pull the lever for Lieberman.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

SurveyUSA: Lieberman Gaining Strength

Some encouraging news from of all places Daily Kos. There is a diary up today by Bruin Kid, regarding the latest approval ratings for U.S. Senators from SurveyUSA, which shows that Joe Lieberman's numbers among Democrats generally and even liberals are moving up.

Here's the key passage from Bruin Kid's post (remember this is coming from a Lieberman critic, not a friend):

Last month's ratings showed Lieberman had suffered big drops in support from Democrats and liberals. This month, however, he seems to have recovered. His approvals among both Democrats and liberals are now both back at 50%.

He especially had a HUGE jump of support among liberals. (WTF?) This, BTW, to go from -16% to +7%, is outside the margin of error. So something's up here. And remember, this was way BEFORE Bill Clinton's visit to Connecticut, so that does not explain the jump.

And here's the full results of the survey.

Yes, something is up here. After two years of an unrelentless smear campaign against Joe Lieberman, the truth about his rock-solid Democratic record, his integrity, and the results he's delivered for Connecticut are getting out. I suspect that as more Democrats focus on the facts, and not the distortions coming from the Lieberman-haters, those numbers are only going to continue to rise in these closing days before the primary.

MD-Sen: Your campaign might be in trouble if...

Ran across this in yesterday's Hotline. I don't even think explanation is necessary for this one...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Real Clear Record on Abortion/Gay Rights

The Real Clear Politics blog offered an excellent breakdown of Joe Lieberman's rock-solid record on abortion rights and gay and lesbian rights to counter the latest misinformation campaign by the Nedheds. The whole post is worth reading, so here it is:

When 95% Perfect Isn't Perfect Enough

Last week I discussed Joe Lieberman's near-perfect voting record on "women's choice" issues, as determined by liberal interest groups like NARAL and Planned Parenthood who are backing his campaign. The Hartford Courant reports that Lamont supporters gathered yesterday to attack Lieberman on the issue of abortion and gay rights to try and demonstrate that their guy is more than a single-issue candidate opposed to the war in Iraq:

By national standards, Lieberman has a stellar record on gay rights and abortion issues. He is endorsed by Planned Parenthood Federal PAC and the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group.

"Joe Lieberman works in Washington with the leaders of these organizations every day. They know how difficult it is to get things done in a Republican town, and he's proud to get their support," said Sean Smith, manager of the Lieberman campaign.

When the Human Rights Campaign endorsed him earlier this year, the organization said, "Sen. Lieberman's strong support of fairness for all Americans, gay or straight, dates back three decades to a time when few of his peers were standing by his side."

But that is no longer enough for some activists in Connecticut, where the gay rights movement is eyeing the next prize, gay marriage - a step Lieberman is unwilling to endorse.

And while the abortion-rights group NARAL says Lieberman votes with it 95 percent of the time, some activists cannot forgive Lieberman for refusing to support a filibuster in opposition to the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, an abortion opponent. Lieberman did vote against confirmation.

"The bar is higher here," Jepsen said, surveying the Pond House, where dozens of women, and a few men, mingled as they waited for Lamont.

The bar is higher? The bar can't get any higher than demanding absolute ideological purity. Even in deep blue Connecticut the issue of gay marriage is a close call, and Lieberman may be slightly outside of state Democrats on the issue - but not by much. A Quinnipiac poll from last April showed that a slight majority (53%) of Connecticut Democrats supported gay marriage while 42% opposed the idea. Independent voters, by the way, opposed gay marriage by a margin of 52-42, which is identical to the opinion of voters statewide (53 opposed - 42 in favor).

Again, look at Lieberman's voting record as determined by the largest gay & lesbian interest group, the Human Rights Campaign. Out of the seven votes they deemed most important last year, Lieberman voted for the HRC-supported position on six of them. Only eight Democrats in the Senate voted for all seven, putting Lieberman in the same company with Russ Feingold, Barbara Boxer, Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer, and ahead of Senators like Jim Jeffords, Tom Harkin, Dianne Feinstein and, oh yeah, Chris Dodd.

I understand the desire of the Lamont folks to try and make their candidate out to be more than a suit stuffed with antiwar anger and a resentment against Lieberman for not hating George Bush as much as they do, but the effort to attack Lieberman on other issues where he has a solidly progressive voting record makes them look even more like a group of hardcore ideological purists. With the amount of attention this race is getting nationally, I don't think that works to the benefit of the Democratic Party as a whole at all.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Airing out the laundry

So every once in awhile, I've noticed that someone puts up a laundry list of grievances against Lieberman. In the spats of hate mail and derisive comments which I've received over the past few weeks, more than one has called me a "coward" or something to that effect for not answering these charges. Well, I've finally decided to call that bluff.

First off, whenever I read this list of charges, I was reminded of's dubunking of the ridiculous"Clinton Body Count". The body count was a ridiculous laundry list distributed by GOPers in the 1990's listing dozens of people connected to Clinton who had died over the course of his political career. It was a crock, and Mikkelson did a masterful job of exposing it as such.

