Paul Krugman looks at Joe Lieberman's declining popularity as he has become a centrist — a centrist within the Republican party:
Talk-Show Joe, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: Friday was a bad day for Senator Joseph Lieberman. The Connecticut Democratic Party's nominating convention endorsed him, but that was a given for an incumbent with a lot of political chips to cash in. The real news was that Ned Lamont, an almost unknown challenger, received a third of the votes. This gave Mr. Lamont the right to run against Mr. Lieberman in a primary, and suggests that Mr. Lamont may even win.
What happened to Mr. Lieberman? Some news reports may lead you to believe that he is in trouble solely because of his support for the Iraq war. But there's much more to it than that. Mr. Lieberman has consistently supported Republican talking points. This has made him a lion of the Sunday talk shows, but has put him out of touch with his constituents — and with reality.
Mr. Lieberman isn't the only nationally known Democrat who still supports the Iraq war. But he ... has joined the Bush administration by insisting on an upbeat picture of ... Iraq that is increasingly delusional. Moreover, Mr. Lieberman has supported the attempt to label questions about ... Iraq and criticism of the administration's policies ... as unpatriotic. How else is one to interpret his warning, late last year, that "it is time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be Commander-in-Chief for three more critical years, and that in matters of war we undermine Presidential credibility at our nation's peril"?
And it's not just Iraq. A letter sent by Hillary Clinton ... credited Mr. Lieberman with defending Social Security "tooth and nail." Well, ... that's not what happened. In fact, Mr. Lieberman repeatedly supported the administration's scare tactics. "Every year we wait to come up with a solution ...," he declared in March 2005, "costs our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren $600 billion more."
This claim echoed a Bush administration talking point... But the talking point was simply false... There's more. Mr. Lieberman supported Congressional intervention in the Terri Schiavo affair... And ... Mr. Lieberman showed far more outrage over Bill Clinton's personal life than he has ever shown over Mr. Bush's catastrophic failures as commander in chief. ...
Mr. Lieberman, who is often described as a "centrist," is or was very much at odds not just with the Democratic base but with public opinion as a whole. ... Mr. Lieberman's defenders would have you believe that his increasingly unpopular positions reflect his principles. But ... the common theme in Mr. Lieberman's positions seems to be this: In each case he has taken the stand that is most likely to get him on TV.
You see, the talking-head circuit loves centrists. But a centrist, as defined inside the Beltway, doesn't mean someone whose views are actually in the center... Instead, a Democrat is considered centrist to the extent that he does what Mr. Lieberman does: lends his support to Republican talking points...
But this "center" cannot hold. And that's the larger lesson of what happened Friday. Mr. Lieberman has been playing to a Washington echo chamber that is increasingly out of touch with the country's real concerns. The nation, which rallied around Mr. Bush after 9/11 simply because he was there, has moved on — and it has left Mr. Lieberman behind.
Update: Brad DeLong appends the following to Krugman's column:
As Jonathan Chait writes:
Jonathan Chait: [L]ots of Democrats supported the Iraq war initially and believe now that we can and must win.... Lieberman, unlike other Democratic hawks, musters little passion for exposing and correcting the massive blunders the Bush administration has committed. When the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, Lieberman noted, in Bush's defense, "Those who were responsible for killing 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11, 2001, never apologized." (As if anybody was suggesting we were as bad as the terrorists.) Last fall he said, "In matters of war, we undermine presidential credibility at our nation's peril." The clear implication is that it's counterproductive -- traitorous, even -- to call the administration on its foreign policy dishonesties. This is not how the loyal opposition in a democracy ought to behave.
Foreign policy is hardly the only smudge on Lieberman's record.... He has long opposed sensible financial regulations. Even after his pro-business stance came under fire in the wake of the Enron scandal, Lieberman opposed sensible reforms. (As one of Lieberman's friends told the New Republic's Michael Crowley in 2002, "It'll be remembered that he didn't go off the deep end" -- meaning, after the populist furor dies down, Lieberman could resume raking in contributions from grateful executives.) He supported the disgraceful energy bill and federal intervention in the Terri Schiavo case.
Lieberman obviously relishes his role as every conservative's favorite Democrat. It's a mutually beneficial relationship. He's lavished with praise for his statesmanship, vision and bipartisanship. And, in the process, Republicans implicitly get to show what's wrong with the rest of his party. Bush and Dick Cheney applaud Lieberman regularly for believing we must win in Iraq, as if to suggest no other Democrat thinks the same...