10/03/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Abandoning Bipartisanship

Two years ago, Joe Lieberman campaigned throughout Connecticut in attempt to convince Democratic primary voters that he was the true Democrat in the race and that I was "Republican-lite". He promised significant American troop reductions by the end of 2006 - and just enough voters believed him in November 2006 to earn him re-election.

This evening, at the Republican National Convention, Senator Lieberman will likely reprise Ronald Reagan by claiming that he has not left the Democratic Party, but that it has left him. He will likely claim that the Democratic Party has abandoned the strong foreign policy tradition of Truman, Kennedy, and Clinton. He may even cherry-pick a phrase or two that he commonly lifts from Kennedy's inaugural address - framing Kennedy's famous call to "pay any price and bear any burden" as a call to arms.

But the call in John F. Kennedy's inaugural speech was clear, and resonates even louder today as the trumpet summons us again - not as a call to bear arms, not as a call to battle, but as a call to bear the burden in the long struggle against the common enemies of mankind - tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.

Kennedy did not praise unilateral military excursions around the world, he praised the United Nations as "our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace." Kennedy did not call for a military answer to every question, but for real statesmanship and leadership, warning that we must "never negotiate out of fear, but never fear to negotiate."

This is the Democratic tradition that Joe Lieberman is slamming the door on tonight. And this is the bipartisan foreign policy consensus that Lieberman, Bush, and McCain have all abandoned over the last eight years, with such disastrous consequences.


Joe Lieberman and George Bush and John McCain have deserted the core bipartisan principles of American foreign policy that every president from Truman to Kennedy to Reagan and Bush's father understood. Strong alliances, a strong military, and forceful diplomacy helped us to win the Cold War and will help us to subdue the rogue nations which harbor terrorists wishing to do us harm today.

Five years after the unfurling of the Mission Accomplished banner - five years and a trillion dollars and tens of thousands of dead and wounded later - our military is stretched to the breaking point and Iran is resurgent. Yet Joe Lieberman will likely claim tonight that the surge has been a huge success and that the decision to invade Iraq was the correct one.

Some months ago, under the cloak of darkness and unannounced, Dick Cheney donned his flak jacket and flew a Black Hawk helicopter into the Green Zone in Baghdad. After a short briefing, he slipped out the same way he came in, and announced from Jordan that the surge was a success.

About the same time, Iranian bad boy Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - richer than ever thanks to a tripling of oil prices - flew into Baghdad in the middle of the day and was literally welcomed with flowers and marching bands at the airport. Once there, he did not hunker down in the Green Zone, but was rather greeted by his new ally Iraqi Prime Minister Al Maliki and the Iraqi cabinet. At the first of four press conferences, he saluted the brotherly ties between Iran and Iraq, denounced America as Al Maliki stood by, and then enjoyed a peaceful rest in one of Saddam Hussein's palaces. Not one shot was fired or one IED exploded in Baghdad during his stay.

Yes, there is less violence in Iraq today, but the reasons are complex. Our troops have made a difference, the bad guys have moved on to Afghanistan, Iran has brokered a wait and see peace, and most importantly, the Iraqis themselves have stood up.

Now is the time for us to start standing down and let the Iraqis to take control of their own destiny. We need to stop giving their historical enemies, the Iranians, a pretext to make mischief in that region.

And now is the time for America to be itself again.

Two hundred and fifty years ago, Alexis de Tocqueville said that America is not good because it is great, but rather, it is great because it is good.

America the good represented a symbol of hope for peoples around the world who wrote constitutions and promoted democracy, who named their major boulevards after Roosevelt and Kennedy - to be like America.

We weren't greeted as liberators when we marched into Baghdad, but that is just how President Eisenhower was greeted on his first Presidential visit to Berlin. Tens of thousands roared when President Kennedy rallied the world with the words: "Ich Bin Ein Berliner." Tens of thousands more turned out to cheer when Ronald Reagan stood in the same place and said "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall," and soon saw the Berlin Wall come tumbling down without a shot being fired.

And last month, tens of thousands again turned out in Berlin as Barack Obama followed in the footsteps of Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Reagan.

That's how America starts winning again.

This week, as you hear John McCain and Joe Lieberman talk about their "bipartisanship," remember the bipartisan foreign policy tradition which they have cast aside with such disastrous consequences to our nation's reputation and security.

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