TNR Jumps the Shark

I can only hope that two of my favorite writers, two people rarely far off in their analysis of domestic policy, John Judis and Jonathan Chait, were not part of the “by the editors” group at The New Republic that today officially endorsed Joe Lieberman. This article by Chait suggests that he likely did not second or third, nor fourth or fifth, the endorsement. Judis’ coauthoring of The Emerging Democratic Majority with Ruy Teixiera suggests that he is also an unlikely endorser of Lieberman. So I can continue appreciating their work while still being dismayed at TNR’s foolishness.

In a nutshell, TNR’s reasons for the endorsement appear to be that (1) Lieberman supported the Iraq War and has not let intervening discoveries (e.g., the lack of WMD) change that view; (2) He advocates policies that the Democratic base doesn’t like (“Only Lieberman–the supposed candidate of appeasement–is challenging his party, enduring boos at event after event, to articulate a different, better vision of what it means to be a Democrat”. Also courageous was Lieberman’s “denouncing [of] Clinton on the Senate floor”); and (3) Only Lieberman believes in the Clinton/New Democrat legacy of “Foreign policy hawkishness, free trade, and fiscal discipline.” The last two are certainly parts of Clinton’s legacy, but Clinton’s foreign policy was “activist” rather than “hawkish”.

Not addressed by TNR is how Lieberman can make a compelling general election campaign, much less get out the vote in swing states, from the message that he’ll repeal the most regressive of the Bush tax cuts and otherwise do everything just like Bush, only slightly less so.

In fact, the endorsement is nearly as much an attack on Dean as it is promotion of Lieberman. A quick count reveals 24 instances of “Lieberman”, 14 of “Dean” (*), 3 of “Clark”, and 2 of “Kerry”.


(*) The mentions of Dean are particularly negative: “Dean and his supporters have embraced an analysis potentially even more damaging than that of the party leaders they seek to depose”; “The problem with Dean’s vision of the Democratic Party is more than electoral; it is intellectual and moral; “Dean’s opposition [to the Iraq war] suggests an old Democratic affliction.”

CORRECTION: The story linked above as authored by Jonathan Chait is actually by Jonathan Cohn, so Chait may not be in the clear.