Yesterday, Brave New Films launched a “Lieberman Must Go” petition drive arguing that Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) no longer deserves a chairmanship or leadership role in the Senate Democratic Caucus because of his overt support for President Bush and John McCain’s key policies, especially on Iraq.
As if he was consciously hoping to throw fuel on the petition’s fire, Lieberman appeared on conservative stalwart Bill Bennett’s radio show this morning and assailed his Democratic colleagues on Iraq. Referencing a bellicose speech he gave at John Hopkins last year, Lieberman accused his former colleagues of being “invested in a narrative of retreat and defeat in Iraq”:
LIEBERMAN: Oh, about a year ago I gave a speech at John Hopkins and I expressed my concern about where my Democratic party was going on foreign policy and I specifically talked about Iraq, and I said that the party seemed invested in a narrative of retreat and defeat in Iraq, regardless of what was happening on the ground, regardless of the consequences of retreat and defeat. And unfortuantely, too many of the leaders of the party have continued to have that approach to Iraq.
Lieberman’s shot at “leaders of the party” is surprising given that it is “leaders of the party” who are protecting him from efforts like the Brave New Films petition. Despite growing frustration within the Democratic caucus, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) previously said that Lieberman’s chairmanship will not be at risk next Congress.
But Reid’s patience may be running thin. He said “I’ll consider anything” when asked in May about Lieberman’s future in the caucus. He also told MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann that he’s going to watch Lieberman’s conduct “very closely.” On Bloomberg TV last Friday, Reid hinted that Lieberman might not be with the party “forever”:
MR. HUNT: And you expect him to be in the Democratic caucus next year?
SEN. REID: Well, unless something untoward comes up. You know, I – these votes are important. And, as we know, when Obama’s elected, he’s going to wind down the war so that will become much less of an issue. So on issues that are important to this caucus, Lieberman has voted with us. Now, does this mean he’s in forever? I don’t know about that.
Continued vociferous attacks on the policies preferred by the “leaders of the party” are likely to only spread that patience even thinner.
BENNETT: Let’s start with the third, which is Iraq and the thing everybody’s looking at Joe, which is Barack Obama, your colleguage’s going over to Iraq. This is a good thing, right? We do want him to see what’s going on on the ground and talk to Petraeus.
LIEBERMAN: Yeah, it’s absolutely a good thing. Look, somebody once told me when you’re a senator and you start to quote yourself, you have to watch out, you know, so, but forgive me, I’m about to quote myself.
BENNETT: Please. If you don’t, we will. Go ahead.
LIEBERMAN: Oh, about a year ago I gave a speech at John Hopkins and I expressed my concern about where my Democratic party was going on foreign policy and I specifically talked about Iraq, and I said that the party seemed invested in a narrative of retreat and defeat in Iraq, regardless of what was happening on the ground, regardless of the consequences of retreat and defeat. And unfortuantely, too many of the leaders of the party have continued to have that approach to Iraq, even as the new policy, the surge, has been implemented by a great general, David Petraeus, and violence is down, the Iraqis have reconciled, the economy there is coming back. Things are doing better. And with all respect, Sen. Obama has continued to be part of that because he insists on ordering, promising that if he’s elected, he’ll order that retreat, which I think would bring about defeat, regardless of what’s happening on the ground. So, yes, I take it to be a very good sign that he’s going to Iraq, that he’s going to see it, that finally he’s going to talk to Gen. Petraeus, Gen. Odierno. Because, you know, the position he’s taken, that started three, four, five years ago, so far he has refused to alter based on actual events on the ground. So, yeah, it’s a good thing that he’s going.
BENNETT: Yeah, John Maynard Keynes quote, “when the facts change, I change my mind, what do you do sir?” You know.
LIEBERMAN: Worth remembering.