How Joe went wrong

From Salon:

Lieberman’s years in public life have been a steady drumbeat of disappointment for Connecticut Democrats, a liberal lot who do not share his often conservative views. End-of-life issues are just one example. In 1992, the state’s Democratic voters picked Jerry Brown over Bill Clinton in the presidential primary. Lieberman, meanwhile, spent the 1990s joining cultural conservative Bill Bennett in a kind of Sherman’s March through American culture, handing out Silver Sewer awards for sex and violence and denouncing such pornographic abominations as “Married … With Children.”

Tag teaming with Bennett was one of the senator’s early experiments in what he calls “bipartisanship,” which often entails adopting Republican positions without leveraging any concession from the other side. Tell me how Bill Bennett moved toward the middle to accommodate Joe Lieberman. Pretty much the way Bush and Cheney moved to the center to meet Democrats on Iraq. Not at all.

… Long before there were those TV love fests with Fox’s Sean Hannity that so enrage lefty bloggers there were earlier love fests with none other than Pat Robertson. On the apocalyptic evangelist’s “700 Club,” Lieberman complained about moral relativism, said there was too little religion in public life, and said he was pleased that people of faith were taking their principles into the political arena. In 2003, Connecticut political writer Paul Bass chronicled the scramble by the senator’s staff to scrub his image from a fundraising infomercial (also starring Robertson and Jerry Falwell) for a conservative religious group with which he had been involved. His 2004 campaign for the presidential nomination was so pitched toward the conservative, moralistic, Southern elements of the party that I jokingly suggested the slogan: “He may be a Jew, but he’s a better Christian than you are.”

… Covering Lieberman is a good way to understand how misleading a voting record can be. (Are you listening, Courant editorial board?) Most members of Congress vote with their parties the preponderance of the time. There are other questions to ask. Did he vote differently on a much-more-important earlier amendment or cloture motion? Did he wait until it was clear his vote wouldn’t hurt the other side? Are his public pronouncements strangely different from his votes?

Consider Lieberman’s behavior during the confirmation of Clarence Thomas 15 years ago, well documented in this article from the political newsletter Counterpunch. Lieberman spoke avidly on behalf of Thomas and disdainfully about Democratic colleagues whose opposition was, he thought, too political. He was pretty much the last senator to commit to a nay vote, and only when his vote didn’t matter.