Here are what Mikkelson cited as the rules of thumb in creating such laundry lists. I've modified this list so that it refers to the anti-Lieberman laundry lists rather than anti-Clinton laundry lists, but it's eerie how similar the rhetorical tactics are:
  • List every vote or statement that Lieberman has made that even remotely suggests he is not progressive. It doesn't matter what his stated position on the issue is, or how he ultimately voted on the issue in question. The longer the list, the more impressive it looks and the less likely anyone is to challenge it. By the time readers get to the bottom of the list, they'll be too weary to wonder what could possibly be relevant about how many times Lieberman smiled during his debate with Cheney in 2000.
  • Play word games. Make sure that not voting for a filibuster on a bill is framed as "supporting" that bill. If Lieberman at any time voted for something proposed by a Republican, call it the "Bush/Cheney/Lieberman" bill. If Lieberman ever says he's "open" to an idea, say that he is in favor of it.
  • Make sure every vote or statement by Lieberman that you can dredge up is offered as evidence that he is a Republican, without regard to the context and relative significance of the vote/statement in question. If Lieberman voted against something 32 times, and then did not show up for a vote on one amendment, ignore the 32 votes he made and focus on the 1 he didn't. You don't have to discuss what impact it has on the totality of his record; just keep harping that the one vote "shows that he is a Republican."
  • If the data doesn't fit your conclusion, ignore it. You don't have to explain why all the Democrats who know Lieberman best — Bill Clinton, Chris Dodd, John Larson, John Lewis, etc — are still going around endorsing him and talking up his progressive credentials. It's inconvenient for you, so don't mention it.
  • Most importantly, don't let facts and details stand in your way! If you can pass off the fact that he has never proposed a bill on something as evidence that he is against it - do it! If a critical vote contradicts your theory, claim that particular vote was "irrelevant." If your explanation of Lieberman's actions has no basis in reality, who cares? It's not like anybody is going to check up on this stuff . . .
(This is all just to point out that the intellectual dishonesty of many of the charges against Lieberman is enough to make Ken Mehlman and Karl Rove proud).

I work 9-5 and then have a night job two days a week, so this took me two days to put together and is therefore a one-time only thing. I want to start with the disclaimer that I am only speaking for myself, and that these are only brief rebuttals - if I were to give full-length rebuttals to everything on this list, this post would be dissertation-length.

Since this is so long, you might just want to hit CTRL-F and look for the topic you're interested in... Sadly, I'm only half-kidding. Here goes:

"Support of Nafta/Cafta"
I'm pro-trade, so this one is easy for me. Much of our economy relies on trade and open commerce with other countries. It's no coincidence that NAFTA - a centerpiece of the Clinton economic policy - came right before one of the biggest periods of economic growth (and job growth) in American history. Jobs might be lost in manufacturing, but huge numbers of jobs are also created in the service and technology sectors. The important thing is that those workers in industries that are hurt by trade policies are given adequate re-training and education to make them marketable in other areas - and that is something Lieberman has supported steadfastly.

In Connecticut in particular, many jobs rely upon the continuation of our open trade policies with other countries, including and especially those in North and Central America. I agree that it would be very preferable if we attached labor standards to such agreements, but it's tough to argue that Lieberman's support for NAFTA hurt our economy.

"Support of the Bush energy policy"
- Lieberman has most definitely not supported the Bush/Cheney energy policy. He voted against the key Bush/Cheney energy initiative, providing one of the critical votes which killed it in 2003. As far as Lieberman's vote in favor of the 2005 Energy Act, I refer readers to my post on Lieberman's efforts to cut emissions. The big points I made in that post on the Energy bill were:
  • Calling it the "Bush/Cheney/Lieberman" bill is laughable, since Lieberman never attached his name to the bill in any way
(Note: This is another common tactic – implying that Lieberman's vote for a particular bill makes him a bad Democrat, while ignoring the fact that many other unquestionably good Democrats voted for the same bill. On virtually every topic cited here, at least a third of Senate Democrats would have to be called “bad Democrats” along with Lieberman, so to single Lieberman out as a bad Democrat makes little sense)

"Willingness to deny rape victims emergency contraception"
- This is perhaps the most egregious half-truths told about Lieberman, and insulting to those rape victims who have had to get EC (one of my best friends went through that terrible experience last year). He said that religious-run hospitals shouldn't be forced to give EC if the religious beliefs of the religious institution operating the hospital prohibit its use.

And you know what? That is what is required by the Constitution. The courts have ruled repeatedly that the government can't force religious institutions to do things that go against their religious beliefs, as that would violate the First Amendment. I strongly disagree with any religious doctrine that prohibits the use of EC, but the government simply does not have the Constitutional right to force them to reject even a ridiculous belief. And from a purely practical standpoint, de-funding hospitals which will not give out EC for religious reasons (the aim of the law in question) could have a catastrophic effect on emergency care and health care in general across the country, since so many hospitals are run by religious institutions.

Right or wrong, that's the reality of constitutional law and practical effects on the matter. I'll grant that the courts have not, to my knowledge, ruled on these EC laws in particular, but the legal history of the broader issue of government directives being forced upon religious institutions is pretty long (most particularly in the case of religious colleges and universities). Lieberman's words about the "short drive" were very poorly chosen, but you can't fault Lieberman for thinking it's unwise to compromise the Constitution or to de-fund hospitals for abiding by their religious beliefs, however misguided those beliefs may be. Besides, NARAL and Planned Parenthood seem to think his record on choice is pretty good - they endorsed him.

"Support of someone from the International Arabian Horse Association to run FEMA"
- This one was a screw-up on behalf of the whole Senate, which confirmed him by voice vote without any dissent. That's one that all our leaders are responsible for, and it's absurd to single out Lieberman.

