OxBlog

Sunday, August 06, 2006

# Posted 6:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JOE-MENTUM: No one took Joe Lieberman seriously when he said that he had "Joe-mentum" going into the 2004 New Hampshire primary. At the same time, no one expected him to have a hard time winning re-nomination for his own Senate seat in Connecticut. Aftera ll, the winner of the New Hampshire primary and the Democratic nomination also voted for the war in Iraq.

As such, one can't just say that Joe Lieberman is being punished for supporting the war. Nor can one say that he is being punished for refusing to repudiate the war ex post, since Hillary refuses as well. The real question, as Robert Kagan puts is:
What makes Joe Lieberman different? What makes him now anathema to a Democratic Party and to liberal columnists who once supported both him and the war?
As Kagan points out, 29 Democratic senators voted for the war. Why is only one of them now radioactive?

Kagan's answer is that it is a matter of style. Lieberman has engaged in no intellectual acrobatics or self-critical confessions in order to mitigate his support for the war. He hasn't said he was misled by the administration. He hasn't said that voting to give the President authority to make war in October 2002 is different from actually supporting that decision in March 2003. He simply hasn't backtracked at all.

Peter Beinart provides an answer that seems different at first, but may not actually be all that far off from Kagan's:
For Lieberman's activist opponents, his failure to challenge Republicans aggressively -- especially on Iraq and torture -- is all that matters...

The best argument against Lieberman is that, by acting the same way in the radically conservative Bush era as he did in the moderately liberal Clinton one, his liberal iconoclasm has morphed from a strength into a weakness.
Is Beinart talking about a problem of style, a la Kagan, or a problem of substance? He writes that Lieberman failed to challenge Republicans "aggressively". He has challenged them. He often criticizes the conduct of the war, in the same manner as numerous conservatives.

But Lieberman never seems to go after Bush in a personal, partisan manner. He makes no efforts to score points for the Democratic party. It seems Lieberman isn't even sure whose side he is on when it comes to Iraq, the Democrats' or Bush.

So is this a matter of style or substance? If it were really a matter of substance, why, as Dan Balz points out, is almost the entire Democratic establishment for Lieberman and against Ned Lamont? As Balz points out, Bill Clinton himself is actively campaigning for Lieberman.

Yet if one is as far left as Lamont's supporters in the blogosphere, then Lieberman's failure to diagnose Bush as the fundamental cause of America's illness is a matter of grave substance. In this strange manner, style and substance become one at a certain point on the political spectrum.

Finally, we come to Bill Kristol's observation that:
What drives so many Democrats crazy about Lieberman is not simply his support for the Iraq war. It's that he's unashamedly pro-American.
I think that's unfair. I agree with Kagan instead. The problem isn't that Lieberman is pro-American. It's that he refuses to be anti-Bush.
(25) opinions -- Add your opinion

Comments:
Both Beinart and you miss why Lieberman is toxic while other senators who voted for the Iraq war are not. None of them said that to criticize Bush on Iraq during the war is to place the nation in peril. None of them supported the insanity of Tom Delay and his gang in the Terry Schiavo case.
 
If the New York Times editorial board is to be believed, the Schiavo case was about abortion. Lieberman's record on abortion is otherwise faultless, from a liberal perspective. It seems odd that the one instance would overshadow decades of service to the casue of choice. That very much seems to be a desperate justification.

Kaplan and Bienart or mostly right but miss one important point - Joe is charisma-less. A nice guy, but no one you'd love.

For an example of how things might be different, see the junior senator from Illinois.

Joe's position on the war over the last year and a half is virtualy the same as Barak Obama's. Yet no one critisizing Joe has said the same things about Barak, even though their rhetoric and votes are very much in synch.

Why does Joe's position on the war make him anathma to the so-called progressives, while Barak's is not even commented on?
 
"Both Beinart and you miss why Lieberman is toxic while other senators who voted for the Iraq war are not. None of them said that to criticize Bush on Iraq during the war is to place the nation in peril. None of them supported the insanity of Tom Delay and his gang in the Terry Schiavo case."


