Little Joe

Little Joe

Senator Joe Lieberman managed to shoehorn himself into the center of the national
debate over health care reform last week with his announcement that he would
filibuster any health care legislation that contained any kind of a so-called
“public option.” Lieberman, the erstwhile Democrat turned Independent
from Connecticut, went on “Face the Nation” on Sunday to reassert
his opposition in no uncertain terms. “I feel so strongly about the creation
of another government health insurance entitlement,” said the senator.
“The government going into the health insurance business – I think it’s
such a mistake that I would use the power I have as a single senator to stop
a final vote.” He went on to say that, in his opinion, it is the people
pushing for a public option who are standing in the way of progress on reform.

Click here to listen to author William Rivers Pitt read his column,
“Little Joe”:

Not content merely to potentially derail an important Democratic piece of legislation
the Democratic president has made a central priority, Lieberman went on to announce
that he will happily campaign for Republican candidates in the 2010 midterm
elections. “There’s a hard core of partisan, passionate, hardcore Republicans,”
said Lieberman in a report
by ABC News. “There’s a hard core of partisan Democrats on the other side.
And in between is the larger group, which is people who really want to see the
right thing done, or want something good done for this country and them – and
that means, sometimes, the better choice is somebody who’s not a Democrat.”

Why this man is tolerated by the Democratic caucus in the Senate is an enduring
mystery, frankly, and not just because Lieberman is a publicity-hogging fraud,
although that is most definitely the case. All he lacks is a big red nose, big
red floppy shoes and big red tufts of hair sticking up from his head to complete
his image as a clown, but anyone familiar with his record over the last several
years doesn’t need the props to complete the picture. He made Dick Cheney look
like Socrates in the 2000 vice presidential debate. He ran one of the most ridiculous
presidential campaigns in modern political history in 2004, failing to win a
single primary and eventually finishing seventh behind Kerry, Edwards, Dean,
Kucinich, Clark and the Reverend Al Sharpton. He lost his own state in 2006
and bailed on the Democrats, managing to win back his seat only by sucking up
huge sums of GOP campaign donations, which he paid back by campaigning for Republican
Senator John McCain in the 2008 presidential election and by bashing the Democrats
while speaking at the 2008 GOP convention.

The serial list of failures Lieberman has to his name is by no means limited
to the campaign trail. During his time in the Senate, he was an active opponent
of the kind of financial regulation that would have spared our economy from
having to deal with the Enron and Arthur Andersen meltdowns, as well as the
calamity we are currently mired in. William Grieder, writing for The Nation
in March of 2002, described
Lieberman’s foul impact in an article titled “Enron Democrats”:

His most important crusade was protecting the loopy accounting for corporate
stock options. Nervous regulators recognized early on that the profusion of
stock options had the potential to deceive investors while cheating the tax
system – illusions that could drive company stock prices to impossible heights.
Tech startup firms, as well as established names like Microsoft, were issuing
a growing volume of stock options as a substitute for wage compensation, especially
for top executives. These companies did not have to report the billions in new
options as an operating cost, thus making their earnings seem much greater than
they were. Yet, when employees eventually cashed in the options, the companies
claimed them as tax deductions. This two-way mirror is symptomatic of the deceptive
bookkeeping that permeated corporate affairs during the boom and the bubble.

Back in 1993, when the Financial Accounting Standards Board proposed to stop
it, Lieberman went to war. “I believe that the global pre-eminence of America’s
vital technological industries could be damaged by the proposal,” he warned.
The FASB, he insinuated, was politically motivated or simply didn’t grasp the
bright promise of the New Economy. Lieberman organized a series of letters warning
the accountants’ board to stop its meddling. In the Senate, he mobilized a resolution
urging the Securities and Exchange Commission to squelch the reform. It passed
88 to 9. The regulators backed off – and stock prices soared on the inflated
earnings reports. Whenever FASB tried to reopen the issue, Lieberman jumped
them again. He was well rewarded by Silicon Valley and auditing firms. He is
the New Democrats’ favorite candidate for 2004.

Lieberman’s victory was extraordinarily costly for the economy, not to mention
duped investors, unhinging valuations and fostering the overinvestments that
now hang over the tech industry. Accounting professor Itzhak Sharav of the Columbia
University Business School describes Lieberman’s intervention as the first step
on “the slippery slope that got us mired in the Enron swamp.” Once
auditors and corporate managers saw regulators defanged on stock options, Sharav
explained, they were emboldened to explore further in the realm of gimmicky
profit reports. “How much is two plus two? How much do you want it to be?”
Sharav said. “Once you start playing games with the numbers, there’s no
limit to what you might do.” Senators Carl Levin and John McCain have proposed
a nifty solution – companies can no longer have it both ways. If they don’t
account for their stock options as a cost in earnings reports, then they cannot
claim them later as tax deductions. Lieberman is opposed – still on the slippery
slope.

The mess he helped create on the economic front is only the tip of the iceberg.
He supported the Bush administration’s call for offshore oil drilling despite
the damage such a program would do to the environment and tourism. He opposed
lifting the ruinous Bush administration tax cuts. He supports the privatization
of Social Security. He voted to confirm, and later publicly praised, former
Bush administration Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. He defended Pastor John
Hagee, who called Catholicism “The Great Whore” and said Hitler was
a Hunter sent by God to get the Jews to Israel, and later compared Hagee to
Moses when he spoke at Hagee’s Washington-Israel summit last July. He sponsored
the Senate version of the Iraq War Resolution, and supported that catastrophic
conflict all the way down the line.

The list
goes on, and on, and on, and on.

Enough of this clown. He should be stripped of his Senate chairmanship and
sent across the aisle to his boon companions on the right. He should be ignored
out of hand on the matter of health care reform, and anything else he decides
to address. He has raised being wrong, craven, untrustworthy and useless to
the level of high art. Anyone with a full understanding of his record and reputation
would know better than to trust him with a job as a crossing guard, and never
mind as any kind of a leader on issues of major national and international import.
The man is a living, breathing train wreck, and he has no business whatsoever
being allowed in the same postal code as the decisions to come that will shape
our lives.

For now, he must be endured, because his term is not up until 2012. But he
should not be allowed to keep the gift of his chairmanship, he should not be
empowered in any way, and when the time comes, the Democratic Party should call
down the thunder on any re-election campaign he might endeavor to undertake.
Marginalizing Lieberman, and eventually getting rid of him, would be addition
by subtraction, and the time to do that particular bit of math is long, long
past due.