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What Would People Think?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Why The Media's Line On Joe Lieberman and Ned Lamont is Pure Bull

Senator Joe Lieberman is defeated in the Democratic primary by antiwar candidate Ned Lamont and - judging from the media reaction - you'd think the sky has fallen.

USA Today decries Lieberman's primary defeat as a sign that Democrats are seeking partisan ideological purity at the cost of bipartisanship....punishing anyone who has crossed the line and worked with Bush. Dick Cheney continues his political thuggery by suggesting that the election of antiwar folks like Lamont is playing into Al Qaeda's hands. Republicans in general gleefully spin Lamont's victory as a sign that Democrats are "weak" on terrorism. Even many Democrats in the media fear antiwar activists are going to follow their naive idealism toward a crushing defeat reminiscent of George McGovern's 1972 debacle (triumphantly winning in one state).

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. Ned Lamont's victory signals one simple thing: Connecticut Democrats are sick of this horrific tragedy we call the Iraq war and of a so-called "opposition" party that has been complicit in it. And - so I hope and believe - Americans in general are increasingly ready to adopt their view.

In 2002, Democrats (under the leadership of Tom Daschle and Richard Gephart) went along with Republicans and authorized the war based on claims that Saddam had Weapons of Mass Destruction and innuendo about Iraq-Al Qaeda connections. At the time, Americans accepted these arguments. After the invasion, as the body count rose and it became increasingly clear there were no WMDs, the Bush Administration switched its justification to promoting peace (via war) and democracy in the Middle East. Meanwhile, Democrats remained either afraid to oppose the war or vocally in favor of it. Republicans labeled any critics of the war "weak" at best, "traitors" at worst. While Iraq descended into civil war, Joe Lieberman emerged as the most vocal Democratic defender of the war and Bush's failed "stay the course and don't change the tactics" strategy.

Lieberman's defeat is a rebuke of that strategy and of Democrats defending that strategy. It is a victory for Democrats actually growing some spine and acting like an opposition party.

Let's review some of the claims about the Lamont victory and show how they are mistaken:

"Lamont's victory is a victory for rabid partisans who want to purge the party of moderates."

Lots of the talk about a "jihad" against Lieberman by liberal bloggers accused those bloggers of punishing dissent within the Democratic party. Republicans hypocritically claim this is a sign of "liberal intolerance" (all the while setting their sights on moderate Republican Lincoln Chafee), while Democrats claim this is a rejection of the "big tent" philosophy that allows Democrats to win by incorporating people with a wide range of views in one party. Newsweek's Jonathan Alter and TIME's Joe Klein both argue that antiwar Democrats' number one priority should be taking on Republicans, not criticizing other Democrats.

I appreciate the argument about rabid partisans. I have often criticized the liberal blogs for their close-minded, take-no-prisoners, hateful mentality that seemed far to similar to Falwell-esque Republicans. But in this case, that criticism is not appropriate.

There's any easy rebuke to all these claims of ideological purification and his name is Ben Nelson. The Democratic Senator from Nebraska is far more conservative than Joe Lieberman. So why don't daily Kos and all the anti-Lieberman forces go after Nelson? Because he is wildly popular in Nebraska. Because anybody more liberal would not win in Nebraska. Because the best way to battle Bush's failed national security strategy is to keep Democrats in office who, however conservative, will select Democrats to lead Congress.

But in Connecticut, Lieberman was out of touch with his state. In that New England state, antiwar views are a lot more popular. And a Democrat from that state vocally supporting the war and openly attacking critics of that war is an obstacle to the antiwar movement.

Lieberman's foes took the politically astute way to achieve their ideals. Far from purging the party of moderates, they are simply taking the actions which must be taken in different states to save our nation from the ongoing conservative failures. In some states, that means supporting conservatives like Nelson. In others, it means supporting antiwar firebrands like Lamont.

"Lamont's victory is a sign that naive idealists will ignore politics and drive the Democratic Party to electoral defeat."

Visions of 1972 are swimming through many Democrats' nightmares. This is silly.

They fear that open opposition to the war and suggesting a (gasp!) timetable for withdraw from Iraq is going to get the party labeled "antiwar" and "soft on terrorism." They fear that such labels will mean sure defeat for Democrats and more years of Republican mistakes. Yeah, like anything will stop Republicans from putting those labels on Democrats. Because, y'know, 6 years of wavering opposition and double-speak has worked so well for Democrats in elections.

