I'm not the first to heap scorn on Marshall Wittman's latest pro-Joe post (see Matt and Atrios taking their shots as well), but I think I win the award for most puzzled by its assumptions. Shoving aside Wittman's weird desire to act as apologist for Joe, even at the expense of his own credibility (unlike Brad, I don't believe Wittman was played for a fool. I believe he thought he could play everyone else for fools), what possesses a perfectly astute centrist to say things like:
What the Moose would like to know was when was the last time a lefty won the White House - Kennedy, LBJ, Carter, Clinton? None of them truly stirred the hearts of the lefty faithful. Perhaps JFK did, but he won running to the right of Nixon on foreign policy. In recent political memory, only hawks have won the Presidency whether they are Democrats or Republicans.
The recent rage on the left is to heap scorn on Joe Lieberman. The Moose is honored to stand with Joe against the dogmatic idealogues of the blogosphere. And he wears their scorn as a badge of honor.
If the plutocratic G.O.P. is ever to be defeated, Democrats will have to win the confidence of the American people that they are a tough party that will vanquish our enemies. That is why Joe Lieberman is so vital to the donkey. If those on the left have their honest disagreements with him or any other Democrat, that is fair and to be expected. However, the Moose would argue that those voices on the left who would transform the party into a dogmatically left-wing party serve the wishes of Rove and company in a profoundly significant way.
Who gave Wittman this idea that Joe is tough on defense? I know the guy votes for torture and warfare, but does anyone truly believe that that's enough? Lieberman is a mild-mannered muppet with a wry wit and a civil tone who's most famous for observing the Sabbath; the very last thing he strikes anyone as is a tough hawk. Doesn't mean his beliefs are soft, but that counts for exactly nothing in today's image-driven world. So sure, laud Joe if you want to, but don't dare do it under some feigned respect for the nationwide respect he commands on national security. Lieberman, in fact, is the worst of both worlds there: A guy desperate to appear tough but utterly unable to make the visual sell. Think back to the primaries -- did anyone vote for Joe because he was tough on defense? Nope, they went for Kerry or Clark. When Gore chose him, did he do it for Joe's foreign policy credibility? Nope, he did it because he was a mild-mannered ethicist -- Kerry was the foreign policy choice.
There might be a place for Joe in the party, but that spot is surely not in front of the cameras, giving the rest of the Democrats lessons on how to dress like a hawk. If we need to learn how to look tough, we can study Bush, Reagan, Kennedy, Truman or FDR -- we can study the triumphant hawks of the past. But as Wittman should realize, these men didn't ascend into the pantheon of soldier-kings through their policies, they were installed because they understood how to transform those policies into an image. Joe doesn't. The Democrats don't. And so it doesn't matter how many times we vote for torture or deployment, when you match our votes against their swagger, we lose every time.
Update: Munz has more.
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