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Joe Lieberman’s Penchant for Fascism

May 6, 2010

You don’t have to be either anti-Semitic or a ‘self-loathing Jew’ to find Joe Lieberman obnoxious and despicable. But it’s a pretty sure bet that if you do dare express antipathy towards him sooner or later someone will try to play one of those particular cards (Disclaimer: in that conceptual construct, I’d fall into the latter category. Rest assured, though: I like myself plenty).

It seems that barely a month goes by that Lieberman, who likes to brand himself as a deeply ethical defender of liberty and committed adherent to the principle of the rule of law over raw unfettered passions, conjures up some new way to betray the true ideals of his own cultural heritage.

This month’s offense to sentient sensibilities was offered in the wake of the capture of Faisal Shahzad, the Times Sq terror-bombing suspect. Not content to merely parrot Lindsay Graham’s anti-constitutional suggestion that the alleged* terrorist should be denied his rights under the 5th Amendment against self-incrimination, Lieberman this week went Graham one further by suggesting that US citizens accused of terror-related crimes be stripped of their citizenship!. In his warped take on the proper defense of liberty, Lieberman seems to feel that the appropriate relationship between a government and its citizens is something akin to a junior-high school romance or a Reno marriage: a bond to be dissolved at whim when one party feels sufficiently insulted by the other.

The outrage of this position should be self-evident, but it’s worth connecting the dots. This nation was founded, on the notion that tyranny – and in particular the tyranny of governments – is an abomination. To protect against tyranny, the Founders wisely mandated a deliberative process of justice – a difficult path, and a high burden of proof, before the government could exercise its franchise over criminal punishment. Americans have broadly divergent notions of what constitutes a crime and what penalties are appropriate for those who’ve been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Wars have been fought, lives have been dedicated to making the justice system work, brave social leaders have risked– and sometimes lost – their lives securing the rights of the disenfranchised, and many generations of political and social leaders have foregone the pursuit of personal wealth in service, all fighting for their version of what is right, and often in deep disagreement. But with very few exceptions – and even those only in extremely exigent circumstances – all have done so without violating the principle of due process of law.

And now comes Joe Lieberman.  Joe, who has somehow managed to work himself into a state of deep denial that stripping people of their civil rights was the prime tactic of the Third Reich, would like to establish the principle that if someone does something somebody in power doesn’t like enough (Who? Him? Me? President Cheney?) that person can be declared a non-citizen and denied the most basic tenets of the Bill of Rights. Disgusting.

Terrorism is, obviously, a crime. And although there may be a legitimate question as to where on the line between criminal act and act-of-war conduct such as terrorism fall, there can be no legitimate question as to whether a single perpetrator – even one who received training in a foreign land – who was a US citizen before his act is still one afterward.  We don’t revoke citizenship at whim, or by fiat, or because some crass, whining, chronically unstable and gutter-dwelling politician sees an opportunity to pander to the ignorant and ill-tempered.

Some things are sacred. The Bill of Rights, even with its warts,[†] is one such thing. Try the guy and hang him at dawn, throw him in prison, turn him on his sponsors and use him as a veritable library of useful intelligence. But rape the constitution by bandying about the notion that citizenship is some sort of a conditional status that can be revoked when the powers-that-be get their panties in a bunch? In Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Russia, perhaps; never here.

Or, in terms that Joe might understand: Never again.


* Point of order: The use of the word “alleged” in describing those accused of criminal acts is not generally intended to suggest that the speaker harbors personal doubt about a miscreant’s guilt; it is, rather, a way of honoring the Constitution, in which the principle of presumed innocence is firmly enshrined.

[†] Regular readers know that I think the 2nd Amendment has been widely abused since the middle of the last century

Joe Lieberman’s Penchant for Fascism

You don’t have to be either anti-Semitic or a ‘self-loathing Jew’ to find Joe Lieberman obnoxious and despicable. But it’s a pretty sure bet that if you do dare express antipathy towards him sooner or later someone will try to play one of those particular cards (Disclaimer: in that conceptual construct, I’d fall into the latter category. Rest assured, though: I like myself plenty). In fact, it’s not hard to imagine some hard-core KKK types up in the peanut gallery rooting pretty hard for ‘Joementum’, so frequently does his behavior often conform to the ugliest and most corrosive anti-Semitic stereotypes.

It seems that barely a month goes by than that Lieberman, who likes to brand himself as a deeply ethical defender of liberty, and adherent to the principle of the rule of law over raw unfettered passions, conjures up some new way to betray the true ideals of his own cultural heritage.

This month’s offense to sentient sensibilities was offered in the wake of the capture of Faisal Shahzad, the Times Sq terror-bombing suspect. Not content to merely parrot Lindsay Graham’s anti-constitutional suggestion that the alleged* terrorist should be denied his rights under the 5th Amendment against self-incrimination, Lieberman this week went Graham one further by suggesting that US citizens accused of terror-related crimes be stripped of their citizenship!. In his warped take on the proper defense of liberty, Lieberman seems to feel that the appropriate relationship between a government and its citizens is something akin to a junior-high school romance or a Reno marriage: a bond to be dissolved at whim when one party feels sufficiently insulted by the other.

The outrage of this position should be self-evident, but it’s worth connecting the dots. This nation was founded, on the notion that tyranny – and in particular the tyranny of governments – is an abomination. To protect against tyranny, the Founders wisely mandated a deliberative process of justice – a difficult path, and a high burden of proof, before the government could exercise its franchise over criminal punishment. Americans have broadly divergent notions of what constitutes a crime and what penalties are appropriate for those who’ve been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Wars have been fought, lives have been dedicated to making the justice system work, brave social leaders have risked– and sometimes lost – their lives securing the rights of the disenfranchised, and many generations of political and social leaders have foregone the pursuit of personal wealth in service, all fighting for their version of what is right, and often in deep disagreement. But with very few exceptions – and even those only in extremely exigent circumstances – all have done so without violating the principle of due process of law.

