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Calvin Freiburger

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’s Repeal Reminds Us That Joe Lieberman’s Still a Leftist

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Posted on December 20 2010 6:00 pm
Hailing from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Calvin Freiburger is a political science major at Hillsdale College. He also writes for the Hillsdale Forum and his personal website, Calvin Freiburger Online.

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Don’t let his rare moments of sanity fool you; ol’ Joe is standing right where he belongs.

With the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell finally coming to pass, the long-disgruntled gay Left finally has something to show for their support of Barack Obama. But right now the spotlight and accolades are going to a different Democrat with an estranged relationship to the Left. At the Daily Beast, Howard Kurtz sits down with Sen. Joe Lieberman to discuss his leadership on the issue, and whether or not it makes up for his heresy on the War on Terror:

Andrew Sullivan, the gay Atlantic blogger who has championed repeal of DADT, dubbed Lieberman a “civil rights hero.” But Alex Pareene, a liberal blogger for Salon, declared that “it’s still OK to hate Joe Lieberman”—the “single most annoying man in the United States Senate”—because he remains a “sanctimonious troll.”

Lieberman says he doesn’t know whether the battle will help him politically, and his relationship with home-state Democrats may have deteriorated beyond repair. A Quinnipiac poll last January gave him a 27 percent approval rating among Democrats, and several Dems are weighing a primary challenge for 2012.

I have no principled objection to political parties and movements establishing litmus tests—even single-issue litmus tests—for their candidates. That’s their prerogative. But it is telling that left-wing Lieberman haters have chosen national security of all issues with which to divide allies and enemies. Once upon a time, Americans on both sides of the aisle believed that politics stopped at the water’s edge; the Left has since fallen so far from that ideal that today, no cause, principle, or value is safe from partisan venom or opportunism.

Speaking of those principles, Lieberman’s critics also suffer from fatal tunnel vision. Sure, he agrees with conservatives on several foreign policy issues, but on just about everything else, he’s a true-blue leftist. Conservative groups rate him abysmally—for the past eighteen years, the National Taxpayers’ Union has given Lieberman Fs in all but two years (he got Ds in ’97 and ’93); the Club for Growth gave him 12% in 2009, his lifetime American Conservative Union score is a whopping 16.15%, his rating from Citizens Against Government Waste is 2%, and the NRA and Gun Owners of America hate him, too. On the Left, meanwhile, the Human Rights Campaign gives him 75%, NARAL gives him a perfect score, the NAACP gives him 90%, and Americans for Democratic Action gives him 95%.

So it should come as no surprise which way Lieberman went on DADT. Indeed, his reasoning for supporting openly gay military service is classic left-wing, superficial emotionalism:

When I asked Lieberman why he felt so strongly about the issue—he co-sponsored a gay rights bill as a Connecticut legislator in the 1970s—he went on for a bit quoting the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence. But then he turned more personal:

“I’m a Jewish-American,” he said, “a member of a minority group raised from the earliest part of my life to be deeply grateful for all the rights and opportunities and freedom afforded Americans.”

Growing up in Stamford, he said, “I had no real awareness of anyone who was gay.” He met some gays at Yale, “but they were still really covert.” He recalls learning that a “wonderful teacher” of one of his children was gay, and over the years, “as I was meeting with gay rights groups, all of their stories were in my mind.”

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