I was planning to suggest When Everything Changed as a palate-cleanser after Nixonland, just to prove that not everything sociopolitical since 1964 has been a vast dark hole of sukkitude. And now, more than ever!, as Gail Collins uses her NYTimes column to subtly evicerate a certain politican named Joe:
On Wednesday, Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut announced that he won’t be a candidate for re-election in 2012. Normally people look particularly appealing when they’re promising to go away. This time, not so much…
When he was not busy comparing himself to John Kennedy on Wednesday, Lieberman denounced partisanship. “I have not always fit comfortably into conventional political boxes,” he said proudly. This is, of course, an old theme for him, but it’s also a cautionary tale.
The reason we have political parties is that the best way to get things done is by working together. Obviously, sometimes people with principles have to take an independent stand. But Lieberman’s career has taught us how important it is to do that with a sense of humility. If you’re continually admiring yourself as you walk away from your group, eventually people are going to feel an irresistible desire to trip you…
The vice presidential race was the high point of the Joe Lieberman story, even though he allowed Dick Cheney to eviscerate him in the debate. But he left it with the idea that he should be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004. Nobody else had gotten that message.
Lieberman, a big supporter of the war in Iraq, expected the party’s base to nominate a candidate who disagreed with them about the critical issue of the day, had failed at the most crucial task delegated to him during the previous presidential election and was one of the most sluggish and cliché-ridden public speakers in the history of oratory.
He was shocked when they decided not to.
Jon Chait at the New Republic reinforces this theme, asking “Why Did Lieberman Off Himself?“:
… The most interesting question may be why Lieberman took this suicidal path. My guess would be that he didn’t consider it suicide. Lieberman is a true believing New Democrat who is influenced by the neoconservatives. One common thread uniting these two strands of thought is an overly-developed fear of McGovernism. George McGovern, the very liberal Democratic nominee in 1972, lost in a landslide, and his defeat ever since has been held up as evidence that middle America rejects and always will reject unvarnished liberalism. I think there’s some truth to that but it’s an oversimplified view.
The point, though, is that Lieberman is almost certainly a true believer in the legend. And you have to remember that, when Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination, a lot of centrists and neoconservatives viewed him as the heir to McGovern and a likely loser. In Lieberman’s mind, I would submit, Obama was the heir to McGovern, and after he went down to defeat at the hands of popular maverick John McCain, Lieberman would be well-positioned to say “I told you so.” He could then tell Democrats that only his brand of moderate Democratic politics could truly prevail, and the sadder but wiser party base would trudge back to his column.
Watching those “New Democrats” shiv the “women’s libbers” at the 1972 convention was my personal introduction to the criminal untrustworthiness of the centrist coalition (i.e., Democrats forever straining to turn the party over to the worst of the Republicans). If Lieberman is perceived to have fatally wounded his own career in the vain hope that his beloved Centrists would punish that Obama kid for his presumption… well, I hope that somewhere, Shirley Chisholm and Bella Abzug are smiling.
You need “column to subtly eviscerate” in your first graf.
This is something I would be interested in hearing you talk about a bit more, AnneLaurie. So apparently the specter of the wise men of the Democratic party horse-trading on women’s rights and issues is not a new one.
Anne Laurie @ Top:
I thought it was McGovern’s campaign manager who shivved women at the ’72 convention, and not just centrists. Granted, I may be wrong, as I’m recalling this from, I think, a barely remembered reading of Hunter Thonmpson’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail about 10 or 20 years ago.
Please to clarify? Anyone? Bueller?
@Steeplejack (phone): Fixed, thanks!
You’ve still got “eviscerate” misspelled.
Bella speaking to us at Dewey Canyon III, not a great shot of her but you get the point.
The easiest way to understand Lieberman is as the ultimate opportunist who would do anything to ingratiate himself with those in power. I think back to the way he used his mock Orthodox piety to insinuate himself onto Gore’s ticket, and want to puke.
I predict Collins’ new book will be a bestseller.
> “Everything Bad Is Joe Lieberman’s Fault.”
I would really like to hear the whole story on this.
Odie Hugh Manatee
My Mom talked about this a lot back in the 70’s and it was what soured her on direct support of the Democrats. She worked for Tom Foley in Spokane and was a big wig in the Jane Jefferson Democratic Club there. She worked on Henry ‘Scoop’ Jackson’s presidential campaign but after the convention of ’72 she quit it all in disgust. I wish I had asked her more about it before she passed away since it was then that she really soured on direct party activism for issues that were near and dear to women.
Joe ‘I have charisma’ Lieberman has always been about Joe and not much more than that. He saw his issues as THE issues that were important, never caring about party cohesion and presenting a unified front on issues that are important to the base. Having him view himself as the decider on close vote issues, especially with his droning on and on about nothing much, impressed few others than himself. He has been a useful idiot for the Repubs and happily went along with them thinking it gave him some kind of cred.