And now comes Joe Lieberman.  Joe, who has somehow managed to work himself into a state of deep denial that stripping people of their civil rights was the prime tactic of the Third Reich, would like to establish the principle that if someone does something somebody in power doesn’t like enough (Who? Him? Me? President Cheney?) that person can be declared a non-citizen and denied the most basic tenets of the Bill of Rights. Disgusting.

Terrorism is, obviously, a crime. And although there may be a legitimate question as to where on the line between criminal act and act-of-war conduct such as terrorism fall, there can be no legitimate question as to whether a single perpetrator – even one who received training in a foreign land – who was a US citizen before his act is still one afterward.  We don’t revoke citizenship at whim, or by fiat, or because some crass, whining, chronically unstable and gutter-dwelling politician sees an opportunity to pander to the ignorant and ill-tempered.

Some things are sacred. The Bill of Rights, even with its warts,[†] is one such thing. Try the guy and hang him at dawn, throw him in prison, turn him on his sponsors and use him as a veritable library of useful intelligence. But rape the constitution by bandying about the notion that citizenship is some sort of a conditional status that can be revoked when the powers-that-be get their panties in a bunch? In Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Russia, perhaps; never here.

Or, in terms that Joe might understand: Never again.


* Point of order: The use of the word “alleged” in describing those accused of criminal acts is not generally intended to suggest that the speaker harbors personal doubt about a miscreant’s guilt; it is, rather, a way of honoring the Constitution, in which the principle of presumed innocence is firmly enshrined.

[†] Regular readers know that I think the 2nd Amendment has been widely abused since the middle of the last century

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. The Center Square permalink
    May 7, 2010 6:41 pm

    First things first, the more of your blog I read, the more I admire your writing. Fluid, lucid, clever at times, and always nicely restrained and reasonable.

    On this post: Well, duh! He’s a consummate politician, able to leap tall electoral rejection buildings in a single independent candidacy. I don’t take his nonsense spewed forth at face value for one second. Isn’t that the nature of the modern political beast? It is unlikely that Joe Lieberman disdains the Constitution to this extent. He is, however, guilty of something equally horrendous: he is willing to say that he does. He has learned the central political lesson of these times: that, if he repeatedly hits his constituents’ ideological endorphin buttons, he gets to keep his job. That is a far more effective career tactic than, you know, saying what you really believe. Or the truth.

  2. May 8, 2010 10:33 am

    I’m a Connecticut native and Lieberman has taught me to loathe him. When he lost his last primary there, he simply took himself out of the party that elected him in the first place and ran as a ‘democratic independent’ (whatever that is), and, with about 70% of the Republican vote along with those Dems who voted for him in the primary, won the general election. The CT Democrats had a terrific liberal candidate, Ned Lamont who would have won easily. But Lieberman proved himself to be utterly without ethics in pursuit of his own ambitions.

    Plus he continues to be the Senator from AIPAC. And J Street – the new lobbying organization made up of AMERCIAN Jews and for AMERICAN Jews, isn’t too fond of Joe.

    And as for his utter disdain for due process . . . he’s gotten as bad as his BFF McCain.

    • The Center Square permalink
      May 9, 2010 9:41 pm

      Moe: I have to disagree. Not about the loathing for Lieberman, but I see these independent candidacies as a good thing. I think the established parties have us in a death grip, and the more we can do to break that grip, the better. When you think about it, what ethical standard is violated by turning one’s back on one’s political party?

      • May 9, 2010 10:49 pm

        I can see your point indeed. The parties have pretty much stopped serving the electorate.

        While I too welcome new and independent voices, I fear the problem is beyond political ideology or affiliation. Because ultimately every candidate needs money to run and money to keep their seats once elected. And once that process is underway, however fresh their voice may have been at the start, it quickly is drowned out in the sea of corporate money. We can do better. Maybe we need the tea party to tear things apart a little.

        I don’t fear them. I fear corporate exploitation of populist movements because corporations have no conscience and they have no country.

  3. May 9, 2010 11:16 pm

    Steve: I agree with you about the value of independent candidates, and Moe with your comment about the parties having an extra-constitutional deathgrip on government.

    But I don’t think that you can really call Lieberman an independent in the way that you can Bernie Sanders. Lieberman broke with his party because he lost a primary, and leveraged that break to get support from the RNC, who just wanted to stick it to the Dems. His gambit worked, and that taught him that he could play both sides off of the middle. He’s done with great skill. This is not rejecting the deathgrip in any meaningful sense of the word; it’s manipulating it to his own advantage. When you think about it, if it weren’t for the 60-vote cloture requirement, he’d have been relegated to the back bench in ’08 when the Democrats took control of the Senate.

    As to corporations, I’d say that focusing on them as political actors is a little like blaming scorpions for stinging people. Their creatures of the stock market and so have narrow incentives. To my way of thinking, the real problem is how we finance our elections — if we did the sensible thing and insulated the process from money, their influence would dissipate and our elected officials could gin up an industrial policy that rebalanced the relationship between corporations and the polity.

    • May 12, 2010 11:09 am

      [, their influence would dissipate]

      And there is the very heart of the needed reform. I don’t think we can ever get money out of politics, corporate or otherwise – and probably shouldn’t – but we can insulate the actual electoral process by public financing. We need to free our congress critters and candidates from becoming beholden to corporate interests and from the necessity to constantly raise money for the next election. It’s be great if they could devote that fundraising time to governing.

      I don’t know what else would work. And if we don’t manage to make the reform, we complete the process of becoming a corporate state.

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