Gail Collins reminds us that by announcing his retirement with two years left in his Senate term, Joe Lieberman is giving himself the most drawn-out farewell since the stagehands put the trampoline under the battlements for the finale of Tosca. In other words, the diva is going to keep bouncing up into our sight, yowling her goodbye aria, long after we thought the whole interminable spectacle was over at last.

Holy Joe may well regret the length of his departure as much as the rest of us. For one thing, it allows plenty of time for the rest of us to limber up our throwing arms. Gail Collins herself lands a particularly ripe tomato on Lieberman’s smug kisser:

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 and decided that to everything there is a season.

He will leave behind a long list of achievements, from helping to consolidate the nation’s intelligence gathering services in a way that appears to make it more difficult to gather intelligence, to threatening to filibuster the health care reform act until it had been watered down to suit his own high principles.

Lieberman is leaving office the way he lived it: like a methane-swollen ego balloon, drifting ponderously toward the horizon. But there are plenty of pea-shooters and slingshots out there, and with such an inviting target, plenty of people to use them.

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