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Joe Lieberman

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Smarm is the New Buncombe.

“Stand against snark, and you are standing with everything decent. And who doesn’t want to be decent? The snarkers don’t, it seems. Or at least they (let’s be honest: we) don’t want to be decent on those terms. Over time, it has become clear that anti-negativity is a worldview of its own, a particular mode of thinking and argument, no matter how evasively or vapidly it chooses to express itself…Smarm is a kind of performance—an assumption of the forms of seriousness, of virtue, of constructiveness, without the substance. Smarm is concerned with appropriateness and with tone. Smarm disapproves.”

Ably channeling the spirit of Mencken, Gawker’s Tom Scocca writes in defense of Snark, and skewers the evil that produced it, Smarm. “We have popular names now for the rhetorical tools these flacks are deploying: the straw-man attack, the fake umbrage, the concern-trolling. Why are those tools so familiar? It is because they are essential parts of the smarmer’s tool kit, the grease gun and the rag and the spatula.” If you judge a man by his enemies, Scocca picks a lot of the right ones here.

Roll the Hard Sixty.

Cosmetic reduction of partisan conflict appears to be displacing substantive effort to make the Senate an institution that operates according to majority rule. You have to wonder whether Democrats, in the hours leading up to their party leader’s State of the Union, had any sincere desire to enact its programs.

Seem like every time you stop and turn around, something else just hit the ground. Not to be lost in the shuffle, filbuster reform has died anew, and so once again the broken United State Senate has “slipped back into stagnant waters.” Sounds like Two More Years for Presidents Snowe, Collins, Lieberman, and Nelson, then.

Joementum Cools.

The politics of President Kennedy — patriotic service to country, support of civil rights and social justice, pro-growth economic and tax policies, and a strong national defense — are still my politics,” Lieberman said. “So maybe that means that JFK wouldn’t fit into any of today’s partisan political boxes neatly.

Um…yeah. Anyway, after four terms in the Senate, Joe Lieberman announces he will not be running again in 2012. [Archive.] (Politically, this was a foregone conclusion — his poll numbers have been in the tank for years.) You know how they say: If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all? Well, with that in mind,

The Myth of 11-Dimensional Chess.

“Obama supporters are eager to depict the White House as nothing more than a helpless victim in all of this — the President so deeply wanted a more progressive bill but was sadly thwarted in his noble efforts by those inhumane, corrupt Congressional ‘centrists.’ Right. The evidence was overwhelming from the start that the White House was not only indifferent, but opposed, to the provisions most important to progressives. The administration is getting the bill which they, more or less, wanted from the start — the one that is a huge boon to the health insurance and pharmaceutical industry.

A day after Senate Democrats kill Byron Dorgan’s non-importation amendment in order to preserve the administration’s back-door deal with Big Pharma, the indispensable Glenn Greenwald takes the Obama administration to task for the final Senate product on health care, which, suffice to say, is looking pretty far afield from the House bill. (And all the while, the bought and paid for Joe Lieberman grins like the Cheshire Cat.)

I was going to wait until year-in-review post week to put this up, but now’s as good a time as any: From civil liberties to this Senate health care fiasco, it’s hard to think of any arena where this administration’s first year hasn’t been a tremendous disappointment. (Regarding the former: I didn’t mention this here earlier, but the brazen audacity of this passage from the president’s war-is-peace Nobel Prize speech made me blanch: “We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend. And we honor — we honor those ideals by upholding them not when it’s easy, but when it is hard.” Uh, your Justice Department is not upholding them, remember? Is the president even aware of his own civil liberties record?)

Anyway, I keep being reminded of this line from my Obama endorsement of January 2008: “There’s a possibility — maybe even a strong possibility — that he’ll end up a Tommy Carcetti-like president: a well-meaning reformer outmatched and buffeted to and fro by the entrenched forces arrayed against him.” Well, welcome to the Carcetti presidency, y’all. The only surprise so far for many of us is in how little he’s actually even tried to enact meaningful reforms. But I guess once the president surrounded himself with the exact same GOP-lite people we’d spent months trying to defeat in the Democratic primary, the writing should have been on the wall. This will not be change we can believe in. A New Day is not dawning. And the president is not really with us — We’re going to have to do the heavy lifting for reform next year without him.

The Progressives Made Us Do It.

