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May 1, 2006

Psychology Watch: The Obvious Boy For Next Secretary Of Defense

Liebermanbarney

Do you know adults that emotionally never graduated from short pants?  Are you familiar with the expression “boys will be boys?”  Do you wonder why only Senator Dodd looks embarrassed?

Without a better way of understanding such things, most people attribute the Lieberman – Bush attraction to a combination of political expedience and shared ideology.  However, I think it’s more psychological than that.

When you look at relationships — be they marriages, or the working kind — you tend to find people with generally equivalent degrees of moral and emotional development.  (To understand “delayed” moral development, you need only look at the way this country has been governed over the past five years.  For example, you find a lot of black-and-white thinking, such as “good” versus “bad” and “us” versus “them”;  a preoccupation with authority and obedience; and dramatic, self-centered acts mostly rationalized after the fact.)

Delayed moral advancement tends to go hand-in-hand with the lower rungs of emotional maturity.  In kids trapped in adult bodies, you tend to see silliness substituting for wit; awkwardness in the place of poise; passion masquerading as love; aggression covering for strength; and rituals standing in for originality.

In practical terms, such people usually derive comfort and security from a simpler, more uncomplicated social existence — often through immersion in the softer, safer side of domestic life, and/or greater interest and involvement in the world of young people, children and animals.

Liebermankidsa  Liebermankidsb

Liebermankidsc  Liebermanbushkidsd

This is the profile you find when you study a Bush, Rumsfeld — or Lieberman.

When the Senator says he will run as an independent if he gets knocked off in the Democratic primary, he’s not making a thoughtful judgement, he’s throwing a hissy fit.  When Lieberman cozies up to Bush and the two embrace in the Senate chamber, the best analogy is not two mature gay men so much as innocent and excited children recognizing a possible new playmate from the other side of town.

It’s no surprise that Lieberman’s Senatorial photo gallery (website) happens to include so many babies, children and other acts of silliness (like the shot above).  In the Constituent Meetings section, for example, except for one mom, you’d think there wasn’t a person to serve in Connecticut over the age of 13.

No, Ned Lamont is not running against a grown up.  He’s running against Joey, Barney’s friend, who is interested in spending more time at Georgy’s house if the bad Donald turns out to be grounded for a long time.



Update 5/2/06 9:31am PST:  Not to say The BAG had anything to do with it, but the Lieberman staff has updated the “Constituent Meeting” section.  Yes, there are more grown ups there now (a flood, actually, with the sudden appearance of several group shots).  True to form, however, in addition to new military pics — often capturing the brave man-child — we now have more kids, too.  Love those boy scouts!





(images: lieberman.senate.gov)

  • matt

    A nice start, can you incorporate Liebermann’s role in the 2000 campaign (and shortly afterwards) and about his crusade against indecency?

  • The BAG

    A note to my readers: If I’m outrunning you a little bit, it’s because the Webby judging period ends Monday and I’m bringing my best at a slightly accelerated pace. (That means, I’m covering whatever breaks. In the next day or two, as well, you can look forward to new post-Katrina images from Alan Chin.) As The BAG is just as recognized for its discussion, I hope you’ll forgive the acceleration. And Matt: As ‘06 — and JL’s primary — gets closer, I promise to work in a psych-minded “Joe Watch.”

  • Ksue

    Wow, BAG! These are the most delicious words I’ve ever seen you post. Yummy thanks. I’ll be thrilled with more of these cogently psychoanalytical posts in the future.
    I voted for you a few days ago — can we vote multiple times?
    Or perhaps we really shouldn’t lower ourselves to King George’s level…

  • http://someoldguy.typepad.com/ pj

    In the 1980 election, Elizabeth Holzman defeated Jacob Javits for the Democratic nomination to the Senate from New York. Javits was (undeservedly, according to many observers) something of a liberal icon, but he was also losing his touch — either from senility or arrogance or greed or just a few changes of heart.
    At any rate, the voters thought he should be dumped. They nominated Holzman, a bright and energetic and thoroughly deserving woman.
    Javits went into a sulk, and came out of it with an announcement that he would run as an independent. Which he did. And he siphoned off enough Democrat votes to give the Senate seat to Al D’Amato. FOR EIGHTEEN YEARS.
    And if reflection on that scenario isn’t enough to scare the bejeebers out of you…

  • http://www.jaxxattaxx.com/ black dog barking

    They may have updated the Constituent Meeting section since last night. Now about half of the shots are from a trip to Fallujah last Nov. Kids in Uniform seems to be the current motif. Shades of the Rove White House, all about the military and the second grade.
    Point of order. I prefer to think of “kid” in the Wordsworth sense — “Child is father to the man”, “trailing clouds of glory”, “Heaven lies about us in our infancy”. Kids are immature, but a lot more. Washington’s Kool Kidz, a lot less.

