So back to yesterdays

August 1, 2006 12:00 p.m.

So back to yesterday’s question: what happened to Joe Lieberman?

Was he angling for the Sec Def gig? Was he going for the highly improbable and fairly lame honor of dual nomination in the home state?

I don’t know Lieberman. To the best of my recollection, I’ve never spoken to the guy. But I have a lot of friends who know him really well. And from them I get a story that has the ring of truth to me and squares with my own experience of the last half dozen years, though that’s from a more distant view.

In their view, it all goes back to 2000.

Remember Ann Richards classic line about George Bush? “He was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.”

Well, something similar about Lieberman. Al Gore picked Joe Lieberman in 2000. And fairly quickly he starts thinking he’s better at running for president than Al. As one close-up Joe-watcher puts it (and I’m paraphrasing) Lieberman was terrible in 2000. And as he travelled the country he was more and more alienated from rank and file Democrats. Only he thought he’d done great.

Let me pick up the thread from another close-up Joe-watcher: “My guess. He watched Gore during the campaign and decided he could do better. He started thinking of the day he’d run on his own. This was first evidenced after the election when he sold Gore out on the soldiers vote issue. Here he’s on the ticket and he is pandering to the right to make himself look good. I think he decided that he wins even if Gore loses … Then he runs in ’04 and sees that his success in 2000 as a candidate was not really his but Gore’s. He was a great #2 but not a free standing great man. He was rejected. And he became bitter. Very bitter.”

I think this is right. Lieberman always played to above-it-all Beltway opinion. But something changed after early 2004.

Republicans friends of mine point to his Iraq position and say it’s all about Iraq. And quite a lot of it is about Iraq. But it’s not just his position on the issue. Nor is it even that he doesn’t cater to the views of the “base” of the party. It’s been a lot more than that, at least for the last two-plus years. He’s been something like willfully contemptuous of anyone who has strong partisan identification as a Democrat, notwithstanding their ideological hue. And I suspect that embitterment over the exploded sense of entitlement growing out of 2004 is at the root of it.

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