A party hack

A PARTY HACK…. The last time we heard Joe Lieberman talking about Sarah Palin, he sounded like a reluctant supporter. Asked if he believes Palin is prepared to lead if something should happen to John McCain, Lieberman told NBC, “Well, you know, let’s assume the best. John’s in great shape, he’s going to be the president, and let’s assume that nothing bad will happen.”

It was hardly a ringing endorsement.

But that was a few weeks ago. Now that he’s seen her flub a series of interviews, lie repeatedly, and commit a series of humiliating errors, Lieberman loves Palin.

Via CNN streaming video, I watched Sarah Palin’s event in Clearwater, Florida, this morning. She was heartily introduced there by John McCain’s pal Joe Lieberman. The former Democrat is a very strange figure these days, far from his moorings in the Democratic Party. But you can see how his personal friendship with McCain, and his genuine support for the Iraq war, might cause him to help out his buddy on the stump.

It was jarring, however, to hear Lieberman’s full-throated endorsement of Sarah Palin, a woman with whom he has no prior relationship, and whose policy credentials you have to think the wonky 20-year Senator would find suspect in any other context.

“She’s so strong, she’s so capable, she’s so competent,” Lieberman told the cheering crowd. Emphasizing her “faith,” he added that she is someone who “with your help — and God’s help — will be the next vice president of the United States.” More big cheers.

I suppose one’s take on this depends on how ridiculous one finds Joe Lieberman. He either seriously believes Palin is extremely “capable” and “competent” — in which case Lieberman is breathtakingly foolish — or he doesn’t believe this nonsense and he’s just repeating what the Republican handlers are telling him to say. If so, Lieberman is, as he proved at the Republican convention, little more than a party hack.

When the central focus of the campaign was foreign policy and national security, Lieberman’s support for McCain was at least coherent. The two seem to genuinely share a conservative foreign policy worldview, no matter how bankrupt and discredited their approach is.

But today, Lieberman was offering his full support to Sarah Palin, who bases her foreign policy expertise on her home state’s physical proximity to Russia.

Lieberman formally endorsed McCain in December 2007, saying he found McCain trustworthy on combating “Islamic extremism.” This morning, A.L. raised a very good point in response: “I wonder what Lieberman would have thought that day if he had been told that less than a year later, he would be stumping in Florida for a half-term Alaskan governor with no foreign policy experience (or knowledge) and far right views on social issues, and that he would be doing so in an environment in which differences over economic policy have become far more significant and pronounced than differences over foreign policy.”

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.