  • http://www.woodka.com donna

    My kids were more grown up as kids than many adults, and more child like now than most adults. It isn’t a “child like” quality you’re seeing, just a stupid one. Kids spot these phony people a mile away and run from them. My younger child initially liked Barney when he was too young to know better, then was terrified of him, then embarassed he had ever liked him at all. A healthy progression, indeed.

  • http://www.eahopp.blogspot.com Eric A Hopp

    Hmmmm….Barney would be a better qualified Secretary of Defense for this administration than Joe Lieberman. I’m sorry–you stuck the arrow on the wrong person!

  • Cactus

    Well, I can’t really speak to the photo, it’s just too silly. But I’m always happy to opine on the psyche of our weird politicians. Reading though the Bag’s comments, I was wondering if Lieberman and McCain don’t have a lot in common in their political dotage. I think Barney is supposed to be a purple dragon, right? It’s the wrong animal. Both Lieberman and McCain have already jumped the shark. McCain’s been whipped into a slobbering idiot and just the mention of W picking him for SoD has Lieberman blathering all the right-wing talking points on Faux news.
    The only question left is why is Dodd even participating?

  • ummabdulla

    Barney’s a dinosaur! But I think you could come up with something comparing politicians and dinosaurs, Cactus…
    (And like Donna said, I think kids love him when they’re very young, but by the time they’re 3 or 4, they’re over him. Actually, given the garbage that even young children watch on TV for hours a day, I don’t have any problem with Barney, and yeah, I’d rather have him than Rumsfeld as Defense Secretary.)

  • Paine

    Actually, Barney looks kind of embarrassed to be seen with Lieberman.

  • http://rickperlstein.org Rick Perlstein

    You’re channeling me!
    This article I wrote on Lieberma for the Village Voice two and a half years ago was illustrated by pictures of Joe in little-boy’s short pants.
    http://www.villagevoice.com/news/0343,perlstein,48032,1.html

  • RonThompson

    The Javits story above is gibberish. Javits, a Republican, lost the Republican primary to Al D’Amato, who also ran on the Conservative Party and Right To Life lines. Javits was on the Liberal party line, and stayed in the race. On the day Reagan was elected, D’Amato beat Holtzman by 81,000 votes, 45%-44%, with Javits getting 11%.

  • JR

    “This is the profile you find when you study a Bush, Rumsfeld — or Lieberman.”
    You think Bush and Rumsfeld like children and animals and the domestic side of life? What on earth are you talking about?

  • JR

    PS: Barney is produced by Connecticut Public TV. In the 1990s’ when I believe this picture was taken Barney merchandise was selling in the hundreds of millions and was the most important new product to come out of Hartford since the Colt revolver. Lieberman and Dodd may look silly to you but Barney was the source of a lot of local pride – and cash – to their constituents.

  • hauksdottir

    A purple dinosaur or a purple cash cow… does it matter?
    Some dinosaurs evolved into birds and survived. Will any of the cash cows morph into a survivable form? K street and the big-money lobbyists and their fund-raising enablers may be feeling the heat of a meteoric strike.
    Meanwhile a stupid flightless dinosaur leading Dodd and Lieberman by the hand is an apt image! It is another “skip & wave” show where stuffed animals suck the money right out of wallets while they smile and smile and smile.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/rcharman/ R. Craig Harman

    Coming into this discussion rather late, I have to wonder if the photoessays on Lieberman’s site aren’t more a reflection of campaign strategists and web developers than of Mr. Lieberman’s personality. After all, it’s unlikely that Lieberman himself scrutinizes every picture that appears on his website.
    Campaigns typically run on the “shaking hands and kissing babies” stereotype of a trustworthy candidate. Showing Lieberman with children was almost certainly intended to depict him as concerned (1) with the least of his constituents [here, the non-voting kind] and (2) with, ahem, “family values”. Candidates are also often shown in nursing homes for both reasons too – as a nod to the disenfranchised/malenfranchised and to show concern for our elderly albeit packed-away relatives.
    The converse would be to show the candidate in his natural environment: with other men in suits, talking about the weighty issues of the day. This works fine if the candidate is seen doing so in a leaderly fashion, for example at a rostrum in the Senate in empassioned defense of some deep social issue, but otherwise comes off as looking like the glossy face of secretive dealings of rich men with one another.
    Although I agree that Lieberman’s hissy fit is indicative of a man more concerned with himself than his party, I’m not sure that the photo psychoanalysis adds anything to this picture, that isn’t more simply explained by a man who enjoys his power too much to want to be dethroned.

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