I’ve never understood why Al Gore chose Joe Lieberman as his running mate in 2000. Lieberman did nothing to balance the ticket. Virtually nobody thought of Gore as a Southerner, including the people of Tennessee. Choosing the Connecticut Yankee who had a solid reputation in Washington but was pretty much unknown outside the Beltway was a case of one Washington insider putting another on his ticket, one perceived Northeastern elitist running with another.
He was a poor campaigner, a smug, unctuous, uninspiring, sanctimonious smirker so eager to please other establishment types that he let himself get steamrolled in his debate with Dick Cheney and then sat there looking grateful for it. And when push came to shove in the fight over the Florida recount he was a cheerful defeatist advocating surrender and giving aid and comfort to the Republicans every step of the way.
Looking back on it, you have to wonder if this was not so much gutlessness on his part but self-interest. I think as soon as it looked as though Gore had lost Lieberman saw his own path to the White House open up and he decided to do nothing to help close it up.
Now we know that Joe Lieberman isn’t a loyal Democrat or an actual Independent. He probably wouldn’t be a good Republican if and when he switches parties. He’s a die-hard Libermantonian, a staunch Joe-ist, and nothing else, and it’s hard to believe that people in the position to know this about him, like Gore himself, missed this about him.
What Lierberman did do was signal Gore’s break with Bill Clinton, but breaking with Clinton made no sense since the main reason for voting for Gore was that he would continue the very popular President’s policies that had brought the country years of peace and prosperity.
Sarah Palin is getting the celebrity treatment this weekend because, well, she is a celebrity. And at this point it’s not that she’s an accidental celebrity, the way she was last fall. She is famous for being famous. Trying to claim that she’s newsworthy because of her political importance is like trying to claim that we’re getting all those stories about Britney’s sex life because of she’s a great singer.
There’s no evidence that Palin is going to be anything other than a celebrity. Polls show that lots of Republicans like her, but they also show that few actually take her seriously. She is extremely popular with a relatively small cohort of hard-core Right Wing men of the type that have driven sensible men and women away from the Party. So there’s no good reason to think she stands a chance of winning even the Republican nomination in 2012. But that hasn’t stopped a whole slew of Beltway insiders from thinking it.
Which baffles Eric Boehlert.
In terms of larger context, I'm not aware of any polling data that indicates Palin has a prayer of being elected president. In fact, the latest CNN survey finds that a strong majority of Americans think she is singularly unqualified to run the country. (i.e. She's relegated to Dan Quayle territory.) And of course, she's coming off her stint as VP candidate on the GOP ticket that lost an electoral landslide last November.
So I guess my question is, besides the larger and authentic one (who, besides journalists and GOP partisans, cares about Sarah Palin?) is, has the press ever treated an election loser the way it now treats Sarah Palin? Has the Beltway press ever turned an election loser like Palin into a political rising star, even though there's no evidence to suggest her stature has changed since last November's embarrassing thumping? (i.e. What "magic" is Stephanopoulos talking about?)
Atrios refines the question with an analogy:
There's never a proper left-right analogy, but imagine if John Kerry had put Dennis Kucinich on the Veep ticket and then lost. Kucinich would have increased stature in the Democratic party, and probably be quite popular with "the base," but the press would mostly ignore him other than to occasionally sneer. I'm not equating Palin and Kucinich, just trying to imagine who might occupy a similar space on the left.
As Atrios says, there’s never a perfect comparison between the left and the right. His Kucinich what-if? is pretty good mainly for illustrating the difference between the way the Insiders treat Republicans and the way they treat Democrats. They’re eager to show how seriously they take even the craziest Republicans or Republican talking points. Desperate to marginalize and trivialize Democrats and their concerns.
But I think there is an actual case that come close and this one is a case of the Insiders taking seriously and puffing a Democrat who should have been relegated to if not obscurity then at least to last few minutes of the lowest rated bobblehead shows and the op-ed pages of his state’s largest city’s newspaper.
Instead he is everywhere, whenever he likes.
Why is Joe Lieberman so important?
He was on the losing ticket. He may not have dragged down Gore the way Palin did McCain but he didn’t help. Palin at least bought McCain a bigger post-convention bounce than he would have gotten with Tim Pawlenty on his ticket and for a few weeks at least helped make it look as though McCain was on the rebound. Lieberman may not have hurt Gore outright, but he didn’t help at all.
I really don’t remember what Lieberman was up to in the first few years of Bush’s presidency but when he decided to run for the Democratic nomination in 2004 a choir rose up among the congregation of Beltway pundits and analysts to sing his praises and to what effect?
He got trounced right out of the gate.
The question is why did those insiders think he had half a chance?
He lost and he lost big. Big enough that he finally and surely deserved to have his name changed to Loserman.
And yet here he is, holding the fate of health care reform in his hands.
How did that happen?