Joe Lieberman at the Water’s Edge

This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.

The New York Sun

Congratulations are in order for the former senator from Connecticut, Joseph Lieberman. He will be in Monday’s Wall Street Journal with the first really sensible column from a Democrat in this entire election cycle. It’s an op-ed piece that asks why the Democratic Party’s candidates can’t “simply admit Qasem Soleimani’s death makes Americans safer?”

“President Trump’s order to take out Qasem Soleimani was,” Mr. Lieberman writes, “morally, constitutionally and strategically correct.” He reckons the President’s decision “deserves more bipartisan support than the begrudging or negative reactions it has received thus far” from his fellow Democrats. Well put.

Mr. Lieberman calls it “understandable that the political class should have questions about it.” What isn’t understandable, he writes, is “that all the questions are being raised by Democrats and all the praise is coming from Republicans.” He warns that “the partisanship that has infected and disabled so much of U.S. domestic policy” has spread.

By now, he suggests, it “also determines our elected leaders’ responses to major foreign-policy events and national-security issues, even the killing of a man responsible for murdering hundreds of Americans and planning to kill thousands more.” It’s an illuminating moment, and we share his concerns down to the ground.

Mr. Lieberman writes of Senator Arthur Vandenberg, the Michigan Republican and one-time isolationist who, after Pearl Harbor, began to alter his views and eventually, in 1945, made what we’ve called one of the most famous U-turns in history. He helped create the bipartisan foreign policy that undergirt our long road to victory in the Cold War.

It was Vandenberg, Mr. Lieberman notes, who proclaimed that “politics stops at the water’s edge” and “added that his fellow Americans undoubtedly had ‘earnest, honest, even vehement’ differences of opinion on foreign policy, but if ‘we can keep partisan politics out of foreign affairs, it is entirely obvious that we shall speak with infinitely greater authority abroad.’”

Mr. Lieberman fears that in the uniformly “skeptical or negative” reactions to the attack on General Soleimani, Democrats are “creating the risk that the U.S. will be seen as acting and speaking with less authority abroad at this important time.” You’re darn tootin’, we say. Mr. Lieberman points out that Soleimani’s record of terror and death is just unambiguous.

The most riveting part of Mr. Lieberman’s column is at the end. After dispatching the Democratic handwringing, he ruminates on whether the Democrats’ reluctance to face the truth about Soleimani stems from something other than anti-Trump partisanship. “It may be that today’s Democratic Party simply doesn’t believe in the use of force against America’s enemies in the world,” writes the party’s 2000 nominee for vice president.

With that comes a prediction: “If enough voters decide that Democrats can’t be trusted to keep America safe, Mr. Trump won’t have much trouble winning a second term in November.” He calls that one more reason Democrats should leave politics at the water’s edge. Yet it’s hard to think of a single Democrat — not even Mayor Bloomberg or Vice President Biden — who will rise to the occasion Mr. Lieberman has marked so well.


Image: Joe Lieberman, then attorney general of Connecticut, and President Reagan in 1984; the general would go on to serve nearly a quarter of a century as a senator of Connecticut. Photo from the Reagan Library via Wikipedia.

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