IS IT TOO LATE FOR BUSH'S FAVORITE DEMOCRAT, JOE LIEBERMAN, TO TURN IT AROUND?
You may have noticed that I've been working to bring the importance of the Connecticut U.S. Senate race to progressives' attentions for some time now. Long before I had ever heard of Ned Lamont-- in fact long before Ned Lamont actually thought about challenging the sitting, seemingly impregnable Senator from his home state-- I was busy sounding the alarm that Joe Lieberman is the worst kind of Democrat there is. The first letter I ever wrote to the L.A. TIMES (and which they published) was about what a treacherous and deceitful holier-than-thou hypocrite Lieberman is. That was in 2000, shortly after one of Al Gore's early fatal mistakes. Meeting Ned Lamont and getting to know him has added a whole new and very positive dimension to my self-appointed little task.
Many of my friends have asked me if it is really possible that Ned Lamont could actually beat an entrenched sitting U.S. Senator. The question they should be asking is whether or not Joe Lieberman and his creaky old school campaign has any chance of stopping Lamont with just 8 weeks to go. After watching the video on Connecticut Blog yesterday, on which University of Connecticut Professor Kenneth Dautrich analyzes the campaign, I am more convinced than ever that karma has finally caught up with the most duplicitous man in the U.S. Senate.
Professor Dautrich's main points are that, in the end, the primary will really be about the war in Iraq and that the kind of Democrats who vote in the state primary are hard-core anti-war, anti-Bush Democrats who have had it with Lieberman. Lieberman has never faced a real challenge to his Senate seat before. At first he thought he had nothing to worry about. Between his gigantic corporate-financed campaign war-chest and Lamont's lack of name recognition, why should he bother even visiting far away and, to him, now long unfamiliar, outside-the-Beltway Connecticut?
It has taken a surprisingly short amount of time for Ned's name recognition to go from zero to heavy. And he has rallied every true-blue Democrat in the state-- just the kinds of people who go to the polls in early August. Lieberman's huge popularity with Republicans won't help him in the Democratic primary; there's no crossover voting in Connecticut. Professor Dautrich explains:
Lieberman, for Democrats, has become a controversial figure in the party. He's the one Senator who is fully behind Bush's policies in Iraq... Typically, in a primary, even in a primary that gets a lot of attention, about 10 to 15% of party voters turn out. So what we're looking at is among those who are registered Democrats is about 1 in 10 or 2 in 10, at best, who will show up to vote. Who shows up to vote? The die-hard Democrats who are really angry at Joe Lieberman's position on the war.
He goes on to mention that "there are eyes from all over the nation on this race." There certainly are. As I mentioned a couple of days ago, very few of the faithless and wayward Democrats who have supported and enabled Bush and his catastrophic policies are facing primary challenges this year. The glaring exceptions are Jane Harman on Tuesday in CA-36 (where Marcy Winograd is giving her a strong run for all her corporate money), Al Wynn on September 12 in MD-04 (where progressive, grassroots challenger Donna Edwards will announce in about 10 days) and, the biggie, Lamont v Lieberman in Connecticut.
And things have turned very bad for Holy Joe since Lamont sent shock waves through the Connecticut political establishment by taking a third of the delegates to the state party convention a few weeks ago-- a convention in which few thought he would even garner the required 15% to get on the ballot. Now the mainstream media, once dismissive of Ned's chance to beat Lieberman, is taking him very seriously. Yesterday's HARTFORD COURANT carried a story by Paul Bass which reads like the kiss of death to Lieberman's campaign.
... in ads and public statements, Lieberman portrays himself as Regular Joe, a fighter for the little guy, in touch with blue-state Connecticut and mainstream Democrats on all issues except Iraq.
And somehow we-- not just Lieberman-- keep a straight face, as if he hadn't just spent 18 years helping Republicans hijack the Constitution and pick on little guy after little guy.
The Bush administration values Joe Lieberman because he has been a crucial ally in efforts to free Enron-style corporate crooks from regulation, transfer wealth to the wealthy, hound gays, trample on the rights of government critics and sacrifice the lives of thousands of Americans and Iraqis to dishonest, dangerous military adventurism.
In parts of Texas and in Utah that's the kind of stuff that gets people elected; not in Connecticut. And particularly not in the Connecticut Democratic Party primary. In case anyone was suffering from a faulty memory about Lieberman's tenure as senator-- and his campaign is doing its best to bring on mass amnesia-- Bass recounted some of the outrages that Lieberman hopes people will forget when he makes the absurd and pitiful claim that he has been a good Democrat except for the little tiny incident in Iraq.
... out of the eye of voters back home, Lieberman developed working alliances with the most hypocritical and dangerous right-wingnuts like Ralph Reed and Charles Murray and Bill Bennett. But I had forgotten just how extensive a record he had accumulated.
I had forgotten how he played the leading role in 1993 to thwart Democrats who tried to close loopholes allowing companies to cook the books on millions of dollars of stock options. Thus began the regulatory abandonment that spawned Enron and its sibling rip-offs.
I had forgotten how that same year, Lieberman joined with Republican Sen. Alphonse M. D'Amato of New York and against Democrats to "work the cloakrooms" of the Senate, in the words of a news account, to "line up unanimous support so that a tax break eagerly sought by the real estate industry could be passed without senators having to vote on the record."
How many Connecticut Democrats remember that their senator was one of only two Democrats who voted with Republicans in 1995 to kill a lobbyist-gift ban? Or that he called affirmative action "un-American?" Or that in August 1994 he voted in favor of a proposal by Republican Jesse Helms to cut off all federal money from schools that offer counseling to suicidal gay teens by referring them to gay support groups or in any way suggesting it's OK to be gay?
Or that Gov. John Rowland and Lieberman had the same fundraiser, Michael Lewan, raising the same campaign cash from the same fat cats, because, as Lewan told the Courant, "they're two like-minded guys?"
Did most Connecticut Democrats even know that Lieberman helped Lynne Cheney found a McCarthy-style group called the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, which hounded liberal university professors for criticizing American foreign policy, including the president of Wesleyan University?
No wonder Lieberman could vote to confirm an attorney general, Alberto Gonzalez, who wrote the legal opinion excusing torture. Most recently, Gonzalez threatened to start prosecuting journalists for publishing classified information in order to silence government critics. But that was weeks ago. The new Fightin' Joe is on our side. A real Democrat.
Now it's true that Lieberman earns high marks on Democratic interest group "report cards." That's because he plays a shell game in which liberal interest groups are complicit. He gets the "right" mark for voting against Samuel Alito's Supreme Court nomination, for instance. But he gives the Bush administration the vote it needs to make Alito a judge, by voting to stop a filibuster.
Similarly, he held back on voting for Clarence Thomas's nomination until the first Bush administration saw it had the votes. Then Lieberman could safely vote against Thomas and earn the "right" grade.
It's fine for Lieberman to join Republicans in ideological arguments. He does that a lot for someone still calling himself a Democrat. And when he can publicly excoriate President Clinton for having sex with an intern - then hold back on President Bush's immoral lying about Iraq and illegal spying on Americans - he steps over not just a party line, but an ethical line as well.
That's not a diary on Daily Kos or FireDogLake or MyDD. That's from the Sunday HARTFORD COURANT, read by many thousands of voters in Connecticut who have never seen a blog in their lives.