Sunday, December 20, 2009

On Lieberman's Betrayal

While I have a great deal to say on this subject, for once I shall try to be pithy in my remarks. Lieberman's rightward shift brings to my mind the words penned by the poet John Greenleaf Whittier about the betrayal of Senator Daniel Webster after the latter's Seventh of March speech:

All else is gone; from those great eyes
The soul has fled;
When faith is lost, when honor dies,
The man Is dead.

“Then pay the reverence of old days
To his dead fame;
Walk backward with averted gaze
And hide his shame.”

For those who might snicker when statements like "great eyes" and "honor" are made in reference to Joe Lieberman, they should recall that this was a man who risked his life helping African Americans register to vote in Mississippi during the 1960s, who has braved condemnation from fellow Orthodox Jews for his pro-choice stance, and who broke the barrier keeping Jews out of national executive office by accepting Al Gore's offer of the vice presidential nomination in 2000 (another Jewish Connecticut Senator, Abraham Ribicoff, turned the slot down when it was offered to him by George McGovern in 1972). There used to be greatness in the man, or at the very least a streak of admirable qualities. That said, his support of the Bush Administration's war in Iraq, his endorsement of John McCain in 2008, and now his spiteful undermining of health care reform have all combined to destroy that aspect of his legacy. History will not revere his older days, but will cause him to "walk backward with averted gaze" so as to "hide his shame".

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