Lieberman's New Kiss of Death

Senator Joe Lieberman will finally come clean on Monday, unleashing his inner-Republican to endorse the struggling campaign of Senator John McCain, according to several news reports. It is a bittersweet alliance for both men. Lieberman's move confirms his critics' longtime argument that he is a "Democrat in Name Only," while McCain looks desperate by leaning on backers beyond the G.O.P. base in the homestretch of a partisan primary.

The Politico first reported that Lieberman will "cross the aisle" to back McCain on Monday's edition of the "Today" show. As an independent, however, Lieberman was already standing in the aisle. The article says the joint appearance is "an effort to draw attention to the McCain campaign, which needs a splash. Otherwise, it does not make sense for McCain because it will only remind core Republicans why they distrust him." The pair also have a long history together, having cosponsored the Iraq War resolution, Climate Change legislation, and lobbying disclosure reforms.

During his 2006 reelection campaign, Lieberman emphasized that he would support Democratic candidates in 2008. "I want Democrats to be back in the majority in Washington and elect a Democratic president in 2008," he said during a televised debate in July. Lieberman promptly backtracked after his reelection, announcing this January that he was "open" to supporting a Republican or Democrat for president, depending "on a whole range of issues." By not even waiting to see who the Democrats nominate, now Lieberman is revealing that the issues aren't important to him, either.

But the Democrats' battles over Joe Lieberman are important because they have always been about more than a single politician. Last election, Democratic voters in Connecticut -- along with activists and bloggers across the country -- did something unusual in today's politics. They put issues above incumbency and prioritized leadership over the "strategic" imperative of holding a "safe seat." This activism was derided by many pundits and the Democratic establishment, including Senators Obama and Clinton, who backed the primary campaign of a man who literally cannot wait for the presidential race to start before he endorses one of their Republican opponents. But Lieberman's detractors were right about his loyalties. They were also right about Iraq policy -- and the political imperative of running on an alternative foreign policy in 2006. And as I've argued many times, the activists were right to reject the entire Washington discourse that asks us to think as tacticians instead of citizens.

UPDATE: Here are two other new reactions to the endorsment:

Ned Lamont:

During our debate last year, Senator Lieberman intoned that he wanted to "elect a Democratic President in 2008," and that my election would "frustrate and defeat our hope of doing that." With his endorsement of John McCain today, it is now clear that Joe Lieberman is the one working to defeat our hopes... It is ironic that Lieberman's fellow Connecticut senator, Chris Dodd, is today courageously leading the congressional charge against illegal wiretaps, not to mention bringing America's combat role in the Bush-McCain-Lieberman war to an end. With voters just weeks away from making their first decisions, Democrats are lucky to have many extraordinary candidates running for President. I am disappointed that Senator Lieberman does not feel the same way.

Democracy for America Executive Director Arshad Hasan:

With his endorsement of John McCain, Senator Lieberman has, once again, shown himself to be nothing more than an irrelevant Republican who is willing to say anything to get elected and curry favor with the Beltway establishment while he continues his quest to get appointed to a cabinet position.

----
Ari Melber writes for The Nation, where this post first appeared.