Jonathan Chait ridicules Bill Kristol today for "sucking up to" Joe Lieberman. Chait is mostly concerned with how silly Kristol looks, but on this one, I think the conservatives are massively outplaying the liberals.
What do liberals think of Joe Lieberman? They think that he's a sanctimonious jerk, with an inflated opinion of his own importance and seriousness, and with an outsized resentment of liberals and the left.
And how do they act? They do everything they can to push the buttons of someone who is a sanctimonious jerk, with an inflated opinion of his own importance and seriousness, and with an outsized resentment of liberals and the left. They hold sit-ins in his office, they pressure Senate Democrats to strip him of his committee, they accuse him of being in the pocket of the insurance industry, and they mock him and his pretensions.
Not so Bill Kristol. As Chait says, Kristol calls Holy Joe (oh, and don't call him that) "principled and responsible," and plays to Lieberman's sense that he's saving Good and Decent America from those Weird Hippies.
I think you can see the problem here: if the liberal diagnosis of Joe Lieberman is correct, then he's apt to react to all of this by shifting more and more to Kristol.
My advise to liberals? Swallow a little bit of your dignity, and pretend that you have a deep and abiding respect for that independent statesman, Joe Lieberman. Constantly bring up his brave support over the years for civil rights, for equality for women, and for all other manner of Good American Values. Don't protest him; thank him for his tough votes on several of the health care amendments (he's been with the Dems more often than with the GOP on amendment votes). Be sure to point out how brave he is for standing up to those insidious special interests in those votes -- and, yes, how his other votes show his admirable independence. Keep MoveOn and the like out of his line of vision, but do remind him of crazy things that Beck, Palin, and Bachmann say. Remind him especially that health care opponents are happy to hang out with Pat Buchanan, and that the Tea Party crowd isn't sufficiently respectful to the horrors of Nazism.
Would smarmy insincerity work on Joe Lieberman? I don't know -- but Bill Kristol certainly thinks it will, doesn't he?