Many progressives will abhor the following statement, but so be it: There’s a lot I admire about former Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman. And it’s precisely because of that admiration that I dearly hope he doesn’t accept the poisoned chalice that Donald Trump is reportedly considering offering him: Director of the FBI.
Lieberman has been wrong on many of the key public debates of the last decade and a half. He was wrong to support the Iraq War (which I supported too). And rather than learn from that disastrous mistake, he doubled down by opposing President Obama’s Iran deal even though he had no remotely plausible alternative for curbing Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. He was wrong to support John McCain over Barack Obama for president in 2008, and to continue supporting him even after McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate, and proved incapable of responding intelligently to the financial crisis that erupted in the closing stages of the campaign. Lieberman was also wrong to defend settlement growth in the West Bank when, as the nation’s most prominent Jewish Democrat, he could have been a crucial voice for Palestinian rights and dignity. And he was wrong to help stymie a “public option” in Obamacare.
What I admire about Lieberman is more personal: His blend of cultural conservatism and respect for the rights and dignity of historically oppressed groups. For decades, conservatives have worried about the decline of two parent families and about Hollywood’s role in degrading the public sphere. But in their effort to restore the morality they associate with a bygone age, they’ve largely focused on opposing rights for LGBT Americans and for women. Liberals, by contrast, have often acted as if culture doesn’t matter. Increase economic equality and opportunity, they’ve implied, and the cultural problems that obsess conservatives will take care of themselves.