Feature

The man Democrats love to hate: Joe Lieberman's legacy

The Connecticut senator will retire next year, and liberals aren't sad to see him go. How will we remember him?

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said Wednesday he would not seek a fifth term in 2012, signaling an end to a political career that spanned both a Democratic vice-presidential nomination (2000) and an appearance at the Republican National Convention (2008) to drum up support for Sen. John McCain's presidential run. Lieberman became a pariah within the Democratic Party for his enthusiastic support for the invasion of Iraq, and won re-election as an independent candidate in 2006. But, faced with the likelihood of defeat in 2012, Lieberman has now chosen to retire from the Senate. How will Lieberman be remembered by his critics, and supporters? (Watch an AP report about Lieberman's announcement)

For his embrace of neo-conservatism: Lieberman will be remembered for his "post-9/11 rightward lurch on national security," says Michael Crowley in Time, which made him a "bete noire for liberals." Not even championing the end of "Don't ask, don't tell" or advocating for climate-change regulation could redeem him "in the eyes of some of his fiercest liberal critics."
"Joe Lieberman concedes the obvious"

For his willingness to be a turncoat: It wasn't just Lieberman's "unquenchable love for the Iraq war" that made us hate him, says Emily Bazelon in Slate. What about when he "denounced Bill Clinton" over the Lewinsky affair? Or "his romance with John McCain"? Or, just last year, when he held the "health care bill hostage" over Medicare buy-ins? Each "act of grand or petty betrayal" still sticks in Democrats' throats.
"Good riddance, Joe Lieberman"

For his willingness to be principled: Lieberman refused to toe the party line, says Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post, in favor of "being true to his own deeply held principles." Of course, that means he became a villain to the left. But Lieberman "put country above party, practiced civility, and represented 'no labels'" better than any lawmaker in the U.S. "He'll be missed — by the Senate and the country," if not the still-bitter Democratic party.
"Joe Lieberman's legacy"

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