"His unwillingness to demand censure on wiretapping"
- Lieberman has said that he believes the Bush wiretapping to be illegal. But the censure motion had zero chance of passing, and everybody knew it. All that pushing censure would have done is tie down the Senate in debating a resolution that literally does nothing, and keep the Senate from debating bills that actually have a chance of passing on issues that are more urgent (like, say, education and health care). And we learned from the Clinton impeachment attempt just how destructive and divisive pushing such futile measures can be. Lieberman opposes the Bush wiretapping program, but he also opposed wasting the Senate's time on a debate over whether or not Bush should be verbally slapped on the wrist. As he and Clinton both have said, it would be an unproductive use of the Senate's time.

(Final note: Only three other Senators attached their name to this resolution. So singling out Lieberman for this is, once again, absurd).

"Support of No Child Left Behind"
I think it's preposterous to condemn a bill that hasn't been given a real chance. The education system in this country is broken for millions of students who have the misfortune of living in districts with underfunded and/or mismanaged schools. NCLB was pushed by Ted Kennedy, who is about as Democratic as you can get, as a way to try and level the playing field. But Bush shamefully has underfunded the program, which has undermined it and kept it from reaching its full potential. I think this is the most underreported travesty of the entire Bush presidency, since it has stranded tens of millions of students in thousands of schools by failing to give them the money that NCLB would have provided to improve their schools. Lieberman has always supported fully funding NCLB, but Bush and Frist have undercut the efforts at every turn.

This legislation is unquestionably progressive; it marks the greatest effort to improve the schools of underserved students since the introduction of Title I forty years ago. Lieberman was right to be among the 48 Democratic Senators who supported NCLB. It is Bush who should be condemned for underfunding it and not allowing it to have a real chance - a point which Lieberman has made repeatedly.

"Support of School Vouchers"
- Actually, Lieberman was noted for proposing a modified version of NCLB which stripped it of its voucher provisions. I oppose vouchers as a long-term solution, but let me say this - I have personally seen the conditions that exist in urban high schools during my time as an education student. Many students are condemned to underfunded and/or mismanaged schools. Until we can solve that problem, I can easily see why many African-Americans and other education advocates have pushed for vouchers, and why many good Democrats have listened. Critics of the idea should talk to the parents of kids who go to schools in the poorest neighborhoods of Philadelphia before they have a knee-jerk reaction against it.

Lieberman has said that he would consider school vouchers for poor students only. And improving the educational possibilities of poor students is about as progressive as you can get.

"Support of a non-provoked attack on Iran"
- This looks like a thinly veiled effort to say that Lieberman supports starting a second war in the Middle East. Problem is, it's not true. Lieberman was extremely cautious in his assessment of US options in Iran. He said he would consider targeted air strikes as a last resort in an effort to knock out "some of the components" in order to "delay and deter" the development of Iran's nuclear program. Considering air strikes to prevent a state with an undeniable record of arming terrorists from developing nuclear weapons is hardly a horrendous position to take, and that is the most 'aggressive' stance he has taken on Iran.

But this is a common tactic of the Lieberhaters - if he doesn't rule something out, say he supports it. It might be dishonest, but the assumption is that no one will bother to check what he really said.

"Interest in privatizing Social Security"
- This is another huge distortion of Lieberman's position, and the ultimate example of equating "willing to listen to ideas on" with "interested in." If he's so interested in privatizing it, then why has he gone on record against it every single time it's come up? He made one comment last year saying he wanted to hear what the whole proposal was before deciding on it. What he really said about privatization is completely ignored. Even a NYTimes article which highlighted some Democrats' (misdirected) anger towards Lieberman on this issue conceded that point:
"But as for the president's proposal to divert part of the payroll tax to private retirement accounts, Mr. Lieberman said he had already rejected that idea before the 2000 election."
Once it was clear that the Bush plan on SocSec had no new ideas other than privatization, he announced his opposition to it. Before that, he waited to get all the facts before making a final decision, which seems much more reasonable than having a knee-jerk reaction against changing anything about SocSec (keep in mind that there were many more issues being discussed than privatization). Lieberman has always opposed privatization, and you can't fault him merely because he decided to make an informed decision rather than a hasty one.

"Support of Gonzales and the torture policy"
- First off, the reason why Gonzales wrote the memo is often forgotten. As Bush's attorney, he had little choice but to do what his boss/client told him to do, as any government attorney will tell you.

Besides which, even if you do think the memo showed that Gonzales personally supported torture (which I think is a doubtful charge in and of itself), it's absurd to argue that just because Lieberman voted for Gonzales, he must have supported everything Gonzales has ever done. If that were requisite for voting in favor of a nominee's confirmation, no nominee for anything would ever pass the Senate. Every Democrat in Washington knew that the Bush administration could have proposed far worse AG nominees than Gonzales, who is pro-choice, pro-affirmative action, and (incidentally) the first Hispanic Attorney General and highest-ranking Hispanic cabinet member in the nation's history. If Gonzales had been voted down, Bush probably would have proposed someone far less hospitable - just remember John Ashcroft (whom Lieberman voted against).

"Vote on cloture for Alito"
- The meaning of Lieberman's vote on cloture is massively and artificially inflated by the Lieberhaters. The cloture vote was a foregone conclusion, since the Gang of 14 as a whole decided that they approved of Alito. Lieberman personally opposed Alito, which is why he voted against him. The truth is that even if Lieberman had voted against cloture, it still would have passed by 12 votes, since 19 other Democrats voted for cloture - including Democratic stalwarts such as Herb Kohl, Jay Rockefeller, Daniel Inouye, and Maria Cantwell. All he would have accomplished by voting against cloture would have been angering the Gang of 14 - the group which is necessary to preserve judicial filibusters.

