Joe The Just

Comparing Robert Byrd’s famous use of the “N” word on CNN with Trent Lott’s praise of Strom Thurmond, Joe Lieberman, brow no doubt furrowed, announced on ABC’s This Week that “there’s a difference between a racially insensitive comment and a morally reprehensible statement.” (Quoted here in The New Republic; I couldn’t find the transcript online.)

Yes, but which was which?

With Lieberman about to become a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, we will no doubt have to endure a stream of these delphic Talmudic pronouncements from Joe the Just in the future since he probably has the most sensitive reprehensibility detector in the Senate. For example, he is on record calling some video games “morally reprehensible,” and he wrote a letter to TV bigwigs complaining that a Jerry Springer segment was “reprehensible.”

Once he has detected reprehensible behavior, however, Lieberman has not seemed unduly uncomfortable associating with it. He and Al Gore had no trouble continuing to accept contributions from the entertainment industry after the above episodes and after he famously scolded it in a Hollywood speech. And then there is the most famous occasion of Joe the Just denouncing “morally reprehensible” behavior: his speech on the Senate floor criticizing Bill Clinton’s internal affair with Monica Lewinsky. Clinton’s behavior may have been “morally reprehensible,” but that did not lead Lieberman to conclude that he was unfit to remain president.