“‘We’ve spent countless hours over the last few days in consultation with senators who’ve shown a genuine desire to reform the health-care system,’ Reid said. ‘And I believe there’s a strong consensus to move forward in this direction.'” Yer damn skippy. The Senate health care reform bill will include an opt-out public option, mainly because Senate progressives demanded it. “Reid and the leadership faced this basic math: There is only one Snowe and there are 60 members of the Democratic caucus. If just a few Democrats abandoned the bill, it would fall short even with Snowe’s support.

Also worth reading, Nate Silver’s concise ten-point summation of why a public option made the Senate bill. Note #1: “The tireless, and occasionally tiresome, advocacy on behalf of liberal bloggers and interest groups for the public option. Whatever you think of their tactics — I haven’t always agreed with them — the sheer amount of focus and energy expended on their behalf has been very important, keeping the issue alive in the public debate.” Keep up the good fight, y’all. This ain’t over yet.

Update: To wit, Senator Lieberman is up to his old antics: “I told Senator Reid that…if the bill remains what it is now, I will not be able to support a cloture motion before final passage. Therefore I will try to stop the passage of the bill.” Let’s remember. Lieberman — who played this same game back in 1994 — was allowed to keep his chair last November mainly on the pretense that he wouldn’t hold up important Democratic legislation. One would think this counts.

The Restoration?

‘You could have had an administration with a sprinkling of Clinton people, it would have been fine,’ said Robert Kuttner, co-editor of the American Prospect…’But when so many of the top people are holdovers, and he’s promoting change, you have to say, wait a minute.’” As the official Cabinet appointments file in, some left-minded folk cast a wary eye upon the Clintonian tinge of the Obama cabinet. (If you haven’t been keeping up, among those announced by the transition of late are Eric Holder at Justice, Tim Geithner at Treasury, and Larry Summers(!) as in-house economic guru, and word has leaked of Bill Richardson for Commerce and You-Know-Who for State.)

To be honest, with a few exceptions — After his egregious stint at Harvard and his hand in forging the economic mess we’re in now, I’m not altogether sure Larry Summers deserved to “fail up” — I’m not only fine with so many experienced Clinton-era officials in the Obama cabinet, I expected it. This was the great fallacy of the McCain campaign — For all his talk of maverick independence, there was never any substantial trough of non-Dubya Republicans out there from which McCain could’ve picked a government. A few cosmetic changes in the Cabinet aside, a McCain Washington would by necessity have been run by the same jokers who brought us the last eight years. And, for better or worse, we Dems also don’t have a different farm team of any kind. As Robert Borosage well puts it in the article above, “It hasn’t surprised me that he’s chosen stars from the Clinton bench, because that’s the bench we have.

All that being said, I’d be lying if I didn’t note that the probable choice of Sen. Clinton for Secretary of State gives me pause. Part of my qualm, I suppose, is just a temperamental defect in my grudge-carrying Irish character — I’d be the first to admit that I lean towards “the Chicago way” in these sorts of things. (If it were up to me, Joe Lieberman would be working the Senate cloakroom after his behavior this election cycle, and, imho, Sen Clinton still has quite a bit to answer for as well.) But even allowing for my own petty vindictiveness, I’m not feeling the pick. Notwithstanding her dubious qualifications for State — don’t we have any career diplomats who would fit the bill? — Sen. Clinton’s record in foreign policy matters thus far is not what you’d call stellar. (See also: the Iraq vote, the Iran vote.) And, to put it delicately, if we learned anything from the Clinton campaign this past cycle, it’s that management skills may not be her forte — Wouldn’t we all be better served with Sen. Clinton replacing Ted Kennedy as the new liberal lion of the Senate?

Mind you, I can see the political merits of the pick, both in terms of its Lincolnian magnanimity (it enhances Obama’s “goodbye to all that” post-partisan prestige, and completes the Seward analogy) and its Johnsonian shrewdness. (As LBJ said of J. Edgar Hoover, ““I would rather have him inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in.“) And, if the president-elect believes Sen. Clinton to be the woman for the job, despite everything that’s happened over the year, I’m inclined to trust his judgment on the matter. I just hope it works out better than I fear. (Pic via Sullivan.)

Chimps on Parade.

Well, my original intention was to blog about the RNC speeches here at home in much the same fashion as I did in Denver last week. But, after slogging through last night’s ridiculousness on C-SPAN…sorry, y’all. These posts will have to be abbreviated, because I just can’t take these fools at all seriously.

For one, it’s abundantly clear that the cheering Republican faithful in Minnesota have, by sheer force of denial, somehow crossed over into a bizarro alternate universe, one where Dubya wasn’t the worst president this country has ever seen and Sarah Palin is the reincarnated hybrid of Queen Elizabeth and Joan of Arc. (No wonder they couldn’t fill the seats: It takes a not-insignificant amount of crazy to think thus these days.)

