Saturday, December 10, 2005

Lieberman. Lieberman. Lieberman. He and his "Help me hug the president!" campaign are everywhere -- Slate yesterday, The New York Times and The Washington Post today.

The Times/Post two-fer is interesting. Thirty years ago, when a then-unknown Bruce Springsteen made the covers of Time and Newsweek simultaneously, at least we knew there was a record-company publicity machine involved. Who's priming this pump?

I don't think it's Lieberman himself. Obviously it's the White House, which increased its stroking and courting of him at just about the time the ongoing Bush comeback effort got under way. (Floating rumors of a cabinet appointment -- nice touch!) The Republicans love to have a disillusioned Democrat on board -- cf. Zell Miller and Ron Silver. I'm sure White House operatives are scripting Lieberman's lines; I'm sure they wrote (or at least line-edited) his Wall Street Journal op-ed. And I imagine he's cool with that -- I'm sure he sees himself as Frank Capra making gung ho films for the government during World War II.

But, of course, he's not doing anything of the sort -- what he's doing is helping Bush get back up in the polls, to save the GOP in the '06 elections.

But I'm not wild about the Democratic leadership's response to Lieberman -- usually I'm up for a good scrap, but I think attacking him has played into the Bush administration's hands. Beltway journalists like Lieberman and hate unashamed liberals; they're eager to portray Joe as an embattled, principled anti-liberal maverick -- look, he's being criticized by people who sound like that icky Michael Moore! So expect a lot of finger-wagging op-eds in the near future about the "intolerance" of Democratic "ideologues." (My response to those op-eds consists of two words: Harriet Miers.) In a rational world, sure, you'd go after Holy Joe head-on, but this isn't a rational world; in this case I think a patronizing dismissal would have been more effective, something along the lines of "Well, I'm sure Joe is happy to be getting more face time with the president. I know that sort of thing means a lot to him." For God's sake, don't take him so seriously -- it helps make the whole stinking enterprise seem principled and noble.

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