Joe Lieberman Does Not Deserve Your Sympathy

Joe Lieberman left the Senate for the last time today, and the Washington Post‘s Dana Milbank was there to witness his lonely departure. For Milbank, Senate Democrats’ clear disdain for the Connecticut senator is further evidence of the polarization and incivility that mark modern Washington:

A few more senators arrived during the 20-minute speech, but even by the end Lieberman was very much alone — which is how it has been for much of his 24-year tenure. He tried to push back against the mindless partisanship that developed in the chamber, and he paid dearly for it.

Lieberman was excommunicated by his party (he won as an independent in 2006 after losing the Democratic primary) and retired this year rather than face probable defeat. Yet he received little love from the Republicans, either, because despite his apostasies on key issues — the Iraq war, above all — he remained a fairly reliable vote for the Democrats.

This is fantasy history. The actual reason Lieberman was disliked by his Democratic colleagues was his uncritical support of the Iraq War, sanctimonious disdain for the war's opponents, and profound sense of entitlement when it came to his position in the Senate. To wit, rather than bow to the will of Connecticut voters—who rejected his bid for the Democratic Senate nomination—he ran a third-party campaign, and picked up enough Republican support to defeat the Democratic nominee, Ned Lamont.

All of this might have been forgivable if Lieberman worked with his party on key issues. Instead, he did his most to derail the Democratic agenda, culminating in the battle over health care reform, where he petulantly opposed almost every attempt to gain his vote, including a proposal—once pushed by Lieberman—to lower the Medicare eligibility age to 55. And of course, when he wasn’t sabotaging the work of his more constructive colleagues, he was standing with war hawks, and calling for more war and more aggression.

Simply put, Joe Lieberman earned his lonely farewell. He doesn't deserve our sympathies.