Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Where is Voltaire: Leave Lieberman Alone

Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) could not be less popular amongst the Democrats. For obstinately refusing to buy into an irredeemable Democratic healthcare package, Sen. Lieberman has been lambasted by both Democratic leaders and their sycophantic leftist foot soldiers. Lieberman expresses real, genuine concern with the current proposals – specifically the public option and an expansion of Medicare. His refusal to blindly jump on board the faltering plan has earned him much reprobation from his own (former) party.

The attacks, although nothing new, have been, at times, quite vitriolic. A quick survey of the blogosphere yields a steady stream of angry tirades against the Senator. However, this juvenile behavior reaches all the way to the halls of Congress. Recently, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) called for Lieberman’s recall. The inanity of her remarks is palpable.  She most certainly knows that there is no way to recall a Senator.  Instead her ridiculous rant displays a deep-seated group-think mentality. Democrats have called for stripping Lieberman of his chairmanships and other punitive measures. For the current Democratic majority, any dissent is castigated and punishable by banishment [And no, I do not think the Democrats are unique in this anti-intellectualism].

The attacks have not been limited to Lieberman, but also have been directed at his wife, Hadassah.  Liberal bloggers have assailed Mrs. Lieberman, demanding action be taken against her involvement in the Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast cancer charity. This is a disgusting display of political abuse. Why has it become acceptable in America to molest a leader and his family, because of his political differences? Where is Voltaire when he is needed?

Democrats are understandably upset with Lieberman. They need his vote to pass the socialized healthcare package that many on the far Left are salivating over. His refusal has all but eliminated the possibility of such a bill passing. Their quest to force a bill through at all costs has driven many of this bill’s supporters to trample the very democratic principles that supposedly underpin our political system.

Lieberman should be commended; certainly by those on the right who oppose this plan, but more importantly by those on the left who value politicians who think for themselves and vote, not on party lines, but for what they believe is right. Contrary to what many on the Left claim, Lieberman acknowledges that healthcare needs reform; however, he will not be browbeaten into supporting a plan that will do more harm than good, just to appease the political establishment. Once again, Lieberman has shown that he is not, as so many politicians are, a mindless fool, but an upstanding politician who is a true leader.  Lieberman stated:
But like each of them, I had to do what I thought was right… I didn’t run for reelection — and no one here did — asking the voters of my state to vote for me because I would always do what a majority of members of the caucus did, even if I thought some of those things were wrong. None of us would pledge that to our constituents.
It is sad that the best and brightest are often disparaged for refusing to toe the line. In a nation where anti-intellectual populists run rampant, leaders such as Lieberman are a true breath of fresh air. It takes real fortitude to continuously stand against one’s party (or caucus) for what one believes in. Many politicians seemingly cannot handle such dissent, and revert to childish attacks rather than logic and reason. What a sad state of affairs.


  1. Josh--

    First of all, I would imagine that Voltaire, in all his French enlightenment glory, probably would have supported current efforts to reform health care, but that's besides the point ...

    Is much of the current opposition to Lieberman personal? Certainly. But a cursory look at Lieberman's history through the years -- including his support of a Medicare buy-in plan during the 2000 election -- suggests that he has no deeply entrenched views on this subject, and that those views are subject to flip-flop under the right circumstances. So we're left to wonder what his real motivations are in this case, and if he is simply milking the moment for his own publicity and to thumb his nose at the Democrats.

    That's where the outrage lies, not in his about-turn on health care (though it has infuriated many leftists), but his overall ingratitude to recent Democratic charity: it was Obama -- whom Lieberman accused of placing "party over country" during his campaign -- who told Reid and co. to allow the Connecticut senator to retain his Senate leadership positions, just as it was Barry who went to Connecticut to campaign for Lieberman in 2006, when the two shared opposite views on the Iraq War.

    It's fine for Lieberman to disagree with the company line, but if his grandstanding merely amounts to spite over ending up on the losing side of history last year, he doesn't deserve anyone's sympathy for taking a heroic stand, as many conservatives are hailing him for.

