“Congress faces a choice…..: Will we allow our actions to be driven by the changing conditions on the ground in Iraq or by the unchanging political and ideological positions long ago staked out in Washington? What ultimately matters more to us: the real fight over there, or the political fight over here?”—Joe Lieberman in the Wall Street Journal, 2-26-07.
“……there is a world beyond Pennsylvania Avenue that is watching and listening. What we say here is being heard in Baghdad by Iraqi moderates, trying to decide if the Americans will stand with them. We are being heard by our men and women in uniform, who will be interested to know whether we support the plan they have begun to carry out. We are being heard by the leaders of the thuggish regimes in Iran and Syria, and by Al Quaeda terrorists, eager for evidence that America’s will is breaking. And we are being heard across America by our constituents, who are wondering if their Congress is capable of serious action, not just hollow posturing.”—Joe Lieberman on the Senate floor, 2-5-07.
These excerpts are representative of a degree of statesmanship that has become exceedingly rare in our politics. As a result, Senator Lieberman has now worked himself into position as the last remaining Truman/Kennedy/Jackson Democrat, a position that is about as lonely as it gets in the current configuration of the Congressional leadership and the mainstream of the Democratic Party. But in the process he also has developed into the Arthur Vandenberg of the current foreign policy crisis. Sen. Vandenberg of Michigan was the Republican Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (a position occupied today by Joe Biden) who, in 1947, despite the strong incentives and desire of his party to undermine President Truman in advance of the election of 1948, strongly supported Truman in his proposals for aid to Greece and Turkey, the Marshall Plan to salvage Europe, and the founding of NATO, which spearheaded the containment of Soviet Communism that lasted until its defeat in 1991. Clearly, Joe Biden could have been an Arthur Vandenberg and hasn’t chosen to be one, while Joe Lieberman already is.
Some observers have suggested that Lieberman’s position on the war in Iraq represents a bias that should be expected from one of his “tribe”, a deeply cynical view not worthy of the statesmanship on display here. And, incidentally, more to this point, I would ask: to what tribe do I belong?