Lieberman stands condemned today because he didn’t recant. He didn’t say he was wrong. He didn’t turn on his former allies and condemn them. He didn’t claim to be the victim of a hoax. He didn’t try to pretend that he never supported the war in the first place. He didn’t claim to be led into support for the war by a group of writers and intellectuals whom he can now denounce. He didn’t go through a public show of agonizing and phony soul-baring and apologizing in the hopes of resuscitating his reputation, as have some noted “public intellectuals….”
At least in the short run, dishonesty pays. Dissembling pays. Forgetting your past writings and statements pays. Condemning those with whom you once agreed pays. Phony self-flagellation followed by self-righteous self-congratulation pays. The only thing that doesn’t pay is honesty. If Joe Lieberman loses, it will not be because he supported the war or even because he still supports it. It will be because he refused to choose one of the many dishonorable paths open to him to salvage his political career.
He is the last honest man, and he may pay the price for it. At least he will be able to sleep at night. And he can take some solace in knowing that history, at least an honest history, will be kinder to him than was his own party.
Ned Lamont will win Tuesday, but Joe Lieberman will likely end up winning in November. The great news for the center-right is that the left’s netroots will be focused on the Lamont campaign for the next three months.The hard left will pour money and energy into Lamont’s effort, and the Lamont campaign will have a deeply divisive effect on the national Democratic party, a sort of purist’s litmus test for the near and long term. “I was with Lamont in ’06” will be up there with Republican declarations of having been with Reagan in ’76 and Goldwater in ’64.
But unlike the Reaganites and Goldwaterites, the left’s new activists have no desire to make common cause with the traditional party activists. They want to run the show, and the party’s D.C. leadership will understand that, after a Lamont win, they will all be subject to the same zeal that installed Dean as DNC Chair and Lamont as the party’s nominee. The party is moving much farther to the left than either the Goldwater or Reagan candidacies took the GOP.
Bill Kristol is also watching Connecticut with the understanding that a Lieberman defeat could force a significant slice of the Democrats –the pro-Israel, pro-national security– to leave the Democrats at least until the party returns to its FDR-Truman-JFK seriousness on national security.