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As part of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs, these 12 Southern California fellows are engaged in a full-time, nine-month, graduate-level leadership training program that prepares individuals for public-affairs leadership.

One party's traitor, another party's hero

Anthony Adams, an Assemblyman for the California Legislature, was branded a traitor when he voted to pass California's budget in a time of crisis--a budget that raised taxes. I am far from a Sacramento insider, but it seems like heresy for a Republican to raise taxes in California, regardless of the circumstances. Adams was demonized on talk radio, pressured to step down from his chairmanship of the local Republican Central Committee, and targeted for recall by members of his own party.

When I read what the local newspapers had to say about the Assemblyman, I could not see what he had to gain by voting for a tax increase. I got the impression that this man was simply voting his conscience. Unfortunately for him, his conscience was in direct conflict with his party's core values. What is inherently wrong with that? A strong leader has the courage to do the unpopular thing when he or she thinks it is the right thing to do.

One can't say for certain what motivated Joe Lieberman to vote the way he did, but one party's traitor is often another party's hero. -- Elizabeth Willis

Joe Lieberman: The great American hero...and villain

In the future, the current health-care debate may be remembered as a grand, melodramatic, American play. And if Joe Lieberman has his way, his character will be cast as the heroic protagonist, selflessly saving health-care from the clutches of a naïve, hubristic Congress. His virtuous leadership will be a reminder of the quintessential American leader: one man, choosing to follow his conscience, overcomes potent opposition to rescue the sick, the weak, and the poor.

Yet today, many Democrats receive Lieberman's heroics tepidly, casting them instead as mere antics. His ability to follow his heart and change his mind, once an admired novelty, now appears contrived. His reversals have become expected, his backtracking has become normal, his changes of heart have become customary. Moreover, what's most maddening about Lieberman isn't the numerous changes of direction that his heart takes, but the lack of clarity about motivates those changes. He seems immune to both party interest and public discontent; no one seems to know what exactly propels him. Except, of course, Lieberman.

What Lieberman gains in individuality and nonconformity, he loses in consistency and steadiness. The frustrations of his Democratic counterparts in the Senate are a testament to his unpredictability. Apparently, this is a trade-off Lieberman is more than willing to make; he's embraced his role as an enigmatic, maddening political figure in the latest act of the great American drama. When this episode finally makes it to Broadway, I wish the lead actor luck: finding Lieberman's motivation will be no easy task. -- Lanre Akinsiku

The Scars of Betrayal

When a leader betrays whom or what they represent, they leave a deep scar not just on themselves, but also on those who they betrayed. Without being able to invoke trust or demonstrate consistency, the potential of a leader diminishes greatly and the amount of challenges that confronts them rises exponentially. While there is much to praise in Senator Lieberman cunning as a political tactician during these health care reform debates, his honor and respect as a leader diminishes more with every passing day amongst his allies and his enemies. The criticism he receives now for his decisions comes not from his abilities in politics, but from the feelings of betrayal he has invoked in others.

The idea of betrayal is painful, and becomes seared into one's memories. Betrayal creates emotions that include confusion, sadness, and most vividly anger. The scar of betrayal defines numerous leaders in history. Betrayal goes beyond treason in the case of Benedict Arnold, or murder such as with Brutus. President Clinton invoked a sense of betrayal when his sex scandal tainted the trust Americans had in him and the position he held. Sherron S. Watkins who blew the whistle on the Enron scandal is currently defined in history by that moment of betrayal, albeit for what can be perceived as noble reasons.

The Senator Lieberman who spoke at the Republican National Convention and who now walks the tightrope on the Senate floor contrasts heavily with his image when he was the Democratic Vice Presidential Candidate a decade earlier. With each act of deliberate indecisiveness, the amount of trust that is given to the Senator shrinks. The criticism Lieberman has received for his actions could possibly be symptoms of an anger that is ready to erupt. Time can heal wounds, but scars will stand as a reminder of the choices that were made. -- Jimmy Duong

Disruption with political capital

Early Monday morning, Democrats rejoiced to see progress on the obstinate health care bill. This came after, critics say, the bill expanded with additional provisions for individual states. While Joe Lieberman may have leveraged his vote earlier with the issue of the Medicare buy-in, other senators have also utilized their voting power to garner assistance for their particular states. Health care facilities and Medicare concessions were made, and individual states were the winners of the deal.

The Senator from Connecticut plays a slightly different game. While provisions from the health care vote earlier this week came as a result of leaders within a party, Lieberman comes from an independent stance. More importantly, this independent distinction means that he can address the concerns (the dirty work, if you will), of Obama's lobbying constituencies. Numerous sources acknowledge a diplomatic bullet dodged by the President from Lieberman's position in the healthcare debate.

Lieberman has been criticized for his leadership on health-care because he has disrupted the two-party system. Democrats have been given an opportunity with a majority in both the House and Senate, and have to address a vocal, veteran senator's concerns before pushing forward landmark legislation. The Lieberman prototype will be difficult to duplicate given the polarizing nature of the parties, especially in this legislative predicament. One thing is certain- leaders work to ensure the well-being of their constituencies. In this case, Lieberman used his political capital, seemingly disrupting progress of the majority party, to do so. -- Parsa Sobhani

By Coro Fellows

 |  December 22, 2009; 6:29 AM ET
Category:  Political leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Quite simply, Lieberman is untrustworthy.

Posted by: aorj | December 22, 2009 11:29 AM
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LIEBERMAN IS AN OPPORTUNIST. He was for a Medicare buy-in option for 55 or older then he was against it. How can you trust a person who can change his principles for a Dime.

Posted by: khafeez1 | December 22, 2009 11:22 AM
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