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More On Lieberman

Yesterday, I noted that Joe Lieberman gave another pro-Republican speech to a conservative group, and noted that the "Zell-ification" of Lieberman continues apace. Matthew Yglesias objects, saying that Lieberman is just saying that same hawkish things that he (and I) have been saying all along. Matt's confusing a couple points here.

First, it's not true that Lieberman is just saying the exact same things on foreign policy that all liberal hawks did. Before the Iraq war, lots of liberals thought that making a credible threat to invade Iraq was a continuation of the sensible Clinton policy of forcing Saddam Hussein to fully comply with the disarmament truce terms of the Gulf War. A year or two into the war, nearly all liberal hawks recognized that it wasn't going well, and was a retrospective mistake. Lieberman has taken the Bush line that the war has been a brilliant success and that any thought of leaving is cowardice or isolationism. Lieberman and the anti-interventionist left may both think that believing the war was justified is the exact same thing as resolutely denying any bad news from Iraq -- that to recognize bad news in Iraq is to reject the very idea of American intervention without U.N. approval -- but nearly all liberal hawks correctly grasp the distinction.

Second, even if it's true that Lieberman has not changed at all (and almost all the other liberal hawks have), my point stands anyway. I wasn't arguing that lieberman's foreign policy positions have changed. I was saying that his general political disposition has. In 2004, Lieberman was a Democrat who criticized the left on foreign policy and cirticized the GOP on domestic policy. Today he has nothing but praise for the GOP. That's what I meant by Zell-ification: his transformation from a Democrat with weak partisan attachments to essentially a partisan Republican. (Yes, I realize that Lieberman is not -- yet -- a raving lunatic like Miller.)

--Jonathan Chait