In Attempting to Straddle Diverging Aisles, Lieberman Risks Tearing His Britches

ST. PAUL — Sen. Joe Lieberman's (I-Conn.) speech last night at the Republican convention obviously has the Obama campaign and the Democratic hierarchy reeling and seething about his direct assault and indictment of the Democratic Party and its presidential nominee.

If that wasn't enough, he made it clear that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) has the credentials and experience necessary as John McCain's vice presidential choice and made no mention of his colleague Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.). Give Lieberman credit, for there's no doubt that it took guts and deep resentment of his party to deliver his cutting remarks last night.

Sen. Lieberman’s speech must have been very difficult for him. After all, in return for crossing the aisle and being ostracized by the Democrats, having lost the Democratic primary in his own state and having to run as an Independent, he surely expected to be awarded the vice presidency. But instead, facing strong opposition from the Republican base to having a liberal (read: Jewish liberal) leading the party, Sen. McCain, despite his obvious fondness for Lieberman, felt compelled to go in another direction.

During his long and storied Senate career, Sen. Lieberman stood up for liberal social causes, while carving a niche as a hawk on national security issues. Lieberman was so endeared of liberal Democrats, after all, that they selected him to undergird Al Gore’s presidential bid in 2000.

Lieberman’s problem at this point is that domestic issues and national security concerns are now seen by the electorate as being so at odds with each other that Americans are faced with choosing one to the detriment of the other. It may not be possible any longer to make such a strong stand on national security while caucusing as a member of the party whose stated mission going forward is to turn swords into plowshares.

Similarly, despite having the personal integrity and dogged strength to reconcile these competing aims, Lieberman may not be able to find a home in the Republican Party once his usefulness as a thorn in the Democrats’ side has expired. Indeed, whether he knows it or not — his somber, almost funereal demeanor at the Republican convention suggests he is not naïve — Lieberman may have reached the end of his line as far as his political career is concerned.


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