Watching Joe Lieberman go around the bend over the last couple years is one of the strangest things I've ever seen in politics. Lieberman was always a foreign policy hawk and a capital gains tax cutter, and he generally took enormous pleasure in staying in the right's good graces. But it is also these very qualities--his ideological moderation, his aversion to conflict, his timorous demeanor--that have made his recent apoplexy so weird.
It isn't so much that he is a foreign policy hawk. That even Chait admits has been Lieberman's M.O. his whole entire political career. What really bothers Chait is that Lieberman isn't shy about voicing his disagreement. It seems that Chait believes that Lieberman has always been so accommodating to his opponents...disagreeing without being disagreeable if you will. Now, Lieberman is taking his foreign policy opponents head on.
Lieberman says that Democrats, who were once "unafraid to make moral judgments about the world beyond our borders," now "minimize the seriousness of the threat from Islamic extremism." Lieberman prefers them to use morally confident language like this:
Chait follows by quoting this passage...
The terrorists are at war with us. The threat is from violent extremists who are a small minority of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims, but the threat is real. They distort Islam. They kill man, woman, and child; Christian and Hindu, Jew and Muslim. They seek to create a repressive caliphate. To defeat this enemy, we must understand who we are fighting against, and what we are fighting for.
This is a passage from a speech by Barack Obama, and in the view of Chait, this speech should be enough for Lieberman to view the Democrats as plenty hawkish enough.
Obviously, Chait doesn't actually understand Lieberman's position at all. Lieberman is not so much concerned with just how much tough sounding language a candidate or politician puts into a speech. What Lieberman is concerned with is the body of action a politician or party will create in fighting the GWOT. Lieberman believes that victory in Iraq is vital. He believes that meeting with despots and tyrants is useless unless we have leverage. Furthermore, he believes that the aggressive GWOT policies of the Bush administration have worked for the most part. As an extension, he sees the Democrat's entire GWOT platform as weak and dangerous, no matter how much tough language a candidate puts into a speech.
Furthermore, Lieberman believes that in the age of terror, the right GWOT policy is more important than any other issue. As such, he supports John McCain because while they may disagree more than they agree they do agree on the one issue that matters to him right now.
This really burns up Chait. He just can't stand a former Democrat that had an overwhelmingly liberal record sticking it back in the eyes of Democrats. Chait would likely applaud folks like Scott McClellan and Chuck Hagel as courageous, but Lieberman must be a cook. This is standard issue propaganda techniques. Demonize those that disagree with you in order to marginalize them. Lieberman must be losing it because his behavior has suddenly turned aggressive even though he is always mild mannered. That's the narrative of someone like Chait. Democrats need not worry about Lieberman's aggressive criticism because he is losing it. Of course, Chait mistakes passion and principle for confrontation. It is the same kind of passion and principle that he would likely applaud in Hagel and McClellan.
Finally, Chait has the chutzpah to finish his piece like this...
There's hardly any sense in which Lieberman is an independent figure. He's become a cog in the Republican message machine. He may be independent from liberal bloggers, but the conservative equivalent--partisan shouters like Sean Hannity--are his treasured pals. Lieberman even continues to embrace lunatic preacher John Hagee--whose many daft ideas include his belief that the Holocaust fulfilled God's will--even after John McCain repudiated him.
Lieberman explains that he calls himself an "independent Democrat" because the Democratic Party's foreign policy ideals "exist in me today independent of the current Democratic Party, which has rejected them." This is a wildly egocentric interpretation. Democrats started questioning the war because the war was going badly, while Lieberman remained--to borrow a phrase--in a spider hole of denial. Most supported him in his 2006 primary fight but then endorsed the party nominee when he lost, because that's what political parties do.
Keep in mind that in the last three years, Lieberman has caucused with the Democrats. He has supported John McCain for President. He has gotten together with John Warner on a fairly liberal climate control bill. He joined the gang of fourteen, and he voted against both Sam Alito and John Roberts.
I suppose that in the mind of Chait that isn't independent and I am sure that he finds Barack Obama to be independent. Like I said, pure chutzpah.