The vote on confirmation was actually closer (passed by 8 votes) than the vote on cloture was (12 votes). In other words, the argument that the cloture vote was the "real chance" to stop Alito's confirmation is just plain wrong. Both votes were foregone conclusions, the cloture vote perhaps even more so than the final confirmation vote.

Even if the cloture vote had not been a foregone conclusion, a junior Senator from a small state in the minority party who is not in the Senate leadership and who is not on the Judiciary Committee has zero chance of being able to stop the confirmation of a Supreme Court nominee. To pretend otherwise, or to pretend that Lieberman actually supported Alito, is really dishonest.

"Yes confirmation vote on Rice"
- I'm not a fan of Rice as Secretary of State, but even die-hard progressives have conceded she was less hawkish than rest of the Bush administration's foreign policy "experts." Most critiques of the Bush Administration have Colin Powell and to a lesser extent Rice acting as voices of caution against Cheney and Rumsfield. As with Gonzales, Bush could have nominated someone much worse than Rice (think Paul Wolfowitz). And as with Gonzales, Lieberman was hardly a bad Democrat for voting to confirm her. Fully 32 of the 45 Senate Democrats voted for Rice, including Harry Reid, Barack Obama, Diane Feinstein, Jon Corzine, Daniel Inouye, Pat Leahy, and Chris Dodd. I hope no one would argue that those are all bad Democrats.

"Support of the Bankruptcy bill"
- Another egregious and obvious distortion. He did not support the bill - in fact, he was one of only 25 Senators to vote against it. He did vote against the filibuster on it, but (again) him voting to filibuster the bill would have done nothing since the cloture motion carried by a solid margin anyway. Lieberman clearly does not believe in making a pointless statement by voting against cloture if the motion to end debate is going to pass anyway, which is why he would become a member of the Gang of 14 (which saved judicial filibusters) just a couple months later. Again, that's hardly an unreasonable position for a practical-minded politician to take.

"Support of Defence [sic] of Marriage Act (Clinton did too, BOTH were wrong)"
- Can't argue with that - he was wrong on this vote. But he's been far more supportive of gay rights and civil rights than pretty much any other Senator during the course of his career. That bill passed 85-14, with great Democrats like Bill Bradley, Tom Harkin, and Paul Wellstone voting for it, so Lieberman was in good company being wrong, and it hardly makes him a bad Democrat. After all, if you call Paul Wellstone a bad Democrat, then who on earth is a good one?

He has opposed the Federal (anti-)Marriage Amendment (twice), indicating that he has become considerably more progressive on this issue during the past 10 years. Besides, he was endorsed by Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay rights advocacy group in the country.

"Supported our ports being run by Dubai"
- This charge really ticks me off. If we are to be honest, the only two 'honest' explanations for the criticism over Dubai are Arab-bashing and political expediency. Obviously, neither reason is very good. The port operations that were to be handed over to Dubai Ports World (DPW) used to be handled by a British shipping company, and the Singapore company PSA operates port terminals all over the world. Why is it acceptable for British and Asian companies to operate ports, but not Arab companies?

"For telling Democrats they criticize the president at their own peril (of course, NO Republican ever criticized Clinton)"
- This charge is typical of a very Bush-like tactic: Giving only part of the quote without providing the context. Remember the "Global Test" BS that he threw at Kerry? Meet its twin. The point Lieberman was actually making was that BOTH parties should stop going at each others' throats and work on solving the serious problems we face both at home and abroad. Here is the quote given with its context (full speech here):
I recall here the wisdom of Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson, who served our country during World War II and the beginning of the Cold War. Stimson said that sometimes the best way to make a person trustworthy is to trust him. There is wisdom there.

It is time that America’s leaders, in the White House and Congress, Republicans and Democrats, who agree on our goals in Iraq but disagree on tactics to start trusting each other again so that we can work together again. The distrust is deep and I know it will be difficult to overcome, but history will judge us harshly if we do not stretch across the divide of distrust and join together to complete our mission successfully in Iraq.

It is time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be Commander-in-Chief for three more critical years, and that in matters of war we undermine Presidential credibility at our nation’s peril.

It is time for Republicans in the White House and Congress who distrust Democrats to acknowledge that greater Democratic involvement and support in the war in Iraq is critical to rebuilding the support of the American people that is essential to our success in that war.

It is time for Americans and we their leaders to start working together again on the war on terrorism.
Obviously, the people who cite only the third paragraph of this quote completely missed (or completely ignored) the point Lieberman was actually trying to make.

"Friends with Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, who call Democrats terrorists...Friends with convicted felon, former governor John Rowland"
- Yes, let's please hang people for who they're friends with. I don't like any of those three either, but guilt by association? That's a tactic most frequently associated with McCarthyism.

"Does not comport self like opposition party member, e.g. one of the few Democrat attendees at a Valentines soiree with the Bushes"
- This is a puff charge. Lieberman and his wife went to a reception with the Bushes - so what? Does Lieberman have to be hostile to Bush and refuse to be seen with him just because they are members of different parties? Being one of several Democrats to go to a purely social function with Bush is hardly cause for alarm. Comporting oneself like a member of the opposition party means criticizing Bush's policies, and Lieberman has done that plenty of times (see the bottom of this post).

