25 January 2011

Good riddance, Joe Lieberman

A few days ago, Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman -- once, this site's preference for Sen. John McCain's vice-presidential nominee in 2008 -- has announced that he will not seek re-election in 2012.

In light of his announcement, pundits from both sides have lauded Lieberman's "bipartisanship" and "centrism" in an age of increasing partisan polarization.

For those of us who believe in individual liberty, however, Lieberman was a nightmare.

On domestic issues, Lieberman is a clear-cut liberal, voting in lockstep with the Democratic Party on virtually every major issue of import. His 2008 rating (on a 100 scale) from the American Conservative Union was eight. His lifetime rating is a shade over 16, putting him, unbelievably, to the left of Harry Reid (lifetime rating of 18). That is absolutely absymal -- because it means that for 21 years, he has voted for the liberal position more than four times in five. Recently, Lieberman voted for the bloated, wasteful "economic stimulus" of 2009 and was a key cog in securing the passage of Obamacare early last year. He has been a careerist booster of labor unions. He has favored government censorship of movies and video games. The NRA has given him a lifetime rating of "F." He has opposed even partial privatization of Social Security.

In short, Republicans who give Lieberman credit as some sort of palatable centrist who only goes off the reservation occasionally are kidding themselves.

On the other end of the spectrum, Lieberman has co-opted the worst excesses of the 21st Century Republican Party. He openly supported the Bush Administration's position that the Geneva Convention does not apply to al Qaeda -- a legal fiction rejected by the Supreme Court in 2006. In the wake of the Wikileaks scandal, Lieberman used his Homeland Security chairmanship to pressure various American media outlets into not publishing certain leaked documents, and to pressure websites like Amazon.com into ending business activities with Wikileaks -- actions that bordered dangerously close to full-on censorship. Since 9/11, has urged the United States to go to war against not just Iraq, but also Syria, Yemen and Iran. This past July, Lieberman co-sponsored the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010, which would give the president "emergency powers" over the internet -- and in arguing for the bill's passage, Lieberman argued that because the communist Chinese government has a similar power, the president should too. Equating the American presidency with a totalitarian dictatorship is nothing short of outrageous.

This isn't to say Lieberman shouldn't be commended for certain stands -- it took genuine political courage to endorse McCain over Barack Obama in 2008 and support the surge in Iraq in 2007. Lieberman, like McCain, understood that once we were in, withdrawal in Iraq would sink the country into a certain civil war. He was among the Gang of 14 that has been so celebrated on this site. These positions undoubtedly made him very unpopular among the liberal base.

But by and large, Lieberman's record taken as a whole represents everything that has gone so horribly wrong with public policy. He has consistently supported a bloated, activist government in both the domestic and foreign-policy arenas, one without any reasonable limitations -- by its ability to coerce you to engage in private enterprise (Obamacare), by pressure on news outlets to censor news stories (Wikileaks) and its desire to deny you the most basic due process rights (virtually every civil liberties issue of the last ten years).

Joe Lieberman's America is not an America in which I would want to live -- where the federal government has the power to snoop, imprison and torture without consequence; where private citizens can be coerced into engaging in private economic activities; where a growing welfare and entitlement state aggregates revenue like a cancer; and where the American vision of the Framers is consigned to the ash heap of history.

By supporting the absolute worst excesses of both parties, Lieberman somehow became a champion of the Beltway class. It's a sorry statement about the state of our political affairs that Joe Lieberman is greeted as a hero in virtually every corner of Washington.

The country will be better off -- and the Constitution will be safer -- with Lieberman back in Connecticut.

Good riddance, indeed.

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