And none of them go on Fox News and knock their own party. And none of them are getting such vocal support from the GOP, a major turnoff, I'm sure.

It should be noted that regardless of who Bill Clinton is campaigning for now, he (and Hilary) have already made clear they will support the primary winner, even if it's Lamont. And that probably is true for most Democratic senators. I guess the answer to your question "Why is almost the entire Democratic establishment for Lieberman?" can be found in the word "establishment".

"Intellectual acrobats" indeed. This post was a calistenic excersize is stating "Lieberman and his Democratic constituents disagree on this issue, unlike the other 28 senators." No, Lieberman "didn't recant", as Kagen put it. But lots of American citizens did, and there's the rub.
 
David, I know this isn't exactly the right site for these comments, but I ask you to exert yourself for a few seconds to to counter-instinctively empathize with the rank-and-file Democratic Party partisan mindset as I explain it to you.

After two and a half years of witnessing their pathetic leaders cringe in abject terror as the Bush administration's increasingly disastrous foreign policies dragged our country deeper into the mire, and gawking in slack-jawed disbelief as these spineless Washington drones failed spectacularly to articulate anything close to a coherent, alternative plan of action in the face of Iraq's descent into murderous internecine chaos, Democrats across the country received a huge boost of morale when John Murtha finally - and to our minds, courageously - stepped out in November of 2005 to propose a change of direction.

Now, of course, not all Democrats agreed with Murtha. And some said so. But staking out a respectful contrary position was not enough for Holy Joe.

Instead he attacked his party in the Wall Street Journal editorial pages - one of the chief propaganda organs of our political enemies - and also on the floor of the Senate.

He argued that it was wrong to engage in any speech that tended to "undermine the credibility" of the President. Since the President's credibility is on the line with every statement he makes, Joe's dictum logically entailed that Bush statements on Iraq must be given a free pass for the duration.

He advocated the formation of a bipartisan "war cabinet" that would give a Democratic imprimatur to Bush administration policies.

He was widely seen as angling to join the Bush administration as a replacement to Donald Rumsfeld.

So Joe didn't just articulate a constructive, hawkish Democratic alternative while striving to support and strengthen his party politically. He mounted an aggressive counteroffensive to completely cut the legs out from under the majority of his own party, and worked not just to defend his own view on Iraq, but to strengthen the political position of the President. He didn't just take a postion opposed to Murtha - he tried to kneecap him. He went Zell Miller on us.

Add to this that not only did Lieberman support the war, and then continue to support the war. But as events turned for the worse he did not even moderate his position and leaven it with realism, but pursued a path of increasingly obstinate, dense and shrill support, oblivious to the course of events unfolding in Iraq He seemed pridefully desperate to hold on to his original position, and to scorn, belittle and weaken his critics within his own party.

This was the last straw. It was clear to many of us Democrats that this is a man who, in his heart, now wanted to be a Republican, and he had chosen for himself the role of "Bush's favorite Democrat". After hanging out too long in Republican circles, he had clearly gone native. The kiss from Bush was only the final public sign of his inward betrayal.

So now he'll get his wish.
 
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
 
Ed, I think OxBlog aims higher than undergarment references, and I know that you are quite capable of serious thinking.

Dan, how charming of you to suggest that I ought to "exert myself for a few seconds" in order to empathize with the Democratic partisan activists. Why do liberals so often imply that they have a monopoly on the ability to empathize? If so, why do they find it so hard to empathize with 50.1% of American voters?

Anyhow, I believe I may have accidentally empathized before you suggested it. As my post observed, Lieberman "refuses to be anti-Bush" so much so that Democrats don't feel sure he's on their side and not Bush's.

In a nutshell, conveys most of the substance of your lengthy and impassioned, uh, observations. (Perhaps minus the excessive bit about Lieberman kneecapping his own party.)

Anyhow, Dan, you are more than welcome to post your thoughts on this site. A good argument requires two sides.

