Sen. Joe Lieberman yesterday.(Christopher Capozziello/Getty Images)

New York Times Op-Ed columnist Gail Collins is, like most liberals, not a fan of retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman—she sees him, in her column today, as an egotistical flip-flopper. “Sometimes people with principles have to take an independent stand,” she acknowledges. “But Lieberman’s career has taught us how important it is to do that with a sense of humility. If you’re continually admiring yourself as you walk away from your group, eventually people are going to feel an irresistible desire to trip you.” For Collins, Lieberman is like every other politician, only more so.

Unless Collins is saying something different, and worse. A friend emails in, about Collins’s column, “How many buried anti-Semitic clichés can you find here? I found four.” Collins’ assertion that Lieberman is looking to cash out, her emphasis on his “exceptionalism” and lack of “humility,” and her capital-letter reference to the Old Testament are all bothersome, my friend argues, concluding, “I agree it is not a deliberately anti-Semitic piece—New York Times Op-Ed columnists are too enlightened for that—but it is a lazy piece of writing that ultimately falls back on a set of code words and unexamined beliefs that seem right to her because they are framed against a background of old-school prejudice.”

I find it fascinating how Lieberman—indisputably the highest-profile Jewish politician in American history—is looked on by his co-religionists. During the health care debate, for example, contributing editor Victor Navasky accused him of “the betrayal of his Jewish heritage.” Today, my friend sees unconscious anti-Semitism in Collins’s column, which strikes me merely as lazy, knee-jerk condemnation (whose substance I agree with—Lieberman is an unusually opportunistic hack, even by the standards of politicians). Lieberman is further proof that, if Jews love to argue about everything, we love to argue about nothing more than ourselves.

See after the jump for my friend’s full argument.

1. COLLINS: “He got two years of his term left, during which he will be looking for ‘new opportunities that will allow me to serve my country.’ Do you think that means something involving a large salary and a chance to make multitudinous TV appearances, or a Peace Corps stint in Burkina Faso? Let me see hands.”
—Joe Lieberman may be viscerally annoying and wrong about everything, but here’s one thing he is not and has never been: Interested in money. In fact, part of the reason he’s such a prick is that he is so utterly convinced of his own rectitude. So why is his goal suddenly financial here? Oh yeah. Because he’s Jewish. They LOVE money.

2. COLLINS: “When he won running as an independent, it cemented his sense of exceptionalism.”
—One of five times that Gail Collins keeps harping (she’s Irish, right?) on exceptionalism, not being part of the group, thinking he’s better than everyone else, etc.—traits which historically have tended to define every member of the U.S. Senate, yet which she wishes to pin exclusively on Lieberman, because, you know, it fits him better! Because he’s Jewish.

3. COLLINS (quoting another Irish person): “It wasn’t a personal rejection, but I never saw anybody take anything so personally.”
—My paraphrase: They always take it so personally! All I said is that they think they are so special and love money!

4. COLLINS (and this is the key to her subconscious right here): “Lieberman assured everyone that he was not stepping down because the odds of his losing the next race were astronomically high but rather because he had been reading the Old Testament.”
—Of course Lieberman didn’t say he was reading the “Old Testament” in his statement. That’s her language, not his. What he said, sounding, as usual, like Uriah Heep, was: “The reason I have decided not to run for re-election in 2012 is best expressed in the wise words from Ecclesiastes: ‘To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under Heaven.’ So why change Lieberman’s wording from “Ecclesiastes”—which Christians also read—to “the Old Testament”? The answer is that the Old/New Testament distinction is exactly the one that Collins wants to make. Joe Lieberman is a jerk because he is an annoying, self-righteous, exceptionalist, money-grubbing Jew. If he only spent more time reading the New Testament, he might learn some precious Christian humility.

What gets me going here—besides #1 and #4, which are pretty blatant, as well as the fact that someone has apparently spiked my coffee—is that Joe Lieberman, while being a huge prick even for a U.S. senator, also did a lot of good in a very long career, most recently pushing through Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Plus, he broke the glass ceiling that prevented Jews from running for high office in America. And yet, Gail Collins sees fit to piss all over him in unusually loaded language without a single hat-tip or moment of recognition—even her mention of DADT comes in a compliment so backhanded it’s no compliment at all. She refuses to acknowledge that he might have done SOME good in addition to bugging the crap out of her and me both for the last eight years or longer. I can’t imagine her writing this piece about Gloria Steinem or even Jesse Jackson or any other group’s “trailblazer” or “pioneer,” as the Times usually likes to call them.

You can say that Joe Lieberman is a pompous jerk who looks in the mirror and sees a combination of Winston Churchill and the Prophet Elijah and likes to listen to the sound of his voice all day long and really, who would object? It’s true. But Lieberman—who was Connecticut’s most tight-ass attorney general ever—is the opposite of the person who is out to make a lot of money from politics. He’s something worse—a self-infatuated, self-righteous prick. And so, to apply that specific cliché of being greedy for money to him by referencing the Old Testament goes beyond mere laziness. It’s laziness so extreme as to suggest that there is another reason why Collins thinks that the shoe fits so well.

Goodbye to a Guy Named Joe [NYT]
Related: Lieberman’s Betrayal [Tablet Magazine]
Earlier: Lieberman Will Retire