"Supported Bush on faith-based programs that spread lies about choice and abortions"
- I disagree with the faith-based initiative legislation. But Lieberman is an orthodox Jew, so surely it is not surprising that he supports it, and I won't hold the depth of his faith against him on this. Lieberman has an outstanding record on choice...need I list the pro-choice endorsements he has received again, or mention the fact that he has voted against the proposed bans on late-term abortions each time they have come up?

"Has essentially endorsed John McCain for president. “I hope he runs.”"
- This is just plain dumb, and a variation on the "say he supports something if he doesn't outright condemn it" tactic. Saying that you hope someone runs is most definitely not saying that you hope they win. It's far more likely that Lieberman thinks that McCain will bring issues into the discussion that he feels should be talked about - say, campaign finance reform. People make statements like this all the time about presidential races, usually to indicate that the more people that get in the race, the more issues will be discussed. Heck, I've heard people say they want Pat Robertson to run for President - not because they want him to win, but because if he does manage to win the GOP nomination, the Democrats will win in a landslide in November. In any case, to spin "I hope he runs" as an endorsement is just an insult to people's intelligence.

"Against universal health care."
- This one is really out there; it's saying "he never attached his name to a bill supporting it, so therefore he must be opposed to it." He has said repeatedly that he supports providing universal health care (i.e. health care for all Americans), but has never proposed a bill that would grant it because he knows it wouldn't pass a GOP congress. Anyone remember what happened to Hillary's health care plan? Joe supported that, but saw what happened to it. If that couldn't pass a Democratic Congress, why on earth would he spend time writing a bill when there is a GOP Congress which would never let it reach the floor? Ending the GOP majority is the only way to move towards universal health care. Defeating Lieberman won't end the GOP majority, and defeating a candidate who will vote for universal health care certainly won't help bring it about any faster.

"Against gay marriage, not proposed anything on domestic partner benefits"
- The first part is an outright lie. He voted against the Federal (anti-)Marriage Amendment twice (here and here). As far as not proposing anything on domestic partner benefits...see "Universal Health Care." Again, remember that the GOP controls Congress, so any bill granting rights to gay couples would have zero chance of passing, and probably wouldn't even make it out of committee. You can't fault him for not wanting to spend time on a bill which will never see the light of day over bills with a real chance of passing and advancing progressive causes - like his clean energy bill which would protect the environment and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. And again, the Human Rights Campaign seems to think his record on gay rights is pretty good, considering the fact that they have endorsed him.

"On Iraq: Time magazine's Baghdad bureau chief Michael Ware: 'Either Senator Lieberman is so divorced from reality that he's completely lost the plot or he knows he's spinning a line. Because one of my colleagues turned to me in the middle of this lunch and said he's not talking about any country I've ever been to and yet he was talking about Iraq, the very country where we were sitting'"
- This doesn't quote Lieberman, but rather quotes someone who is criticizing Lieberman. It's pretty hard to respond without knowing what Lieberman actually said. I certainly don't agree with Lieberman's position on Iraq, and I think he sometimes doesn't see or chooses not to see how bad things have turned there. But as I said, there are other things that I think are just as important for America's present and future - education, the environment, equal rights, and stem cell research. And getting just one more vote against the war in Iraq is not worth sacrificing Lieberman's long, progressive record on those vital issues.

"Yes vote for John Roberts"
- Most Democrats believed Roberts should be confirmed, according to polls. And Lieberman voted with a majority of the Democratic Caucus on Roberts. Other supporters of Roberts included Russ Feingold, Carl Levin, Pat Leahy, Herb Kohl, Patty Murray, and Chris Dodd - all progressive standardbearers. So again, this is hardly a case where Lieberman's vote was out of the Democratic mainstream.

"Voted to stop federal aid to public schools that used materials 'supportive of homosexuality'"
- To be honest, I'm not sure what bill this is referring to...I've done a few Google searches and nothing has come up, and I'm afraid that I'm not a walking encyclopedia of legislation. I do know that since very little federal money goes to public schools anyway (less than 10% of the total budget of US public schools) and that such a law as this would be completely unenforceable, the impact of such a provision would be close to nil anyway, though that certainly wouldn't make it right. This sounds like the kind of thing that was added on as an amendment or rider to an appropriations bill, and not a stand-alone piece of legislation.

Lieberman's record on gay rights is as solid as any Democrat's (thus the HRC endorsement), so I have a tough time believing that he would support this provision by itself. I certainly don't agree with such a provision (both on educational policy and civil rights grounds), and I would disagree with Lieberman if he did support it, but without knowing the circumstances surrounding this, I can't really respond more than this. I would be willing to update this one part of the "laundry list" if someone points me in the right direction.

"At Memorial day parade, marched with Republican Nancy Johnson while ignoring Dem. candidate Chris Murphy"
- This charge seems to be one of those that started in the blogosphere and was embellished each step of the way. There was a photograph posted somewhere of Lieberman walking with Johnson during part of the parade, and that turned into Lieberman "marching" with her and "ignoring" Murphy. I doubt that it was anything more than a matter of one person seeing someone they know and deciding to go over and say hi - in other words, this is another case of the Lieberhaters wanting to hang him for daring to be friendly with a Republican. And if he was talking to Johson, well Connecticut has a very small Congressional delegation, and they have to be on good working terms with each other regardless of party membership in order to make sure things get done in CT.

Lastly, Lieberman has endorsed Murphy over Johnson, a rather important fact that the Lieberhaters ignore.

