Assuming things go as statistically predicted on Tuesday, it’s worth taking a moment to admire the sheer political idiocy of Joe Lieberman. Saying that he has a political tin ear is probably a bit generous.
Whether we like it or not, one vital skill for politicians is knowing which way the political winds are blowing. We criticize politicians for changing positions – but it’s absurd to expect they wouldn’t. Politicians are, after all, reflections of the political will. If the public changes its mind, the public will expect its elected representatives to do the same. That’s not to say that politicians should always do what 51% of the public thinks – but neither should they completely ignore powerful trends (especially if they want to win and have influence).
In this respect, Lieberman has proven a truly horrible politician. It’s not merely that he ignores the political winds, he takes strong ostentatious stands in the opposite direction.
For instance, in the 2004 Democratic primary, Lieberman decided to base his campaign on loud support of the Iraq War. That support may be the essence of nobility in Lieberman’s head, but it was also the source of his embarrassing performance.
Moving forward to 2006, Lieberman could have avoided a primary challenge by swallowing his pride and offering a single high-profile critique of a horribly mismanaged war. Or at the very least, he could have remained silent until the end of the filing period. But Joe – in his infinite wisdom – decided to rub it in Democrats’ faces by publishing a Strawberry Fields-ish delusional op-ed about how Iraqi cell phones showed the great success of our not-to-be-criticized commander-in-chief. Lamont claimed the WSJ op-ed persuaded him to enter the race.
Finally, there’s 2008. In a year where fundamentals couldn’t be worse for Republicans, and where the Democrats are poised to significantly expand their Senate majorities, Lieberman decided to back McCain. And not just back him – to actually speak at the convention and otherwise be as ostentatious as possible.
What’s particularly stupid about Lieberman’s actions is that he could have enjoyed some political “redemption” this election season. Given his past stances, strong Obama support could have made him a powerful and persuasive surrogate. It could also have ensured that he would remain a very powerful member of the Senate, with White House chits to boot. Instead, he’s going to have exactly zero leverage with the White House. And he’s going to get booted from his committee chair. And he faces near certain defeat in very pro-Obama Connecticut if he runs again.
It’s really sort of mindboggling that someone with such horrible political skills has lasted this long.