Back when he was running for reelection in 2006 against anti-war candidate Ned Lamont, Joe Lieberman sought to blur his long-standing hard-line position on Iraq. Casting himself a a critic of the Bush administration, Lieberman insisted “No one wants to end the war in Iraq more than I do.”
Needless to say, when Lieberman returned to the Senate as an Independent, he re-dedicated himself to the task of supporting and enabling the Bush administration’s disastrous “global war on terror” framing, and furiously attacking any Democrats who pointed out how demonstrably flawed and counterproductive that framing has been for understanding genuine threats to U.S. national security. Lieberman has continued his attack dog role in the ’08 campaign, shedding whatever shred of “independent” credibility he had left by attacking the motives and principles of anyone who doesn’t share his and John McCain’s enthusiasm for endless war against an undifferentiated Islamofascist horde.
Interestingly, just as Lieberman tried to blur his pro-war image for his 2006 Senate reelection bid, John McCain has been experimenting with new, sane foreign policy looks, dressing up his militaristic hegemonism in multilateralist drag, and insisting that he “detests war,” while promising more wars to come. Unfortunately, a few journalists have responded positively to McCain’s liberal internationalist karaoke, ignoring McCain’s actual record, his advisers, and the majority of his past statements, highlighting a few notes of pragmatism in an attempt to buttress the tired “Maverick McCain” narrative.
McCain’s latest head-fake in the direction of the mainstream has been his grudging acknowledgment of a 16-month Iraq withdrawal timetable, which Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has indicated he supports. As McCain tries to blur his position to appear slightly less completely out of step with both the American and Iraqi political consensus, it’s become Lieberman’s job to hold the hard-line on Iraq.
It’s quite simple: Lieberman’s position is McCain’s. Both continue to be committed to the War on Terror, the war in Iraq, and coming soon, a war in Iran. Despite their presentation of themselves as men of principle, both are savvy politicians who understand the need to fudge their positions at various times to make them a bit more palatable to voters. But don’t be fooled. Just as Lieberman reverted to type once he won reelection, so a President McCain will cast off any pretense of international cooperation or consensus building as he pursues victory against the “transcendent challenge of our time.”