First off, it's time for Democrats to stop worrying about taking positions and choosing candidates based purely on "electability." I'm not saying that such considerations should be thrown by the wayside, but single-minded focus on "electability" is what gave us John Kerry in 2004. He might have made a good, thoughtful, progressive President had he won, but he was a terrible campaigner. The main reason he lost was the very reasons he was considered "electable" - his cautiousness, his being the opposite of shoot-from-the-hip-into-the-foot Howard Dean. When the Swift Boaters launched a series of ads filled with blatant lies against Kerry's war record, he was too cautious to fight back. He thought responding to the ads would only give them credibility. Instead, the lack of response allowed those liars to tear down Kerry's strongest electoral asset. Also, he was so cautious he didn't fight back against the Republican spin and let himself get labeled a "flip-flopper." Lesson learned: the "electability-only" standard of choosing candidates is a failure.

Second, those who fear that being antiwar means losing elections are not paying attention to the views of the American people. Frustrated with the lack of progress, the mounting body count, and the growing civil war, Americans are increasingly turning against this war. 61% of Americans oppose the war. While most Americans do not support immediate withdrawal from Iraq, 57 % support setting timetables for withdrawal. "Timetable" used to be a dirty word in the Iraq debate, but it is increasingly becoming the watchword. It's time for Democrats to wake up and smell the polls - being labeled "antiwar" is no political suicide. By the way, contrary to distortions advanced by John McCain and Joe Lieberman, Ned Lamont does not support immediate withdrawal - he supports the one-year timetable advocated by John Kerry and Russ Feingold.

"Lamont's victory is a sign that Democrats don't have the will to be strong and fight terrorism."

It's unbelievable to me that this laughable claim actually has political traction. What, do people believe that John Kerry, if elected, would have sat around playing with Barbie dolls while Al Qaeda attacked us? Get real!

Let me put this as simply as possible: Iraq is a distraction from the War on Terror. As our nation's time and energy is increasingly absorbed in a tragically deteriorating nation that never had anything to do with 9/11, we are allowing the real battle against terrorist groups like Al Qaeda slide. And it's Democrats and liberals, not Republicans, who are constantly reminding us of that.

It's Democrats who are pointing out how focusing on Iraq is draining resources from homeland security.

It's the New York Times editorial page - which, let us all acknowledge is liberal - which is taking time to point out the crisis in Afghanistan. Remember Afghanistan? The place that was the home base of Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The country we invaded immediately after 9/11. The war that we seem to have forgotten about. Well, it's still going on and the tide is turning against us. Unlike Iraq, this is a real battle against terrorists and their supporters and losing here would be very dangerous. But it seems only "out-of-touch, soft-on-terrorism" liberals are pointing that out.

Finally, it's Democrats and liberals who seem to still want to capture Osama Bin Laden and top Al Qaeda leaders. The Bush Administration recently closed down the CIA office dedicated to hunting down those terrorist masterminds.

If the Republican spin machine keeps repeating that Lamont's victory means Democrats are weak on terrorism, the American people will believe them. But all Democrats have to do to counter that is to vigorously use the facts.

And to conclude....

So, Ned Lamont's victory is just one part of an increasing antiwar sentiment among Democrats in particular and Americans in general. This is a good thing. Don't believe the media hype that it's not, no matter how many times they repeat it.

Oh, and Joe Lieberman's an ass for running as an Independent and splitting the Democratic vote. Or maybe he's just becoming the Republican candidate.


  • The Barbie dolls thing is hilarious. Besides, lest we forget, George W. Bush sat around Crawford and played with guns the entire month of August 2001. Something bad happened shortly thereafter, if memory serves.

    I haven't really followed the media coverage of Lamont's victory over Lieberman, but you certainly make it seem like it was blown way out of proportion. While I don't buy into the Bush's lapdog accusations of many of his detractors, Lieberman is still generally too conservative for his state anyway, and his loss is not at all surprising.

    By Blogger Mike, at 8/30/2006 3:19 PM  

  • I think the big thing with Lieberman is his willingness to fall in with Bush on the "criticizing the president during wartime is treachery" line. That line, though patently absurd, was really damaging to Democrats, and having it come from within the party was intolerable.

    By Blogger Jeff, at 8/30/2006 5:14 PM  

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