I’m glad he is dropping out, the senate will be a better place for it.
Jesus farking Christ – they were serious about that? I thought it was just that the centrists had hitched their wagon to Clinton and were shocked that their annointed candidate didn’t take it in a walk and that Dem primary voters wanted to pick the centrist who was “smart enough to realize Iraq was a really fucking bad idea” over the centrist who was “not smart enough to realize that Iraq was a really fucking bad idea”. Other than that one issue (which was important for some of us), there wasn’t that much of a difference between Obama and Clinton for most of us to care about. (And that one issue is why I figured the neocons didn’t like him – not because he was McGovern reincarnated but because he was against “stupid wars”, and neoconservatism is all about the reckless stupid wars.)
@Ija: Ditto. I’d love to learn more about your view of the ’72 convention Anne Laurie.
I believe the neocon Dems saw (see?) Obama as the second coming of McGovern precisely because he was against stupid wars in Asia. None of the domestic policy stuff mattered. Anti-war = McGovern
Annie Laurie, do write more about the 72 convention. I was only 12 and don’t have any real memories about it. But what you are saying resonates wonderfully with the weird new review of the Feminine Mystique in this week’s (or last week’s) New Yorker which posits that everything was really hunky dory for Friedan in her suburban enclave and she was just kind of posing as having any kind of problem. And which also fault her for using artistry and craft in depicting herself as a kind of everywoman when she was really nothing of the kind. You have to read the review to get the strange flavor of the accusations (she wasn’t academic enough and didn’t cite everyone who might have influenced her thinking! She posed and didn’t write a direct, simple, totally factual memoir! She artfully constructed what she had to say to reach the widest audience! She *did* reach a wide audience! Her husband hated her in the end!)
I guess what I”m trying to say is that reading that review put me back in the sixties and seventies, when I was a child, and into the world of the feminists and women I knew who were struggling to define themselves and the struggle. To find a woman writing such an agressively strange review of those times–as though they were a thousand years ago and also as though nothing had changed–was strange.
the Reverend boy
I was actually up early enough this morning and turned on Morning Joe to see Lieberman stating he would vote for the Iraq War knowing what he knew now. He even went so far as to say that even though there were no WMD in Iraq, Saddam Hussein actually haad the capability of making them, so the war was justified.
The entire panel seemed surprised at his answer. Scarborough called on Pat Buchanan to defend Lieberman and the only thing Pat could come up with was basically, ‘Well, that’s Joe. He stands by his principles.’
Usually we have seen Senators who are retiring begin to show signs of sanity, but this guy appears to have doubled down on petulance and lunacy.
Shirley McClaine (can’t spell) worked on Mac Govern’s campaign. In one of her books she described why she became disenchanted with him.
The women who made their names as the leaders of women’s lib were well situated financially and didn’t have much to lose if things went south.
Black and other women who didn’t fit the white woman profile were ignored.
It was an exclusive club.
An example of the two faced stands the movement took is plain as day concerning Bill CLinton’s using Monica as a sexual outlet. They kept mum and took in Hillary Clinton as one of their own.
I just woke up and am still groggy, but you can get the idea that I was and am not fond of the movement.
They made things harder for me in the work world. I am positive that they didn’t want equal treatment, they wanted special treatment.
@the Reverend boy:
Thus suggesting one of two things – either Lieberman is an idiot who is incapable of learning from mistakes, or Lieberman is an egotist who is incapable of admitting a mistake. Only an idiot or an egotist could look back at the last decade and not think “huh, perhaps I would have done things differently if I knew how it was going to all turn out.”
I don’t know why Scarborough would ask Buchanan to defend Holy Joe – that’s just wrong on just so many levels. Starting with the fact that Buchanan was anti-Iraq War from the start. (Or maybe I’m misunderstanding the dynamic and Scarborough was inviting Buchanan to mock Lieberman a bit.)
@bob h: What galled me was that Lieberman would not campaign on the sabbath. He’d send a video to conventions instead of making a speech. Until he was losing to Lamont. Then suddenly he had no problem being available. Hypocrite. Good riddance.
@Trinity: I cast another vote for hearing Anne Laurie’s take on the 72 convention. I was busy trying to earn a living and get along with a new husband at the time and not really paying attention.
That’s how I felt, since the voting scorecards I looked at showed little difference between Obama and Clinton. Though with these caveats:
(1) Obama seemed better on Iraq etc, but only marginally so, since he didn’t do much of anything on the issue when he was in the US Senate (at least not anything helpful to getting us out of Iraq), AFAICT, and
(2) While ideologically not that different from Obama, Clinton didn’t seem to have any core principles.
@the Reverend boy:
Of course, that’s not the reason he wanted to invade Iraq.
@Odie Hugh Manatee: For a second I was confused, wondering how I’d fallen into another Andrew Sullivan thread…
Paul in KY
@the Reverend boy: It was good for Israel. They got rid of Saddam without expending any treasure. Got the Americans involved & got Arabs killing Americans (which the Likud wants as it draws us closer to their point of view vis a vis Arabs).
