Last night, in a Democratic primary in Connecticut, Ned Lamont, a 'cable guy' who became a millionaire in that business, and who had served as a city councilman and held no other elected office, beat three term incumbent Senator and former Vice Presidential and Presidential candidate Joe Lieberman 52%-48% in a hotly contested Democratic primary. Lieberman has vowed to run as an independent for his seat. I believe it is a mistake to do so-- he ran as a Democrat and Connecticut's Democratic voters made it clear that he does not reflect their values. He should accept that judgement, endorse Ned Lamont, and move on. As Dick Cheney told Lieberman during the Vice Presidential debate six years ago after Lieberman said he had no private sector job experience, "I'm trying to help you get there, Joe." For perhaps the first time in history, advice from Dick Cheney is something Lieberman should take.
I have a number of thoughts on this race. The first is the most obvious-- the country is against the war in Iraq, and Lieberman's support of the Iraq war, including in an interview last year in which he claimed that 'much progress' was being made, despite the obvious fact that we've been hearing that for years now and the 'progress' only seems to be a hardening of Iraqi attitudes towards Americans, cost Joe the nomination. Even other Democrats who voted with the President on the war, notably John Kerry (who himself was burned two years ago by his failure to admit he made a mistake) have now made it clear that they believe they were deceived (as many in the country were) by the hand-picked faulty intelligence that was used to 'sell' the war. And one reason why John Murtha has credibility on the issue is that he was willing to go to the mat supporting the war and the military for a long time, but finally came to the realization that he had like many others been sold a bill of goods. But not Joe. He was for continuing the Iraq war, and that is out of step, not only with Democratic primary voters, but with a clear majority of all voters, according to a new CNN poll out this morning.
Other Democrats, including President Clinton and Christopher Dodd, Lieberman's Senate partner from Connecticut, stumped on his behalf in the closing days of the campaign. And in fact they probably did make a difference, as the polls showed Lieberman down 13% about a week ago and he lost by four. So apparently a visit from Bill Clinton is worth 9 points right now-- I mention that only to draw a contrast to the President; Bush visits only for fundraisers for the party faithful, but he does not go out and campaign with Republicans running for Congress or the Senate right now-- so a visit from Bush is a liability.
Which brings us to Lieberman's own liabilities. If a visit from Bush is a liability, then how about a kiss? Last year while walking down the Senate aisle at the State of the Union address, President Bush pulled Senator Lieberman aside and kissed him. This put into stark perspective Lieberman's status as 'The President's man' who could be counted on to disrupt any attempt to create a Democratic policy alternative on Iraq. "The Kiss" became a major theme in the campaign, with a float showing mockups of 'the kiss' being driven around Connecticut during the campaign. All of which leads me to ask, given that we have the Republican equivalent to Joe Lieberman, John McCain representing us here in the Senate and wanting to run for President (incidentally Lieberman and McCain count each other as among their closest friends in the Senate), whether we could get that guy ('Connecticut Bob') to create a mock-up of 'the hug' that McCain gave Bush two years ago for when McCain runs for President:
Expect now that other Democrats who supported the war (and probably more than a few Republicans) will do everything they can to distance themselves from their former support. Hillary Clinton is going to be at the top of that list, although by now she has been so firmly associated with support for the war that if she changes her stance now it will be a clear 'flip flop.'
If there is one message that the Lamont victory sends it is a very clear and indisputable one: Out Now!