Defend the commander
at all costs
Lieberman's Real Problem
By Harold Meyerson
Wednesday, July 12, 2006; Page A15
My colleagues also finger those crazy lefty bloggers as the culprits behind the drive to purge Lieberman from Democratic ranks. (The New Republic's Jonathan Chait recently wrote that in the Los Angeles Times.) They see a self-destructive urge for party purification sweeping over Democratic liberals, to the detriment of Democratic prospects.
Lieberman himself certainly does. My Post colleague Ruth Marcus recently spent some time on the campaign trail with Lieberman and reported on a talk he gave in Danbury. "Are the extremes going to dominate?" Lieberman asked. "Do you have to be 100 percent in agreement with an elected official or it's not good enough?"
As well, Lieberman's broader politics are at odds with those of his fellow Northeastern Democrats. He is not being opposed because he doesn't reflect the views of his Democratic constituents 100 percent of the time. He is being opposed because he leads causes many of them find repugnant.
As early as December 2001 Lieberman signed a letter to President Bush asking him to make Saddam Hussein's Iraq our next stop in the war against terrorism. As recently as last month, he opposed two Democratic resolutions to scale back our involvement in the war. And just last week Lieberman characterized the progress of the war as "a lot better" than it was a year ago, adding, "They're on the way to building a free and independent Iraq."
So, why the surprise if Connecticut voters, listening to Lieberman and looking at his record, conclude that they cannot trust his judgment on the single most important issue of the day? That's not mandating purity; it's opting for a senator who pays more attention to the war on the ground than to the war in his head.
Indeed, across Connecticut and neighboring states, Republican legislators whose support for the war has been less avid than Lieberman's are in trouble this year precisely because they've allowed Bush (even if only by virtue of their support for Republican control of Congress) to press on with the war. Connecticut's three Republican House members are scrambling for their political lives for fundamentally the same reasons that Lieberman is. In neighboring Rhode Island, Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee -- the most anti-Bush, antiwar Republican in the Senate -- may well be defeated because to be a Bush-era Republican of any stripe in the Northeast these days is a formula for political oblivion.
Of all Northeastern senators, moreover, Chafee is the one whose political profile most closely matches Lieberman's. Over the past three years, Chafee has run up a 65 percent voting record on the scorecard of the liberal Americans for Democratic Action (ADA). Lieberman's score is 75 percent. The six other Democrats from the nearest states -- Jack Reed from Rhode Island, Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton from New York, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry from Massachusetts, Patrick Leahy from Vermont -- averaged 97 percent during those three years. ................
The issue here isn't that Lieberman is not 100 percent. It's that his positions -- not just on foreign policy but on trade, Social Security and other key issues -- are often out of sync with those of Democrats in his part of the country. To expect his region's voters to dump the area's moderate Republicans but back Lieberman is to expect that they will adopt a double standard in this year's elections.
...............................His problem, dear colleagues, is Connecticut.
posted by Steve @ 1:47:00 AM