Whats not to like?
Feminists supported Hillary Clinton over Monica Lewinsky? In what universe did feminism even come up? What court of feminist law? I’m not denying the obvious fact that upper class white women’s interests are different from lower class/working class/non white women’s interests but I fail to see what Clinton’s sex life has to do with it. Monica Lewinsky was a consenting adult in a stupid affair. What’s feminism–or third wave feminism–got to do with it?
Thank Regis Philbin for Joe’s retirement.
I’m confused myself. Feminists are supposed to support the mistress over the wife? Really? I’m not saying that feminists are supposed to support the wife either, BTW. Unless abuse is involved, probably not the business of feminists to support anybody.
Shirley Chisolm — man, we could do a lot worse than to have women like her around now. If she were still here, and young enough to run, she’d make a good follow-on to Obama’s second term.
I miss her.
Mike in NC
Pat Buchanan has a long history of making anti-Semitic and isolationist remarks, and Joe Lieberman is a Zionist and neocon ally. Polar opposites, basically.
@Mike in NC: Yep. They deserve each other.
“It’s not easy on the spouses, and Hadassah said to me, ‘Joey, how long are you going to stay in the Senate?’
What, did she get tired of collecting bribes for Joe as a “lobbyist”?
I’m a Nutmegger who can’t wait for Joe (Midnight Cab Ride) Lieberman to leave.
And when Joe Scarborough is making more sense than an (I), and Pat Buchanan can barely scrape together three good words to say about him, says everything.
With the exception of DADT, when did Holy Joe ever direct 1% of the scorn rightward that he deployed upon his own party?
Lieberman would not even be a Senator today if the Republicans had put up any kind of a candidate in 2006. The Republican candidate got something like 7% of the entire vote. Holy Joe got an overwhelming share of Republicans, about 40% of independents and about 35% of Democrats to cobble together a victory. I’m working from memory here, because I’m too lazy to look it up, but I think those numbers are pretty close.
‘Nother vote for Anne Laurie’s musings about Campaign ’72.
I wasn’t even a glint in my daddy’s hippie, draft-dodging balls at the time so I only know the superficial history of that era.
OMG that review!! I often like Menand, but he is flat-out wrong here. He writes in the last paragraph,
“‘The Feminine Mystique’ did not recommend that women pursue full-time careers, or that they demand their legal rights. It only advised women to be prepared for life after the children left home.”
This is completely, 100% untrue. It’s correct that Friedan didn’t think that “meaningful work,” as she put it, must necessarily be paid work. But she pointed out that in our society, it USUALLY is. Moreover, she went on for pages – nay, chapters – about how bad it was for children to have bored housewife mothers. She most emphatically did NOT think that they simply needed to be prepared for the empty nest. GAH.
The Feminine Mystique is a problematic, imperfect book, as Friedan was a problematic, imperfect person. But for the love of god, our discussion and debates about it should at least be rooted in what the book ACTUALLY SAID.
Clinton did look like she would do anything to win that nomination.
My decision to back Obama was validated when Clinton seemed to just shut down when it became apparent that Obama had won.
We really don’t need a president who goes catatonic when things really start to go to hell.
They made things harder for me in the work world.
Can you elaborate? How did feminists make things harder for you in the work world?
Everybody needs to engage in “meaningful work.” It improves the quality of life and promotes spiritual growth. Probably everyone would agree with that idea today.
However, there was a time, I promise you, when society in general thought that serving men and raising children should be enough for women. Who cared about their quality of life? Who cared about their maturity? Who cared about their spiritual growth? Who cared whether they strove to be all they could be [Army slogan]? Very few people.
Friedan cared and made a good deal of noise about it. She was a pioneer.
I’m pretty sure that Barbara Jordan is smiling down on Holy Joe as well. Bless his heart.
@NonyNony: heh, using the word principles in talking about Joe is a joke, I simply cannot find the words to describe how thoroughly I detest and despise that walking piece of human crap.The conatinued election of politicians of his amorality and lack of integrity , character , honor, and love of country is what is leading us down the path to third world status.
@liberal: well of course not, he wanted to invade Iraq because that was his orders from his owners in Israel . Joe couod give a shit about what is good for the US his purpose as a senator is to represent Israel
Paul in KY
@feebog: They did that on purpose, because Liebersuck is a Republican (or might as well be).
I’ve heard it said many times that Lieberman got elected in the first place by running to the _right_ of Republican-turned-indie Lowell Weicker.
I know little about the late Sargent Shriver’s life story. But I will always hold him in high regard for his having agreed to join McGovern on the ’72 ticket (as I will always damn Tom Eagleton, and the democratic establishment that took a hike on their party’s nominee that year).
Thanks, Anne – you pulled together two excellent pieces and put them in helpful context.