HE STARTED IT!

Mickey Kaus thinks maybe those who say Al Gore was being disloyal to Joe Lieberman by endorsing Howard Dean for president are being unfair:

It’s now Conventional Wisdom that Al Gore stabbed Joe Lieberman in the back by endorsing Howard Dean. (See for example the NYT’s 12/14 “Week in Review” piece.) What this CW ignores is that many in Gore’s camp didn’t feel they owed Lieberman all that much loyalty, because they think Lieberman has stabbed them in the back on several occasions. A former Gore aide recently ticked off to me three of the counts in the indictment. I remember two of them: 1) During the Florida recount, Lieberman was briefed to go on Meet the Press and defend the Gore team’s plan to challenge unpostmarked military ballots. Instead, Lieberman caved on TV, telling Tim Russert Florida officials should “give the benefit of the doubt” to military ballots. This made Lieberman look good but pulled the rug out from Gore’s legal strategy and cost him hundreds of precious votes; 2) Lieberman didn’t really, definitively step aside in the 2004 race until Gore had decided not to run himself. Rather, Lieberman did everything he needed to do to prepare his campaign, and even left himself a little wiggle room to renege on his promise and run against Gore before Gore mooted the issue by taking himself out of the race.

I don’t buy either of these arguments. 1) Lieberman’s position here was the correct one. Going the other way would have made Gore look both desperate and unpatriotic. The former was true; the latter was not. It’s unreasonable to expect Lieberman to defend the morally indefensible. 2) No one expected Lieberman to sacrifice his own chance of winning while Gore diddled around trying to make up his own mind. But Lieberman would surely have declined to run had Gore decided the other way.

No one is arguing that Gore didn’t have a right to endose Dean if he thought Dean’s views more more in line with his own than were his former running mate’s (which, they are). But Gore owed Lieberman a courtesy call ahead of time.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2004
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Paul says:

    To me it is beyond loyalty. What Gore did was classless… And that is worse.

  2. Greyhawk says:

    In a nutshell – Gore has a right to smack Lieberman because he “caved” on the issue of whether military votes should count?

    Mickey Kaus said that?