Few politicians have had a career as tumultuous and unpredictable as Joe Lieberman’s, particularly in later years as he went from Democratic vice presidential nominee to an outcast from the Connecticut Democratic Party to a campaigner for a Republican presidential candidate. So it’s not surprising that reaction to the announcement of his retirement from the Senate was varied–and strong.
Lieberman’s worst fault, says Hendrik Hertzberg at The New Yorker, “was his incredibly selfish decision to seek reëlection to the Senate at the same time as he was Al Gore’s running mate.” By insisting on having it both ways, Hertzberg argues, Lieberman ensured that the Senate would fall into the hands of Republicans no matter how the elections turned out.
“For the Democrats, Lieberman was the best of friends, and also the worst,” says Ezra Klein at the Washington Post. Yes, his actions during the health care reform debate were “often erratic and seemingly unprincipled,” but he came through in the end on that and other key votes.
Lieberman has been “a fairly reliable Democrat who ultimately supported a domestic agenda most liberals would approve of,” agrees The Plum Line’s Greg Sargent, also at the Post. However, “Lieberman’s positions on matters of civil liberties were deeply frustrating.”
“Why do I loathe, loathe, loathe my 68-year-old four-term senator?” wonders Emily Bazelon at Slate. “He never loses his power to disappoint,” she says. “Even Lieberman’s retirement announcement is an irritant. I’ll never get to throw the bum out.”
“Liberals’ pouting notwithstanding, Lieberman is a man of the Left,” Brian Bolduc says at National Review Online. “He voted against the ban on partial-birth abortion. He voted for Obamacare. He introduced a cap-and-trade bill. But on one issue — one vital issue — Lieberman is conservative: national security.” In that regard, Bolduc says, “Lieberman has earned conservatives’ respect — and rightly so — not for his ‘moderation’ or ‘independence,’ but for his courage and prudence.”
“Normally people look particularly appealing when they’re promising to go away,” says Gail Collins at the New York Times. “This time, not so much.” Lieberman’s vaunted independence, she says, would have gone over better with a bit of humility: “If you’re continually admiring yourself as you walk away from your group, eventually people are going to feel an irresistible desire to trip you.”
Finally, at The Atlantic, Chris Good offers a collection of Jon Stewart impressions of Lieberman, “always bejowled and pessimistic.”