I never liked Joe “The Tool” Lieberman. If you run that name (nickname included) on the search bar at the upper-right corner of this page, you will find a total of 13 previous entries wherein I discussed him in uncomplimentary terms. What bugs me most about Lieberman is that so many people consider him as the personification of centrism. I believe that Lieberman gives centrism a bad name because he is simply an opportunist. The guy doesn’t really appear to stand for anything in particular – he is simply a tool for whatever lobbyist or other interest group is willing to play his quid pro quo game. After Lieberman lost the Democratic Primary for his Senate seat in 2006, he chose to run as an Independent and in the process, he betrayed those individuals who contributed to his election campaign, believing that Lieberman would champion the causes he advanced before he had to sell his soul to Bush and Cheney in order to save his political hide. It was only because Ned Lamont (the man who defeated him in the Democratic Primary) came down with a bad case of The Smug – spending more time vacationing than campaigning for the November election – that Lieberman managed to win a fourth term as junior Senator from Connecticut.
Needless to say, Emily Bazelon’s recent article for Slate, “Good Riddance, Joe Lieberman – Why I loathe my Connecticut Senator” was a real treat. It was nice to see that a good number of people were as thrilled as I to hear that The Tool was calling it quits. While discussing the celebratory outpouring of enthusiasm by anti-Lieberman-ites Ms. Bazelon mentioned this:
Another friend, Judy Chevalier, burned up her iPad tonight when I asked her to enumerate why she hates Joe Lieberman. She ticked off a half-dozen reasons and then said, “The thing is, I did not come up with most of these myself. They come from many rounds of playing the peculiar Connecticut liberal cocktail party game ‘I hated Joe Lieberman before you hated Joe Lieberman.’ ” Longtime Lieberman haters, she says, look all the way back to 1993, when Lieberman led a hedge-fund-friendly charge in the Senate against the Financial Accounting Standards Board, which at the time wanted to close the accounting loophole that let corporations duck the recording of stock options on their balance sheets.
As an aside, the first half of that passage was characterized as “the money quote” by the Red State blog and other far-right commentators, anxious to avenge Sarah Palin since her “crosshairs” SarahPac campaign ad was criticized after the attempted assassination of Representative Gabrielle Giffords. The magic word, “hate” gave the hard right the opportunity to argue that “liberals hate politicians, too”. Actually, the real “money quote” can be found by clicking on the highlighted language discussing the fight over the Financial Accounting Standards Board rules:
Corporate America aligned with the accounting industry to fight the FASB proposal, with the result that in 1994, the Senate, led by Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), passed a non-binding resolution condemning the proposal by a vote of 88-to-9.
“It wasn’t an accounting debate,” says Jim Leisenring, the vice chairman of FASB from 1988 to 2000. “We switched from talking about, ‘Have we accurately measured the option?’ or, ‘Have we expensed the option on the proper date?’ to things like, ‘Western civilization will not exist without stock options,’ or, ‘There won’t be jobs anymore for people without stock options.’ … People tried to take the argument away from the accounting to be just plainly a political argument.”
Does that rhetoric sound familiar?
After his 2006 victory, Lieberman continued to betray the people of Connecticut by abandoning his duties in the Senate to follow John McCain all along the 2008 campaign trail (including McCain’s trip to Afganistan) in the hope of securing a place for himself in the would-be McCain administration. The Tool knew he would never win a fifth term in the Senate. His only hope was to latch on to McCain’s pantsleg and hang on for dear life. In the wake of that fiasco, The Tool’s approval rating continued to slide and by October of 2010, it was down to 31 percent. A fifth term in the Senate was definitely out of the question. His campaign war chest could be put to better uses – such as buying “friendships” before beginning a new career as a lobbyist.
Despite Lieberman’s crucial effort in the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask – don’t tell” policy, it is interesting to observe how many gay people are willing to overlook that good deed while celebrating Lieberman’s retirement. A review of the comments at the joemygod blog exposes these reactions:
Good riddance. DADT capped an otherwise awful career as a spoiler.
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Thanks for DADT, but not terribly sorry you’re leaving the Senate. And I really didn’t want the anxiety of watching a 3-way race in CT, which might have sent a wingnut from the Right to the Senate.
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good riddance to the man who killed the public option to satisfy his insurance industry friends in Connecticut. a terrible person
So much for that legacy thing . . .
Daniela Altimari of The Hartford Courant’s CapitolWatch blog, revealed a wide spectrum of reactions to Lieberman’s announcement. As one might expect, the remarks from politicians were painfully cordial, polite and not worth our time here. I’ll provide you with two of the more interesting quotes:
“Joe Lieberman took millions from insurance companies, Wall Street banks, and other corporate interests – and then did their dirty work in Congress, including killing the public option. As a result, Lieberman’s poll numbers were disastrous in Connecticut. His decision to quit in the face of assured defeat is a huge victory for the progressive movement and all Americans who want Democrats to put regular families ahead of corporate interests.”
– Keauna Gregory, Progressive Change Campaign Committee
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“Of all the horrible things Joe Lieberman has done in his hideous career, depriving everyone of the joy at seeing him lose is near the top”
– Glenn Greenwald of Salon (via Twitter)
The Connecticut Mirror provided these reactions:
“It’s the first thing he’s done in 10 years to make Connecticut Democrats completely happy.”
– Bill Curry, former state comptroller, as quoted in The New York Times
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“He couldn’t leave the Senate fast enough as far as I’m concerned. He’s not only driving Democrats nuts down here, but he’s become a right-wing extremist on everything except the environment and gay rights.”
– Ralph Nader, as quoted in The Hartford Courant
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“He will leave behind a long list of achievements, from helping to consolidate the nation’s intelligence gathering services in a way that appears to make it more difficult to gather intelligence, to threatening to filibuster the health care reform act until it had been watered down to suit his own high principles. You will find it all in my upcoming book, ‘Everything Bad Is Joe Lieberman’s Fault.’ ”
– Gail Collins, writing in The New York Times
As we approach The Tool’s final days in the Senate, I will be looking forward to similar tributes.