Lieberman: The New Champ

By Becky O'Malley
Thursday December 17, 2009 - 08:42:00 AM

Ever since George W. Bush rode off into the Dallas sunset, there’s been a void on the national scene. Even Dick Cheney has largely faded from sight. The other Republicans, the ones still in Congress are annoying, but predictably so. But just in time, there’s a replacement in Bush’s old slot of The Man You Love to Hate. Based on his behavior in the last three months or so, not to mention in the last several years, Joe Lieberman is the winner and new champ for that title. 

The web sites are all over him. MoveOn used his name as the headline for one of their periodic appeals for funds on Tuesday night (I bit). FireDogLake has started a recall campaign (probably not legal). Truthout has a well-reasoned analysis of his unreasonable behavior. 

But it’s a waste of time to apply too much brainpower to understanding Lieberman’s political stances, since deep down politics has nothing to do with it. He’s acting like the spoiled kid who brings the baseball to the neighborhood game and then threatens to take it home if the rules don’t go his way. He’s shown himself time and again to be nothing more than an overgrown adolescent who’s relishing the role of being the swing vote in a Congress which should be Democratic. Connecticut voters are ashamed of him, but they voted for him, and now it’s too late. 

His unctuous faux piety doesn’t help his image, any more than the same kind of posturing in a Christian vein redeems the South’s surviving Sen. Claghorns or the current adulterous governor of South Carolina. People like that who wrap themselves in the mantle of religion to deflect attention from bad behavior risk giving all religion a bad name. 

And his endless self-pitying whining! He was on the radio yesterday, saying with a catch in his throat that this has been one of the worst periods of his life. Balderdash. He’s enjoying every minute of it, playing his role for all that it’s worth. Frequent Internet adjective: slimy.  

One of Lieberman’s most annoying attributes is that he really ought to know better. It’s one thing for an unreconstructed Southern Republican to come across as an oily dolt, but not long ago Lieberman was the anointed Democratic candidate for vice president. 

Even the California Democratic Party, not a notable hotbed of radicalism, is getting into the act. They sent out an e-mail exhortation which was forwarded to opinion@berkeleydailyplanet.com by a reader, asking us to “End Lieberman’s Reign of Terror.” 

“Enough is enough.” The message said. “It’s time to end Joe Lieberman’s reign of terror and restore democracy to the Senate by changing Rule 22 and ending the filibuster. Contact Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today, and tell him it’s high time to end the practice of filibuster abuse. 

As a member of the Democratic caucus, Joe Lieberman enjoys a key committee chairmanship and other plum assignments and we get next to nothing in return.” 

Amen to that, and hallelujah as well. 

And while we’re on the subject of disingenuous parliamentary maneuvers, Berkeley Councilmember Darryl Moore, elected as a progressive, did nothing to enhance his reputation by moving to table Councilmember Jesse Arreguin’s request for an inquiry into who in Berkeley’s city administration was responsible for telling the State Senate’s Local Government Committee that exempting UC Berkeley from the financial requirements of the Alquist-Priolo earthquake law was not controversial.  

How many lawsuits does Moore think it takes to make something controversial? Someone in the city might have a perfectly reasonable explanation for whatever they did, but it’s a bad idea to sweep the whole matter under the proverbial rug. Moore’s motion was seconded by Susan Wengraf, who at least did not represent herself to the electorate as a progressive when she ran.  

Moore was not elected to toe the university line, any more than Lieberman was elected to represent the insurance industry, but in both cases the siren song coming from the big rich players seems to be seductive. Voters unfortunately often don’t keep their eye on the ball—a strong majority of Connecticut voters support having a public option in a health care plan, but Lieberman feels free to ignore them and there’s not a damn thing they can do about it. 

Around here there’s a similar gap between campaign rhetoric and what elected officials actually do when they’re in office. It seems that not only the phantom spokesperson for the City of Berkeley, whoever it was, but also similarly situated staffers for Assemblymember Nancy Skinner and state Sen. Loni Hancock gave the impression that the UC stadium exemption was non-controversial and therefore appropriate for inclusion in SB113, the “omnibus bill” which is supposed to clean up inconsequential matters. 

It’s the Berkeley City Council’s responsibility to find out who’s speaking falsehoods in their behalf. Those who voted with Wengraf and Moore on the motion to table are shirking their duty for refusing to investigate in a timely way. Councilmembers Arreguin and Worthington are to be commended for keeping their eyes on the ball, even as the rest of the increasingly do-nothing councilmembers are willing to avert theirs if the big U is involved in any way. 

Moore in particular seems to relish the position of being the swing vote a la Lieberman, courted by all players when there’s any chance of the body taking a progressive position. But unfortunately that opportunity comes up less and less, as the Berkeley City Council settles comfortably into lockstep, the better to make sure that they’re home in bed by a reasonable hour on meeting nights. A sad state of affairs.