Thursday, October 29, 2009


I used to think that the Israeli settler state had finally definitively overreached with its Gaza Anschluss last winter,. Notwithstanding the moral capital Israel relentlessly squeezes out of the Nazi Judeocide (deeming it a “Holocaust,” an event of metaphysical, indeed theological, significance, beyond the course of ordinary human history), I expected that the world would finally say “Enough!” I was wrong. Even now, after the Goldstone Commission findings, Israel remains free to do pretty much whatever it wants to Palestinians -- and to Lebanon too -- largely because, for the U.S. Congress and the Obama administration, nothing short of gas chambers would count as overreaching. For this sorry state of affairs, the blame lies not just with Republicans and Blue Dogs; Pelosiites are as bad if not worse, and the handful of “progressives” in Congress aren’t much better.

Indeed, in the more-than-enough-is-never-quite-enough department, Democrats are even worse than Republicans. This is not always evident on matters of substance, inasmuch as Democrats have left-leaning constituencies they must placate or at least not treat with obvious contempt when they join Republicans in advancing the interests of their corporate paymasters. But it is clear on procedural matters. Republicans enforce party discipline; they are not afraid to coerce and, if need be, to punish anyone bold enough to stray. That’s why Olympia Snowe was the only one of his co-thinkers on the other side of the aisle whom Max Baucus was able to pry loose from the Party of No; and why even she is now retreating back into the Republican fold. On the other hand, Democrats will forgive anything – even Joe Lieberman.

Barack Obama came into office committed to overlooking (forgetting or, if need be, forgiving) Bush-Cheney era war criminals. But at least he had a principled, though spurious, reason – he wanted “to look forward, not back.” Thus his continuing reluctance to restore the rule of law by bringing these criminals to justice, though contemptible, is not especially abject. On the other hand, agreeing not to strip Lieberman of his seniority in the Democratic caucus -- even after he lost the 2006 Democratic primary in Connecticut, ran against a Democrat in the general election, and then, two years later, campaigned actively for John McCain and other Republicans -- is contemptible and abject.

We have Obama to thank for the fact that Lieberman has been getting away with so much party treachery. I wonder whether now that the chickens (or rather the chicken-hawks) are coming home to roost, he is having second thoughts. Obama evidently has the stomach to suffer a sanctimonious twit, but Lieberman is worse than that – he is also more than just normally corrupt. This is why when Connecticut based health insurance profiteers call in their chips, he is eager to accommodate them – by threatening to join the Republicans in filibustering the milquetoast insurance reforms that Senate Democrats will soon be putting forward. If, G-d forbid, the Senate plan includes a public option, as we now know it will, Lieberman says he’ll oppose it by any means necessary. No matter what his constituents think, the insurance companies must have their way.

It shouldn’t be too hard, even at this late date, for Obama and Harry Reid to lean on Joe Lieberman – to insist that on procedural, if not substantive, matters he accept party discipline. Republicans would demand much more from any potentially wayward senator in their own unseemly midst. But for the lesser evil party, almost anything, no matter how damaging, is forgivable. For Democrats, overreaching may be conceivable in theory, but it is almost always unachievable in practice.

However, unlike Israel, Lieberman has no lobby. His power consists just in the media attention he is able to elicit as a Republican in Democratic ranks. But what Obama and Reid and the others have given, they can just as easily take away. That they have not yet done so attests only to how utterly abject (accommodating, forgiving, “bipartisan”) they are.

I have gone on in countless entries about how desperately in need of a backbone Democrats are. They are in need of basic human dignity as well. For as long as they have none, the likes of Joe Lieberman will be free to overreach with impunity, walking all over the ruling party of the world’s most powerful state, just as Israel has been doing for decades.

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