4.16.2008

Lieberman takes one more step towards the Republican Party

4 years after Sen. Zell Miller gave the keynote speech at the 2004 Republican Convention, another Senator who caucuses for Democrats is looking to have his moment of glory on the GOP stage. Joe Lieberman is now telling reporters that he would address the Republican delegates in Minnesota if John McCain asked him to do so. Some are already mentioning the possibility of keynote speaker Lieberman.

The Arizona Senator has not done so for now, but Lieberman and McCain have been traveling together extensively over the past few months; Lieberman accompanied McCain on his European and Middle-eastern trip earlier this year.

McCain's choice to associate this closely with Lieberman has been somewhat puzzling, especially when McCain was still battling for the Republican nomination. Whatever credit and bi-partisan appeal Lieberman's support might grant McCain, Lieberman is also remembered by Republican voters as the Democrats' vice-presidential nominee in 2000, one of the two men against which conservatives mobilized in Florida and beyond (the days of "Sore-Loserman").

It was one thing for Republicans to cheer Zell Miller, a very conservative Senator from Georgia; it will be quite a sight to watch them stand up to applaud Joe Lieberman. In Florida, where McCain traveled extensively with Lieberman, Mitt Romney blasted McCain for being insufficiently conservative, using his association with the Connecticut Senator as Exhibit A.

Many conservatives still feel a deep distrust for John McCain, even if he appears to have solidified the Republican base around him since he wrapped up the nomination. This is not exactly the same situation as George Bush in 2004, then, where the incumbent president had solid support among conservatives but very limited appeal to Democrats and independents. So what would McCain gain by putting at the center of his celebratory convention someone like Lieberman who, however much he has become a reliable Rightist voice on national security and foreign affairs, still generally votes Democratic on social issues?

Two thoughts come to mind: (1) McCain wants to run this election on national security and, for some reason, he believes that he would have an advantage if he ran on Iraq. By highlighting Joe Lieberman's support, he calls for voters to put to the side economic and social issues (on which Lieberman and McCain don't necessarily see eye to eye) and vote on national security and on character -- the two issues Republicans feel McCain has an edge on and the two issues Lieberman is supposedly touting.

(2) There is nothing more satisfactory than to see someone from the opposite party bash his party's own candidate. Zell Miller's absurdly hateful speech in 2004 had to be such a great moment for Republicans; and considering the type of comments Joe Lieberman is already directing at Barack Obama, we can expect that he will spend the next few months hitting the Illinois Senator. Asked whether he thought Obama was a Marxist, he recently said, as reported by the Huffington Post:

I must say, that's a good question... I will tell you that during this campaign, I've learned some things about him, about the kind of environment from which he came ideologically. And I wouldn't...I'd hesitate to say he's a Marxist, but he's got some positions that are far to the left of me and I think mainstream America.

Prepare for Republicans to use comments like this one to demonstrate Obama's being too far to the Left; what will be lost is the irony of Obama having endorsed Joe Lieberman in his primary against Ned Lamont in 2006...

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