Sen. Joseph "Unctuous Joe" Lieberman, now working as a warm-up act for the Republican Party, introduced its nominee in Pennsylvania this week by defining this year's election as a choice "between one candidate, John McCain, who has always put his country first...and one candidate who has not."
Let's dismiss, for the moment, the howler that McCain is some sort of sanctified snowy-haired patriot—"The One," if you will—who never makes political calculations.
You can judge for yourself whether McCain's decades in Washington, his involvement in the savings and loan scandal, his ties to lobbyists, his pandering to the Religious Right, his support of President Bush and his flip-flops on taxes, the environment, and other issues are all examples of putting America first.
What's objectionable (though not really surprising) is Lieberman's self-righteousness.
Unctuous Joe has always had a bad case of holier than thou. This is the guy who, as it became clear that he was going to be dumped by his fellow Democrats in his last campaign, announced that he would run as an independent because the fate of his state, nation, and planet required his sage presence in Washington.
But now he's making the damnable suggestion that those who disagree with him are lowlifes who put self before country.
Let me tell you something, Joe (and John, for, after all, Lieberman is merely spouting the McCain campaign talking points). I know many liberals. On some issues, I'm liberal myself. And liberals believe—with as much, maybe even more, conviction as conservatives—in the strength and goodness of American values.
Liberals believe all men are created equal. They fight for the Bill of Rights. They believe in the emancipation of women, and of those whose skin is darker than white. They try to follow the Golden Rule, and the lessons of the Sermon on the Mount. And they believe that these things make America exceptional and fine and essential in a world that knows too little mercy, justice, and freedom.
Any tin-pot Putin can build an army; bomb cities, shock, and awe. A nation's real might is in the power of its ideals.
I don't know what was in Barack Obama's heart when, in 2002, he opposed the Iraq war.
I do know that presidential hopefuls like Hillary Clinton and John Edwards and John Kerry and, yes, even saintly John McCain, voted with some mix of calculation and faith for a foreign policy disaster.
And I know that, at the time, the safe vote was for war.
And so the guy who put his country first just may have been the man who had the guts to say, "No."