Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Via Aimai in comments, I see that Nate Silver is struggling to figure out Joe Lieberman's motivations in the health-care fight. Nate thinks Lieberman is flirting with political suicide, and I agree -- but I suspect Lieberman's a sort of political-suicide bomber, a guy who's actually prepared for political death, and is happy to have it come if it does serious harm to the enemy (namely liberals and real Democrats).

Nate notes that, while this does help Lieberman with a Connecticut industry that bankrolls his campaigns, it infuriates state voters and -- although obviously this never seems to happen -- puts Lieberman's committee chairmanship at risk. Nate writes:

The reason this is a little scary for Democrats is because the usual things that serve to motivate a Congressman don't seem to motivate Joe Lieberman....

What Joe Lieberman wants, in all probability, is attention. He wants Harry Reid to have to stand up and say things like : "I don't have anyone that I've worked harder with, have more respect for, in the Senate than Joe Lieberman." He wants face time on
Meet the Press. He wants to make liberals feel some pain -- especially those who tried to get Ned Lamont elected in his place. He wants everyone to know how maverick-y he is.

And I'd go further. I think he might actually relish political martyrdom. He might crave it.

The conventional wisdom is that he was stung by the primary challenge in '06 and is still bitter about being rejected by voters and many big-name Democrats, but it's clear that he kinda dug it, too, right? And if he now loses his chairmanship? Or loses reelection in 2012? Well, he'll be politically dead -- but he'll be in paradise, the object of the attention of 72 virgins, with names like Coulter, Cheney, Hannity, O'Reilly....

A mediocrity like Lieberman? Getting that kind of adulation? Paradise indeed.

Seriously, what happens if this really is a death blow to his Senate career? He'll be an acclaimed "martyr" on the wingnut right, a man lauded over and over again for his "courage." He'll get a big book deal, probably from Rupert Murdoch's HarperCollins or Mary Matalin's Threshold imprint at Simon & Schuster -- and this time he'll have endless opportunities to flog the book in the right-wing media, and it'll do a hell of a lot better than his previous books. He'll be a regular commentator on Fox and for The Wall Street Journal -- maybe he'll even get his own show. A little bit of this, some corporate-board activity here, maybe some lobbying (his or his wife's) over there ... he'll be set for life. His ego will be set for life. So where's the harm in committing political suicide, if he draws blood on our side?

Of course, he never actually does seem to die from these suicide missions, does he? Sure, by all means blame Reid, Obama, and others who've reached out to him in the past few years, but don't forget to blame Al Gore, who responded to Lieberman's sanctimony on the Monica situation by making Joe his running mate, and spare a little blame for Connecticut voters, who chose him in '06 knowing full well what he was.

There's a name for someone who keeps doing the wrong thing knowing that the consequences for bad behavior never really come: a brat. And maybe that's what Joe really is.

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