For another, the strenuous doublethink required to buy into last night’s program — Dubya is wonderful, but change is necessary, for example — is just beyond my capacity to embrace contradiction…pending more reeducation at the nearest Ministry of Love, of course.

For yet another, it’s hard to take the Gustav-related preambles to every speech at face value, given that — when the writing was on the wall three years ago — the Republicans’ grotesque incompetence and indifference to hurricane prep was on full display, much to the continued woe of New Orleans.

Finally, there was so much kneejerk demonizing of “the angry left” and their tax-and-spend, America-hating ways, particularly by Law & Order actor turned laconic buffoon Fred Thompson, that I just don’t feel much inclination to extend the olive branch to these jokers. It’d be nice to say that we just view the world differently and can agree to disagree, patriots on both sides of the issue yadda yadda yadda. But, given last night’s performances, these fellows are either unfathomably stupid or just venal, corrupt, and propagandistic liars. To be honest, i’d bet the BOTH line.

At any rate, the main events of the evening started out decently enough with an introduction by First Lady Laura Bush, who’s consistently been one of the only grace notes in the conservative governance of the past eight years. But, then her husband popped up, and the night took a significant downturn. [Transcript.] “Fellow citizens,” our president chimp-smirked as usual, “if the Hanoi Hilton could not break John McCain’s resolve to do what is best for his country, you can be sure the angry left never will.” Of course, John McCain’s habitual tendency to fold like an accordion whenever right-wing pressure is applied was in full evidence just this past weekend, when the stark-raving Rovians forced Palin on him. So this, like most Dubyaic pronouncements, should be taken with a few grains of salt.

Next up was Sen. Fred Thompson, who absolutely epitomized, in my friend Dr. Vendre‘s inimitable phrasing, the central “get off my damn lawn, you crazy kids” nature of the Republicans’ appeal this year. [Transcript.] Now, despite his cranky old neighbor act, this was considered a good speech by the media powers-that-be, mainly because Fred managed to wallow in P-O-Wisms for twenty minutes and close by calling Obama a godless babykiller. So, Mission Accomplished, I suppose.

Finally, the GOP wound up and unveiled the Zellout 2.0: “Holy Joe” Lieberman, to tell us that “eloquence is no substitute for a record ” and, that — basically — John McCain is the honorable maverick the nation needs and Barack Obama a brie-eating surrender monkey. [Transcript.] Now, I suppose this might’ve played if “Joementum” was an actual honest-to-goodness phenomenon among Democrats. But given that our party has pretty much always been underwhelmed with the guy, and now even his own state of Connecticut has soured on him, he may as well have dropped the bipartisan act and put that all-but-official “R” next to his name. (Today’s nonpartisan Fact Checker already has his number: “If Obama voted against funding the troops, so did Lieberman.“)

So…to sum up: Country First, a Lifetime of Service, POW POW POW, Liberals hate America, 9/11, 9/11. 9/11. Add several brazen untruths, a smattering of smears, and some healthy dollops of sheer idiocy, and then simmer until Gov. Palin shows up. All in a day’s work for the sad and embarrassing conservative wingnuttery that passes for today’s irreparably broken Republican party.

Like a Junkie to the Needle.

“‘Both parties talk a good game on cutting earmarks, but at first opportunity, the House larded up,’ said Stephen Ellis, vice president of the watchdog group. ‘This is just another broken promise.’” With another big defense bill imminent, congressional earmarks are sadly back in vogue. “In the Senate, Lieberman led the way with his participation in 14 requests worth more than $292 million, some of them involving more than one lawmaker, the watchdog group data show. Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) made 48 requests, many with colleagues, worth more than $198 million. Sens. Jeff Sessions (Ala.) and Elizabeth Dole (N.C.) led Republicans by participating in requests totaling $188 million and $182 million, respectively.

Stop Saying It Ain’t So, Joe.

“They shook hands. But Obama didn’t let go, leading Lieberman — cordially — by the hand across the room into a corner on the Democratic side, where Democratic sources tell ABC News he delivered some tough words for the junior senator from Connecticut…Reporters watched as Obama leaned closely in to Lieberman, whose back was literally up against the wall.” Taking a page from the LBJ school of physical persuasion, Sen. Obama seems to warn Joe Lieberman privately about the perils of Zelling out. Update: Holy Joe pushes back. Hard to imagine Lieberman remaining a committee chair after November at this point.

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