Cloture on Joe Lieberman (politics)
Joe Lieberman is one strange guy. Back in 1998, he was one of the few Democrats in the senate to cross lines and call for the censure of the President for being publicly dishonest about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. At the time, Lieberman was widely praised for being a voice for morality in Washington. That public stance likely played a critical role in Al Gore’s decision to put Senator Lieberman on the Democratic ticket in 2000.
A few days ago, the same Joe Lieberman voted with most of the Republicans and no Democrats in a cloture motion to bring a resolution of no confidence in Alberto Gonzales to the senate floor. Even the Republican senate leadership wouldn’t go on record themselves to say that they actually had “confidence” in the attorney general. Instead, the argument was that the vote would merely be a political “show” and was thus inappropriate.
Personally, I’d be happy to have a senate that is genuinely concerned that the justice system has been politicized and that US Attorneys were possibly fired because they either prosecuted Republicans or refused to prosecute iffy claims of Democratic election fraud just before another election. The President, who believes in high standards, has repeatedly pointed out that there is no evidence of “criminal wrongdoing” so he has full confidence in Alberto Gonzales. I take it this means moral wrongdoing and incompetence are just fine in the Bush administration. Of course the “criminal wrongdoing” standard might be a high bar for large numbers of either party to pass, so maybe it’s just me.
I do wonder if Harry Reid et. al. did it backwards. The subtler thing to do would have been to put a resolution expressing confidence in Alberto Gonzales on the floor of the Senate. The resolution would then contain everything that the Attorney General had done wrong, prominently mention the President’s many statements in support of his attorney general, etc. The fifteen or so Republicans left who fully support the President on this issue would have then been thrown into a double bind. The Senate would bring the resolution to the floor and then all the Democrats could have voted against it while twenty or so Senators would have affirmatively expressed confidence in the Attorney General.
The bit that really scares me though is that Joe Lieberman, who still caucuses with the Democrats (one of his campaign promises after he ran anyway after losing his own party’s nomination), might well have voted “yes”. Lieberman ultimately voted against the impeachment of Bill Clinton, but he’s the one who suggested censure. If the Republican party line on Gonzales was that “no confidence” was simply symbolic, what was Lieberman’s justification for Gonzales? Is it possible that the independent Senator from Connecticut really thinks Gonzales is doing a good job?
Even more fascinating, if Lieberman was horrified by Bill Clinton’s public dishonesty about Monica Lewinsky, shouldn’t the same standard apply to the current administration?
How many times and how many ways have they lied about the war? Where is Senator Lieberman’s outrage over that? Where is the outrage over Gonzales’s claims that he couldn’t remember major details in his department over the last twelve months? If the AG wasn’t lying, wasn’t he at least admitting to extraordinary incompetence?
Compare the day Joe Lieberman put on a flak jacket to shop for rose-colored glasses in Baghdad to his statement of September 1998 about the need to uphold the integrity of public office. Is it a shock that he had to wander around in dark glasses?
Consider this irony. Joe Lieberman holds one of the senate seats once held by Prescott Bush, a Republican seantor who once chaired planned parenthood and who spoke out against Joe McCarthy. He is also the man who took the seat of Lowell Weicker, one of the first Republican seantors to take on Richard Nixon during Watergate. There is indeed a tradition of true independence for senators from Connecticut. My only question is what real principles are behind Loe Lieberman's most recent expressions of "independence"?