"Formed his own party, to run AGAINST the Democratic opponent, if he loses the primary"
- You won't hear me argue that Lieberman made the right choice in choosing run as an indy. But he has just as much of a right to run as an indy as Ned Lamont has to run in the primary. It's also understandable that Lieberman, whose appeal is strongest among unaffiliated voters, would want to give all CT voters a chance to vote on his re-election (and unaffiliateds are the largest voting bloc in Connecticut). He will caucus as a Democrat no matter what, and that is what matters most in the end - Lieberman will add to the Democratic caucus and help build a Democratic majority. While I don't think he should have chosen to run both in the primary and as an indy, that doesn't change the fact that his record on the issues is in the mainstream of Senate Democrats, and that his re-election will add to the numbers of the Democratic caucus.

"Was hostile and boorish to opponent Ned Lamont in primary debate, treated Dick Cheney with kid gloves in vice presidential debate."
- This strikes me as sour grapes about the fact that Lieberman took an aggressive stance and then mopped the floor with Lamont in the debate. And yes, he was civil with Cheney - so what? That debate has been cited as among the best, most informative VP debates in the nation's history. Besides which, those who make this charge seem to forget that although the tone was congenial, Lieberman did get in quite a few jabs on Bush/Cheney in the debate, including one where he mocked Cheney for criticizing the Clinton/Gore economic record despite the fact that he had grown rich during the Clinton administration.

"Has been seen on Fox News more than in Connecticut...Has been in downtown Baghdad more than downtown Bridgeport"
- This is the logic of Douglas Adams's Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (an animal that assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you). In other words, the charge is equating absence of evidence with evidence of absence. Just because he "has been seen" more on TV than in Connecticut obviously does not mean he actually has spent more time in the Fox studio than in his home state.

In any case, the fact that he has not campaigned in Connecticut extensively since 2000 is because his job as Senator requires him to stay in Washington and travel elsewhere. This is one of the oldest political charges in the book - that because someone is in Washington doing their job as a member of Congress, it means they are ignoring their constituents back home. The problem is that you can't do your job in Washington from hundreds of miles away, so a candidate facing this charge is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't. Maybe Lieberman should have gone back to Connecticut a bit more, but it's not like he was spending all his time eating caviar in D.C. and partying all night in Baghdad.

There's the laundry list rebuttal. This took me a ridiculous amount of time to compile and write (and thank you to my girlfriend for proofreading it), so I won't be responding to any more of these between now and the primary. Most of the items on this laundry list were either half-baked or half-truths, but now there's at least a small part of "the other side of the story" for all to read. I'll finish by repeating the disclaimer that this is by no means definitive (I only devoted a few sentences to each topic, and this STILL was 10 pages long) and I don't speak for anyone but myself.

Here is a (very) incomplete list of instances where Lieberman has criticized Bush and his policies, often from the Senate floor. The first few of these were lifted from one of this blog's commenters, followed by several additions of my own:

Here is Lieberman criticizing Bush on stem cell research:

Here is Lieberman criticizing Bush's economic policies:

Here is Lieberman denouncing Bush's stance on affirmative action:

On energy and transportation spending:

On education:

On the handing over of wilderness areas to the oil and gas industry:

On cutting programs that provide jobs for CT residents:

On global warming and the environment

On Medicare

I could make this list go on for hours, but I have to eat and sleep at some point. In any case, hopefully this helps reveal just how disingenuous the half-truths being told about Lieberman are.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Clinton on Lieberman: "He'll do you proud"

Suffered a minor injury on the way back from work today, so I'm afraid I'm not up for a lengthy update. I'll just quote part of Bill Clinton's speech that he made while campaigning for Lieberman in Waterbury today:

"[We Democrats] don't agree on everything. We don't agree on Iraq...the real issue is, whether you were for it or against it, what are we going to do now? And let me tell you something, no Democrat is responsible for the mistakes that have been made since the fall of Saddam Hussein that have brought us to this point."

"I don't have anything against Joe's opponent. He seems like a perfectly fine man. But I know that on the issues that I believe are critical to our future, Joe Lieberman's past is good evidence of his future...He is a good man, a good Democrat, and he'll do you proud."

UPDATE: From the Danbury News Times's coverage of the rally:

Democrats and the public were impressed by the event.

"It was a highly charged environment," said former Danbury mayor Gene Eriquez. "It shows the wonderful, broad support for Joe that people would come out on a Monday afternoon."

Jasmine Jeffrey of Waterbury, who sat in the balcony, said Clinton's visit was "excellent, phenomenal. It was awesome, so inspiring."

Sandy Healy of Waterbury had planned to vote for Lamont until Monday.

"This will make a big difference," Healy said. "I wasn't going to vote for Lieberman, but I am a big fan of Clinton and with Clinton's endorsement, I am going to do volunteer work for Lieberman."

Sounds like people power to me.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

DailyKos attempts a rebuttal

DailyKos decided to put my story debunking the myth that Lieberman somehow betrayed Clinton on the front page of their website (I guess I should start by thanking Kos and Co. for driving some more traffic here). She called some of my arguments "absurd at best," accused me of trying to "rewrite history," and said that my pointing out Feingold's role in the impeachment era somehow constitutes "whin[ing] that Russ Feingold has gotten away scot free."

Well, I will now rebut their rebuttal. I have to get up early for work, so I'll only hit some of the parts of mcjoan's rebuttal that address my post directly:
Lieberman, as was and is his wont, craved the approbation of Republicans and the Media, and he got it big time for that speech. Damaging President Clinton and Democrats while aggrandizing himself. Sound familiar?

