Senator Joe Lieberman has recently announced his resignation, pending expectations that he will probably lose his next Senate race. For many on the far left, Mr. Lieberman was a hated figure; a traitor on issues beginning from his loud support of the Iraq War.
Mr. Lieberman, on the other hand, came to dislike the far left in equal measure. After they defeated him in the 2006 Democratic primary, he ran for Senator as an independent. He went on to win that race by the high single-digits and never forgave the netroots or the Democratic Party for what he thought they had done to him.
Mr. Lieberman has spent the rest of his life attempting to block all that the netroots hold dear. He was the only Democratic senator to support Republican candidate John McCain, even going as far as to speak at the Republican National Convention. During that time Mr. McCain seriously considered the Jewish senator as his running mate.
Then, during the health care debate, it was Mr. Lieberman who put the death blow onto the public option. This was probably the dearest provision in the bill to online activists, hoping to use it to create a single-payer, universal, government-run health care system (what conservatives call socialist health care, an accurate description in this case). Mr. Lieberman’s role in the defeat of this dream further enraged the netroots community.
All this does little to speak well of neither the netroots community nor Mr. Lieberman. The former overestimated their power in attempting to defeat the senator; their influence over the Democratic primary electorate turned out not to extend to the general electorate, where Mr. Lieberman won as an independent. Since that election, the senator has made the far left pay far more than it would have if the netroots had just stayed quiet.
But Mr. Lieberman comes out the worst. A high government official should never let his or her emotions drive him to make decisions. Doing so can be dangerous for the country’s health. Yet since 2006 Mr. Lieberman’s entire career seems to have been dedicated to anger-fueled retaliation.
Perhaps the senator deserves to be angry, perhaps not. But public servants should not behave in the manner Mr. Lieberman been doing. Things such as the public option are serious matters, not tools to get petty personal revenge. They affect hundreds of millions of Americans. They are part of a very important debate over what policies the United States must take. Deciding to oppose something like the public option as retribution for a personal matter is not responsible.
It is probably a good thing that Mr. Lieberman has declared his resignation.