The Most Uncivil Man In Washington
UPDATE: Think Progress noted the "testy exchange" between Lieberman and Warner yesterday, and makes the salient point that Warner is a veteran who served in the navy in WW II and in the marines during the Korean conflict. He was also Secretary of the Navy in the early/mid '70's. But Lieberman accuses him of demoralizing the troops in Iraq. People are sitting up and taking notice of the fact that Joe Lieberman is not a nice fellow.
Here is yet another example of Joe Lieberman's inability to discuss any issue without impugning the character, patriotism or morality of his opponent.
The above video clip is approximately 90 seconds long. Lieberman had been allotted ten minutes during the Senate debate yesterday afternoon, and after twice requesting (and receiving) additional time had finally finished his remarks. He had harshly criticized the Warner-Levin Resolution and compared it unfavorably to the proposed McCain-Lieberman resolution. But it turns out that the McCain-Lieberman resolution had never been filed with the clerk for the Senate, and therefore had not been distributed by officers of the Senate to each Senator. After Joe had finished his extended remarks Warner inquired whether the McCain-Lieberman resolution could be filed with "the desk" in the Senate. This may strike some as an overly technical point, but the Senate, like a courtroom, has certain rules of procedure, and Lieberman's repeated references to a resolution that had not been filed with the clerk prompted Warner to inquire (in his very courtly manner) whether there was any "possiblity" that the McCain-Lieberman resolution could be so filed "so that all Senators could have the benefit" of having the proposed resolution in hand. Lieberman smiled and assured Warner that filing of the McCain-Lieberman resolution was not only a possibility "but a promise."
Joe seemed to think his assurance would satisfy Warner, but Warner immediately asked "at what time might the promise be executed." Joe seemed a little taken aback by Warner's persistence, and the warm Lieberman smile that had greeted Warner's initial inquiry gave way to one of those Lieberman grimaces masquerading as a smile. Joe, using his best "I'm humoring Grandpa" delivery, assured Warner that the McCain-Lieberman resolution was publicly available and that he would supply Warner with a copy. He hadn't yet finished his condescending response to Warner when Warner interjected "and I'll be glad to give you my copy [of the Warner-Levin amendment], but I feel it would be presumptuous of me to address [the McCain-Lieberman resolution] unless it is properly before the Senate."
Perhaps Joe felt that Warner was belaboring Joe's neglect to properly file the resolution, and that Warner was being overly punctilious about Senate paperwork. Perhaps he felt Warner's tone was too reproachful for such a minor procedural pecadillo. Perhaps Joe felt Warner should have simply accepted his assurance that the resolution would be filed rather than demanding to know when it would be filed. One need not have insight into Joe's state of mind, however, to recognize Lieberman's next reply to Warner as a gratuitous (and typically Lieberman) attempt to impugn Sen. Warner's integrity.
"I thank my friend. The difference, of course, is that ours is as non-binding as yours but ours is a statement of support for our troops and benchmarks for the Iraqis."
Suddenly a discussion of a very dry and arcane procedural point of Senate order had elicited a very pointed response from Lieberman in which he was arguing not merely that the McCain-Lieberman resolution supported the troops, but that it differed from the Warner-Levin resolution in that regard! Lieberman had to know Warner wouldn't let that one get by. Many Senators (particularly republican Senators like Hagel and Collins) have insisted in recent days that any insinuation that support for a resolution opposing the escalation constitutes a failure to "support the troops" is a canard and a scurrilous argument. Collins acknowledged late last week that the air has been quite charged in the republican caucus and said that she had personally responded with indignation to insinuations by certain of her colleagues that support for the Warner-Levin resolution was tantamount to betraying the troops (see the last minute of this interview with Chris Matthews in which Collins said "I am really offended when people say that those of who are in favor of the [Warner-Levin] resolution are somehow betraying the troops"). Lieberman was no doubt aware of this highly charged atmosphere and therefore aware of the context in which Warner would receive Joe's attempt to contrast his own purported "support the troops" resolution with Warner's alleged "fuck the troops" resolution. Warner responded as one may have expected him to respond.
"I assure you that I would forcefully argue that ours is in support of the troops and there is no suggestion that one is less patriotic than the other, if I may say to my dear friend," Warner cautioned Lieberman.
I know enough of the Senate to know that these kinds of exchanges are always exceedingly decorous, and that even the most pointed disagreements are couched in language that is genteel, sometimes risibly so. And so I expected Lieberman would merely concur with Warner's surmise that there had been no intent to question the patriotism of anyone who would support the Warner-Levin amendment; that Lieberman would graciously accept Warner's invitation to acknowledge that no invidious comparison of the relative patriotism of the two resolutions had been intended. Even the most aggressive and sharp-tongued debaters in the Senate would generally take the opportunity to unequivocally confirm the unquestioned patriotism of a Senate colleague. But not Joe Lieberman.
"One is not less patriotic than the other," Lieberman conceded, "but actions have consequences, and as I said during my remarks, for the Senate to take this unprecedented action on a non-binding resolution to disavow - disapprove - a mission that our troops are being asked to carry out right now cannot help their morale."
Joe's smile was gone by the time he delivered this last shot at Warner, replaced by the pinched, pursed lips look that signals Joe's disapproval of your moral failings, and he left no doubt that he believed Warner (and those that would support his resolution) were knowingly undertaking to undermine the morale of our troops.
This is always the way it is with Lieberman. He is never content to debate the merits of a political issue, or restrict his argument to the substance of a proposal. He will invariably suggest, in tone politely but in terms that unmistakably reveal his disdain for your moral inferiority, that his is the only morally acceptable position. In a chamber that is sometimes choked with sanctimony, Lieberman is the undisputed champion of sanctimonious umbrage. All Senators of course insist that they are right. Some Senators are occasionally willing to invoke a moral dimension to the debate. But only Joe Lieberman will consistently argue that one morally transgresses when one oppposes him.
Let me suggest to Sen. Warner and Sen. Hagel and Sen. Collins and any other Senators who have had enough of Joe's moral conceit that it may be appropriate at this point, and in the context of this debate over Iraq, to suggest to some of their friends in the press that this fraud who so assiduously cultivates a reputation for civility is the most uncivil man in the Senate.