My eyes are dry as I ponder Joe Lieberman's decision to not seek re-election. Voices on the right regard Connecticut's independent senator as a victim of left-wing intolerance. I see him as a sanctimonious hypocrite, political opportunist and double-crosser. Guess I don't like him.
Lieberman's steadfast support of the pointless Iraq War only partly explains his low poll numbers back home. It was the whole package of moral-mouthing grandiosity that turned hearts cold.
When an anti-war businessman defeated him in the 2006 Democratic primary, the right wing treated his loss as some kind of coup d'etat. Lieberman felt the same way, announcing with great self-importance, "For the sake of our state, our country and my party, I cannot, I will not let this result stand."
He ran as an "Independent Democrat." That was his prerogative, and he prevailed in the three-way race by promising Democrats that he would organize with their party. A mere five days after his victory, he's on "Meet the Press," saying, "I'm not ruling out" becoming a Republican.
Lieberman loves to make the rounds on conservative talk shows, grinning as the hosts praised him for frustrating liberals. It was all about tormenting the Democrats he felt betrayed him. It was all about Joe.
In 1998, Republicans tried to use Bill Clinton's foolish dalliance with Monica Lewinsky to force a democratically elected president from office. The government's business nearly froze for several months. When Clinton ordered the bombing of a suspected al-Qaida chemical weapons factory in Sudan, his foes accused him of trying to distract attention from their all-important inquisition. (As al-Qaida was planning its Sept. 11, 2001, massacre, Republicans were dancing around the maypole with Monica's stained blue dress.)
Rather than help bring the nonsense to an end, Lieberman used the occasion to demonstrate his moral excellence.
It's the "anything goes" mindset, he orated, "that has helped to threaten the integrity and stability of the family, which continues to be the most important unit of civilized society, the place where we raise our children and teach them to be responsible citizens, to develop and nurture their personal and moral faculties."
This is a man who had broken up his own family by divorcing his first wife.
Give Lieberman this: He ended last year on a high note, with a heartfelt support for letting gay people openly serve in the military. He also deserves two thumbs up for his work on initiatives to combat global warming, something most Republicans would not touch.
The political realities had left Lieberman without a credible path to victory in the 2012 election. As the years wore on, Connecticut Democrats' distaste for Lieberman spread beyond the party's liberal core. And he broke too many times with Republicans on social issues and taxes to be their standard-bearer.
My guess is that he is negotiating — or has already struck a deal — with K Street. A good choice would be a lobbying firm serving the insurance industry. He served insurers well.
He had backed a plan to let people over 50 buy into Medicare. But when Democrats struggling for Senate approval of the health care reforms proposed the same thing, he turned against it. (The plan would have cut into private insurers' business.)
He threatened to filibuster any legislation that included a public option — a government-run health plan that would have competed with private coverage. The public option would have saved taxpayers money, but would have contained what private insurers could have charged.
Goodbye, Joe Lieberman. You've done America harm, though you've also done some good. May others join me in not mourning your impending departure from the U.S. Senate.
ABOUT THE WRITER:
Froma Harrop serves on The Providence Journal's editorial board in Rhode Island. Her column appears in more than 200 newspapers and she is a regular guest on many television and radio news analysis programs.