Just when you thought Joe Lieberman couldn't frustrate and perplex liberals any further, he is going off to become chief sponsor of the most significant piece of socially progressive legislation that Congress will deal with this year.
Next week, the Connecticut senator will announce that he's taking the lead on repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the 1993 law that prohibits gay people from serving openly in the armed forces. Since implementation of the statute nearly 20 years ago, the military has discharged some 14,000 qualified men and women, many of them serving in critical jobs like Arabic and Persian translation.
It's an unconscionable policy, as it forces individuals willing to die for their country to lie to their comrades and lowers the overall quality of our fighting force.
In recent years, Lieberman has provided no end of frustration to the American left, which views him as a traitor for his outspoken support of the Iraq war, his decision to endorse Sen. John McCain for President in 2008 and his objections to some early provisions of the Senate health care bill. For his heresies, Lieberman has been demonized like few other contemporary political figures.
Now that he's taking such a public stand on a core liberal issue, will the left be able to get over its aversion to the iconoclast in their midst and recognize that Lieberman isn't just the ideal person to front for this effort - given his popularity with Republicans and the trust he has earned from senior military officials - but that he's genuinely sincere in his motivations?
The reasons why Lieberman, who was asked by the White House and gay rights groups to sponsor the legislation, would choose this battle are not hard to divine. Indeed, they strike at the heart of the political tradition of which he is the lonely standard-bearer: Social progressivism married with foreign policy hawkishness.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily News, Lieberman told me that his commitment to repealing DADT is twofold. First, allowing gays to serve openly fulfills the bedrock American promise of providing citizens with "an equal opportunity to do whatever job their talents and sense of purpose and motivations lead them to want to do - including military service." Second, and no less important for a lawmaker whose commitment to national security the Pentagon can't doubt, is that "When you artificially limit the pool of people who can enlist then you are diminishing military effectiveness." (CONTINUES HERE)