To put it plainly, I think Russ Feingold was wrong every step of the way in the Clinton/Lewinsky saga. But Russ Feingold did not deliver a speech on the Senate floor intended to garner the approbation of Republicans and the media. Feingold's criticism of Clinton stemmed from his personal sense of disappointment and principle, not for grabbing attention. Indeed, Feingold's position on the Clinton impeachment garnered almost no coverage at all. Funny how that worked out.
First off, this post should be taken note of by neuroscientists all over the world, because apparently mcjoan can read minds! She states with certainty that she knows the respective motivations of Russ Feingold and Joe Lieberman during the Clinton scandals. Well, since she never has talked to either of them about it, the only explanation is that she somehow has the ability to read and interpret their brainwaves from 1998. Professor Xavier would be jealous.

(I'm sorry to be snide, but claiming to know their motivations seems a little presumptuous)

The truth, of course, is that we have absolutely no way of knowing what Lieberman and Feingold's motivations were. All we can do is judge them by their words and actions. On that basis, no reasonable person could say that Lieberman's actions were somehow more critical or disloyal than Feingold's. Lieberman made one speech criticizing Clinton's personal conduct; Feingold said he was open to impeachment, said Clinton "disgraced himself," and was the only Democrat to vote with Republicans on the key motions which could have ended the impeachment trial's public humiliation of Clinton.

I can't explain why the press covered Lieberman's statements more than Feingold's; I don't know the motivations of the press any more than I know the motivations of Feingold and Lieberman. Perhaps the differential coverage was based on the fact that Lieberman had been a longtime political ally of Clinton's, and were both founding members of the New Democrat movement which swept Clinton into office. Perhaps it was because Feingold had already been a critic of Clinton during the GOP attempts to push the Clinton/Gore fundraising stories, so his calls for greater scrutiny seemed less surprising. The point is that there's no way to know. In any case, it's preposterous to blame Lieberman for the actions of the media.

Here's another interesting part of it:
(BTW, in bringing Feingold into this discussion, I take it the LieberDems have given up their false smears of anti-Semitism against Lamont supporters.)
I certainly have never made any such accusation, although I appreciate anything that stokes my ego by associating the entire pro-Lieberman movement with my pen name. If she's referring to me specifically, then I should point out that I have expressly said that I very much disagree with "John Droney's ill-begotten sentiments that Jews should vote for Lieberman just for the sake of 'supporting home cooking'."

If, on the other hand, she used "LieberDems" to mean all of Lieberman's Democratic supporters, then I have no problem agreeing with mcjoan that any Lieberman supporter who thinks that the Lamont campaign is somehow motivated by anti-Semitism is seriously deluding themselves. That's why I've never made any such charge, and never will.

I want to end with one last point - I don't think either Lieberman or Feingold did anything wrong.

My post was not at all about trying to criticize Feingold, since I think all his statements and actions were in good conscience. I personally believe the whole impeachment ordeal was a waste of time and taxpayer money, since it had no chance of actually succeeding and distracted the entire nation from far more important matters. But Russ Feingold thought Bill Clinton had done something wrong, and wanted to see something done about it. I find no inherent fault in that, even though I would not have done the same thing myself if I were in his position.

I only had two points - both of them related, both of them simple, and neither (I think) too controversial:
  1. Joe Lieberman was not disloyal to Clinton, and Clinton will tell you so himself
  2. Singling out Lieberman as disloyal because of his actions during Clinton's impeachment is hypocritical unless others (such as Feingold) are criticized as well

UPDATE: PoliticalWire linked to the Lieberman/Feingold story as well, and (like mcjoan) accused me of trying to "rewrite history."

It's interesting...they didn't take issue with any of the facts or votes cited in the post. So I'm not exactly sure what they're taking issue with.

I'll say it again - I have no beef with Russ Feingold. I'm simply pointing out that, despite the fact that Lieberman and Feingold's respective campaigns (Lieberman for Senate, Feingold for President) are much-talked about in the blogosphere, only Lieberman is skewered by the Kossacks for stabbing Clinton in the back. And since no one can honestly say that they know what was running through the minds of Lieberman, Feingold, and the media in 1998, we can only judge them by their words and actions at the time.

I laid out what those words and actions were, but I wasn't trying to interpret (much less re-interpret) those events and I certainly wasn't trying to pass historical judgment on Feingold and Lieberman. I think we should all leave that to the historians.

Feingold, Lieberman, and Bill Clinton

In September of 1998, Joe Lieberman made a speech in which he said Bill Clinton's actions with Monica Lewinsky were "wrong and unacceptable and should be followed by some measure of public rebuke and accountability." The Lieberhater crowd has repeatedly said that Lieberman "stabbed Clinton in the back" by daring to make that speech, and have used the speech to argue that Lieberman was a disloyal Democrat who helped push the GOP drive towards impeachment.

Such a charge could easily be dismissed as patently false without exposing the implicit hypocrisy behind it. Lieberman never supported the impeachment efforts. He voted to dismiss the charges and end the trial every time such a motion came before the Senate, and he voted against both counts during the impeachment trial (here and here).

In fact, Lieberman never supported impeachment, resignation, or any other official reprimand of Clinton during the months leading up to the impeachment trial. He merely believed that the President's personal conduct with Lewinsky was morally damaging to the country, and felt compelled to say so publicly.

