Genius Envy: War on Terror, No! War on “Conservadems,” Yes!


Osama bin Laden or Joseph I. Lieberman: Guess who makes her blood boil?

Osama bin Laden or Joseph I. Lieberman: Guess which one makes her blood boil?

Leftists who decried the War on Terror now use the same terminology to describe center-Left members of their own party. On last night’s episode of MSNBC’s The Ed Show, Ed Schultz interviewed Katrina vanden Heuvel about President Obama’s “sellout” on the health care bill. Katrina complained Obama’s is “a White House which has emboldened the conservadems, people like Joe Lieberman” who “is now holding hostage” socialized medicine. She repeated the elocution moments later while appealing to “citizens who don’t want to be held hostage by the insurance companies.” Schultz thanked her for appearing, adding, “Always the truth coming from you and The Nation.”

The truth is Katrina used language about Joe Lieberman she would be hesitant to apply to Islamist terrorists. In a 2004 Nation editorial entitled “Dissent is Patriotic,” vanden Heuvel faulted Republicans for saying the Party of Defeat’s characteristic rhetoric “emboldened the enemy,” accusing the GOP of breeding “a culture of fundamentalism and intolerance.” (But Katrina has had consistency troubles before.) The domestic Left sees far greater danger from conservatives than jihadists and apportions its disdain accordingly.

This ignores a cardinal reality about Joe Lieberman: he is not a conservative. I substantiated this beyond doubt in 2006, when the New York Times quoted another Lieberman critic: then-Congressman Rahm Emmanuel.

Emanuel, who ran the Democrats’s House campaigns that year, referred to Lieberman as George W. Bush’s “love child.” (If ever a phrase called out for the rejoinder “Where’s the birth certificate?” that is the one.) I wrote at the time:

Joe Lieberman is anything but Bush’s “love child.” He votes with Senate Democrats (and thus against Bush) 90 percent of the time. He has an Americans for Democratic Action lifetime voting record of 76 percent, higher than his predecessor, Lowell Weicker. Lieberman filibustered reauthorization of the Patriot Act, voted against drilling in ANWR, tried to include gays and lesbians in “hate crimes” statistics, and opposed the federal marriage amendment. Despite heated floor rhetoric, he voted against a Partial Birth Abortion ban half-a-dozen times and opted not to impeach the “immoral” Bill Clinton. True, he once entertained doubts about Affirmative Action and school choice, but upon his selection as Al Gore’s vice president, he did what principled Democrats like Gore, Clinton, Jackson, Kucinish, and others did: began parroting the party line post haste. In this primary, he was endorsed by the AFL-CIO, Planned Parenthood, and the League of Conservation Voters. Reading the handwriting on the wall, Lieberman assured if he ran “as an Independent Democrat,” he would vote with the Democratic leadership. His bona fides were not enough, because the war, and the war alone, was the decisive issue for Democrats.

Incidentally, later in the segment, would-be Lieberman vanquisher Ned Lamont repeated President Obama’s telling phraseology, “We’re on the precipice of an important vote. I’m ready to vote.”

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