Friday, February 02, 2007

The Most Partisan Man In Washington

This is the definition of "partisan" (from the Oxford English Dictionary): "An adherent or proponent of a party, cause, person, etc.; esp. a devoted or zealous supporter; Also with unfavourable connotation: an unreasoning, prejudiced, or blindly fanatical adherent. "

As we all know, "partisan" is one of Lieberman's favorite words. He bemoans excessive partisanship in Washington at almost every opportunity (I defy anyone to find one of his many appearances on a Sunday morning gabfest over the preceding 12 months in which he did not whine about partisanship). Partisanship is fundamentally an unreasoning adherence to a cause. In its most advanced form, partisanship will even involve rejecting objectivity altogether where facts and empiricism threaten to defeat the cause.

If, therefore, a measure of partisanship is the degree to which one will deviate from reason and objectivity in advocating a position, then I would humbly submit that Joe Lieberman is the most partisan man in Washington. If absolute absurdism is the sine qua non of the truly most partisan, the goal to which any hopeful for the title "most partisan" must aspire, then Joe Lieberman's descriptions of conditions in Iraq over the last three years rank right up there with Bill Frist's long-distance diagnosis of Terry Schiavo. Both were marked by an almost grotesque glee in proclaiming the vitality and vibrancy of patients that were completely unresponsive to treatment; an almost perverse delight in characterizing the attributes of morbidity as the very essence of life.

I (and others) have catalogued Lieberman's rosy Iraq assessments, assessments that have not only been revealed by subsequent events to have been flatly incorrect, but were widely recognized at the time as fantasies. Rather than note the rejection of Lieberman's assessments by others, let me again note that Lieberman rejected his own prior assessment by conceding that when he had claimed progress in Iraq last summer - progress so great we could likely begin withdrawing troops by year end - conditions in Iraq had been in fact "heartbreakingly bad."

I will stipulate that Joe Lieberman sincerely believes in the cause of the Iraq war, and the justice of the cause, although I believe the injustice of the avowed causes are manifest. Apparently, in Lieberman's estimation, this gives him the right (perhaps even the obligation) to cheerlead this cause by resorting to characterizations of conditions in Iraq that could only be the product of an unreasoning adherence to the cause or some cognitive disorder. I suppose Lieberman, to the extent he has conceded that his assessments were wildly off the mark, would contend that he was motivated solely by a desire to encourage our resolve when things were becoming very difficult in Iraq. Lieberman could have, like FDR and Churchill, conceded desperate circumstances and grievous setbacks but argued the greatness of the cause and faith that prevailing policies and strategies would produce success. He chose instead to deny the desperate circumstances and refuse to acknowledge the grievous setbacks. And so when exploding sectarian violence in Iraq last summer threatened our avowed objective of a peaceful Iraq governed by a stable and democratic government, Lieberman simply insisted that we continued to near our objective, and that the undeniable rising threat to our ends was really progress toward those ends.

Lieberman's assessments of the Iraq war, his claims of progress, his steadfast support for policies and strategies that were failing, were as false, deceptive and venal as Clinton's "I did not have sex with that woman." But this wasn't about a blow job.

Quite simply, this is where I part ways with Lieberman and his supporters. They believe the ends justify their means, even if the means involve misleading your constituents about conditions in Iraq and lying about your Iraq policy. I don't. He could have told us the truth about conditions in Iraq and appealed for our support, but instead he misled us about those conditions and questioned our patriotism if we didn't offer our support.

All of which makes rather disingenuous Dan Gerstein's insistence that opposition to Lieberman can only be explained by blind hatred of Bush and Joe.

And all of which makes Joe Lieberman the most partisan man in Washington.


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