Cherry-picking from Washington’s Tree

As Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman "crossed party lines" from War Party-D to War Party-R at the Republican National Convention Tuesday night, he exemplified the only kind of bipartisanship found in Congress since 2001: reaching across the aisle to hand a neoconservative pseudo-Republican whatever he wants. His speech was remarkable, though, in that the words "Iran" and "nuclear weapons" were nowhere to be found, which for him is something akin to a Rudy Giuliani speech without a mention of 9/11.

Fans of Freud might also wonder if his apparent slip in referring to 9/11 as a "natural disaster" was such an accident. After all, is fighting "evil" and "terror" really that different from battling a hurricane or a tornado? The probability of success is approximately the same. Also, thinking of 9/11 in terms of a natural calamity removes culpability for those who could, or should, have prevented it.

Besides regurgitating the same tripe about how the surge has worked, Lieberman also goes one step further to declare that thousands of soldiers can now return home in honor because of that brilliant strategy. Apparently you cannot return home from a misguided military occupation in honor until you have won, despite the obvious contradiction that presents when the previous speech by Fred Thompson was all about John S. McCain III returning home with honor from a failed effort to bomb North Vietnam into subjugation. Couldn’t Iraq war veterans have returned with honor after completing their alleged mission of toppling Saddam and his WMDs?

Although the aforementioned points were bad enough, the ultimate irony in Lieberman’s speech was his reference to George Washington’s farewell address. From that important text, Lieberman only interprets the first President’s warning against the dangers of political parties as an admonishment against allowing the "spirit of party" to prevent legislative cooperation. However, the fact that he would attempt to appropriate Washington’s searing indictment of exactly the kind of "party passions" present at a 2008 Democratic or Republican National Convention into this speech is not the worst part. Joe Lieberman — a man whose undying loyalty to Israel (or at least one faction in Israel) often comes at a detriment to his own country — cherry-picked one detail from the speech with the clearest warning against passionate attachment for foreign nations:

"…[A] passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation."

Perhaps Lieberman should re-read the farewell address — and then make one of his own.

Author: Jay Barr

Jay Barr is an attorney practicing in central Illinois. When he is not preparing bankruptcy or divorce petitions he is a daily visitor to