And Lieberman's assessment of Clinton's personal conduct was one that few Americans disagreed with - including Bill Clinton himself (as the thoughtful writers over at The Plank pointed out), since Clinton said this of Lieberman's 09/98 speech:
Basically, I agree with what he said...I have nothing else to say except that I can't disagree with anyone else who wants to be critical of what I have already acknowledged was indefensible. There's nothing that he or anyone else could say in a personally critical way that - I don't imagine - that I would disagree with, since I have already said it myself, to myself.
As Mr. Gerstein noted, many have actually credited Lieberman's speech as providing the Democrats with the position that allowed them to save the Clinton Presidency: Separate the legitimate questions about his personal conduct from the illegitimate legal attacks. Most Congressional Democrats echoed Lieberman's sentiments in the months to come, allowing the Democrats to criticize Clinton without fueling the GOP's drive towards impeachment. No Democrat who knows Lieberman, Clinton included, thought that his statements were indicative of anything but the concerns of a loyal friend and political ally.

But even if we were to accept the absurd characterization of Lieberman's actions as "stabbing Clinton in the back," then Russ Feingold stabbed Clinton in the back, twisted the knife, and shot him with an Uzi.

Among Democrats, Feingold was the most persistent and vocal critic of Clinton and the greatest Democratic proponent of continuing the GOP investigations throughout the period from 1997-1999. During the Lewinsky scandal in particular, Feingold was Clinton's strongest and earliest Democratic critic.

And yes, this is the same Russ Feingold who is a hero of the progressive blogosphere.

When the scandal first broke, Feingold said, "If there is any proof that (Clinton) lied under oath, I will have no trouble voting on his impeachment," making him the only Senate Democrat to openly consider that most extreme measure.

He later said that Clinton should seriously consider resigning. Even in the wake of the House impeachment vote, when Clinton was at his most politically vulnerable, Feingold refused to say say that Clinton shouldn't resign - even as fellow Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl strongly insisted that Clinton should remain in office.

After Clinton apologized for the first time, Lieberman showed his appreciation for Clinton's words, saying it marked the "beginning of a healing process." But Feingold didn't show any appreciation for Clinton "just saying he's sorry." He said:
Explanation rather than contrition is the key...not just saying he's sorry but adequately saying how it occurred so people can feel more comfortable about it. What he has to answer is how he said one series of things and then changed his story about it. He's got to explain this.
At the actual Senate trial, Feingold was the Democrats' Critic-in-Chief, voting to continue the trial and keep the charges on the books right up to the final vote:
Feingold did ultimately vote against removal (as did Lieberman), but unlike Lieberman and every other Democrat, he did not announce his opposition to impeachment until the day of the final vote. Feingold even refused to sign onto Dianne Feinstein's bipartisan resolution to "censure and move on", a resolution pushed by the founders of and co-sponsored by Lieberman, because it would have undermined the proceedings of the impeachment trial. He only supported censure after impeachment had failed, when censure was the strongest measure left on the table to use against Clinton.

After Clinton's impeachment trial was finally over, Feingold summed up his feelings succintly:
President Clinton has disgraced himself.
At every turn during the trial, Joe Lieberman had voted for the Senate and the country to move on, while Russ Feingold voted to let the public humiliation of Clinton continue. Little wonder that Feingold proposed his censure measure against Bush even though he knew it had no chance of passing: Feingold had already proved during the Clinton years that he had no problem using the Senate to support measures with no chance of passing in a divisive effort to humiliate a President. Lieberman had learned in 1998-99 that such futile efforts are "an unproductive use of our time," even if he believes the President to be wrong.

Feingold's intense and repeated slamming of Clinton was far harsher and more damaging than Lieberman's one-shot critique of Clinton's personal conduct. Indeed, Feingold was less forgiving and more encouraging of the GOP efforts to humiliate Clinton than any other Democrat.

But Lieberman is the one bashed in the liberal blogosphere for stabbing Clinton in the back, while Russ Feingold is lauded along with Howard Dean as the standardbearer of the 'netroots'. Online straw polls have repeatedly showed Feingold to be the favored 2008 presidential candidate among members of the liberal blogosphere. This past week, Feingold blew away the competition in a DailyKos poll on the 2008 contenders, while Lieberman was being bashed for feeding "the hate machine" that pushed Clinton's impeachment.

The hypocrisy is absolutely staggering, and there is no rational explanation for it.

The truth, of course, is that their hatred of Lieberman has absolutely nothing to do with Bill Clinton. donated money to Feingold's campaign account, but endorsed Lieberman's opponent and helped raise money for him. Why? Because just six months earlier, MoveOn had said they would help fund a Lieberman challenger because of Lieberman's position on Iraq.

After impeachment, MoveOn showed that they had no intention of forgetting the reasons the group was started. They started a "We Will Remember" campaign to hold accountable those who did the most to fuel the impeachment fire, and raised money to oppose their re-election. But MoveOn's roots have become a victim of Iraq-induced amnesia.

What really matters now is that Joe Lieberman is a pro-war Democrat, while Feingold is stridently anti-war. Consequently, Feingold's trespasses are forgiven, while even the most minor transgressions of Lieberman are artificially inflated into cardinal sins.

It is groupthink worthy of the Bush administration: Don't examine the evidence, then come to a conclusion. Start with your conclusion, then look for evidence that supports it.

Russ Feingold is good, Joe Lieberman is bad, and all evidence to the contrary be damned.

Such an approach may not be rational, but it's the only way to argue that Joe Lieberman has been anything but a loyal Clinton Democrat.