    I also mildly object to your easy target of using the liberal blogosphere, or using the blogosphere in general, to take the temperature of the current debate. Blogs are popular, to a large degree, because of the recklessness afforded armchair analysts. Yes, it's completely tasteless to assail Hadassah Lieberman, but I haven't seen any slime thrown at her from mainstream liberal outlets such as the New York Times or evening MSNBC commentary.

    (Meanwhile, the WaPo story that Parker's column links to on this supposed controversy only cites one -- one! -- blogger who is calling for Mrs. Lieberman's shaming.)

    FInally, are we really led to believe that Democratic party discipline is more brutal than the GOP's in recent years? Tom DeLay was called "The Hammer" for a very good reason: he bullied members of his party into getting in line on votes like no other. Or should we look at the examples of NY-23, the marginalizing of Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, or the essential extinction of national Northeastern Republicans as proof that those who don't fall in line with the Republican Party orthodoxy face punishment and disenfranchisement?

    In many ways, the inability of the Democrats to control the message in this instance shows the difference between the two parties and the extent to which they are willing to allow members to voice disagreements -- or, to paraphrase the namesake of this blog post, they disagree with what other Dems say, but uphold their right to say it more so than the other side of the aisle.


  2. Karl~

    Well, I don't think I am qualified to opine on what Voltaire would have done, that is besides the point. I don't believe Lieberman (or I for that matter) are disputing the need for healthcare reform. Why is the standard line either you support healthcare reform in its current manifestation or you are against all reform? Health reform is not a binary decision. Lieberman has expressed dislike of the current reform package, not the concept of reform. (And If you read my previous 4 posts you'll see I feel the same way).

    Now Lieberman has certainly changed his mind. However, I see no scurillous motives behind this. What has he to gain from being obstructionist? In fact, Lieberman has addressed his change of heart. His simple explanation is that the current financial conditions cannot support such a program. In particular his about face on the expansion of Medicare looks prudent when one considers the copious amounts of money being spent by the administration. When our credit rating is at risk, it is certainly well past the time to review our profligate spending. I have yet to see one critic of Lieberman actually point to a logical rationale for Lieberman's alleged obstructionism. Until I hear one, I can only take him at his word.

    Furthermore, I'm not sure it is fair to refer to "Democratic charity". It was with much reluctance and a boat-full of expediency and necessity that pushed the Democratic leadership to bring Lieberman into the fold after he campaigned for McCain. Many on the Left were calling for his head. Reid knew that Lieberman, as 'roguish', as he may be was necessary to get that 60th senator. I doubt Lieberman would have played Reid's game at all if he had been penalized. While he may not be playing it 100% for sure, it was in both of their mutual interests for Lieberman to caucus with the Democrats.

    That being said, I could have written the same post last year about the Democrats who were calling for Lieberman's head. And yes, I think you bring up a very valid point that this is not isolated to the Left, but also problematic on the Right. As you may know, I have a severe problem with the isolationist Republicans who wish to purge the party of the so called RINOs or people who don't toe the orthodox line. This article isn't just an excuse to point fingers, but a general philosophy that should apply to both sides of the aisle.

    Thanks for writing.


  3. I've never posted anything before, so I don't know if I'm doing this right, but here goes:

    What I think is emblematic of the current climate is: the calls for Liberman’s (and his wife’s) destruction for his wanting to change parts of the bill with which he disagrees – as opposed to the reaction to people like Senators Nelson and Landrieu, who held up the bill to get additional benefits for their own states.

  4. Well I think you hit the nail on the head. It is all about the game (on both sides of the aisle). If you play by the rules you're fine; if not, you receive vitriol. Nelson and Landrieu are given the wiggle room to make demands, but they apparently haven't strayed far enough to deserve the wrath of the leadership. In part, I am sure this has to do with Lieberman's endorsement of McCain. It also might have to do with their more behind the scenes dealing. Either way it is unfortunate.


"Reading makes a full man, meditation a profound man, discourse a clear man." - Benjamin Franklin

Please leave comments!