(But if you like, you may continue to consider yourself unwelcome and marginalized, since that seems to motivate you!)
 
"Why do liberals so often imply that they have a monopoly on the ability to empathize? If so, why do they find it so hard to empathize with 50.1% of American voters?"

David A., this strikes me as a non-sequitor. Dan K. asked you to put yourself inside the mindset of the democratic rank-and-file (as he sees it) to better understand what they.. I guess "we"... have soured on Lieberman.

Heck, my views on what to do now about the war are probably closer to Lieberman's than Lamont's--but I find myself rooting for the challenger for broadly similar reasons. I'm sick of Lieberman's sanctimonious positioning of himself as "bipartisan" when what that seems to mean has more to do with reinforcing the Republican message on some of the issues where that message is least sustainable, whether Schaivo or Social Security.

The irony is that plenty of more self-consciously "doctrinaire" Senators, such as Ted Kennedy, have a more substantial bipartisan legislative record than Lieberman.
 
The funny thing is that if Lieberman had never suggested that he would run as an independent if he lost the primary, he would probably not be in serious danger of losing the primary. It's a pretty bad misstep to ask that the party-focused voters in a primary vote for you while at the same time indicating that you don't give a damn what they think, you're running anyway, with or without the party. Especially when you're already in trouble for a perceived lack of party loyalty (which, it seems to me, is one of the big reasons this whole thing is happening. Unpopular war plus politician seen as decrying/condemning/dismissing/etc the views of many in his own party equals primary troubles).

When the post-mortems get written, the independent run announcement will be recognized as the tipping point. And if you've been paying attention, the "story" has been slowly sliding towards an emphasis on how Lieberman will be losing most if not all establishment support should he run as an independent after losing to Lamont. It's no mystery what's happening: everyone is moving into positions to force Joe out of the independent run.

If I had to make a bet right now, I would bet on Senator Ned Lamont. The question then is, whither Joe? Will he become SecDef? Will he exit politics? Will we just not have Joe Liberman to kick around anymore? Should be interesting!
 
Ned will be the next Senator from Connecticut. He will lose the nomination for the reasons mentioned above - siding with the dissent = treason crowd against his party, etc. Another factor is that he is invisible in Connecticut. Lieberman has become a total Washington insider and has lost touch with the Connecticut roots. That's why his support has eroded even among moderates and conservative Democrats.

And I predict Joe will NOT run as an independent. All of the Washington Democratic establishment, which considers him a good friend, will convince him to retire rather than ruin the party's chance to take back Congress. Lieberman is no more or less pure of motive than any other politician. He's just lost his political touch and his connection with the folks that vote for him.
 
Dan, how charming of you to suggest that I ought to "exert myself for a few seconds" in order to empathize with the Democratic partisan activists. Why do liberals so often imply that they have a monopoly on the ability to empathize? If so, why do they find it so hard to empathize with 50.1% of American voters?

I'm not sure where this comes from. I don't for a second think that only "liberals" have the capacity to empathize. What I meant to suggest, David, is that given your own political leanings, you personally might find it difficult to empathize with and understand the sentiments of strongly partisan Democrats, or recognize the things that push their buttons.

I know that I personally am tone deaf to many of the notes that set off many Republicans and conservatives. I guess intimations of a lack of empathy in some area is one of them.

Your assessment that the reason for the rejection of Lieberman was his refusal to be sufficiently anti-Bush is fair enough. I would put it just a bit more strongly, though. Not only did he refuse to be anti-Bush; he actually chose to be pro-Bush.

But it is not just Bush. Democrats who strongly oppose Lieberman are not simply fixated on the person of Bush. They passionately reject a certain broad approach to US foreign policy of which Bush is only one - though the most preeminent - representative. They see Lieberman as a devotee of that same foreign policy. The Lieberman case is worse than Hillary's. Many Democrats see Hillary as an opportunist striking a pose. But Joe seems to be a true believer.

And I don't believe my comments about Lieberman kneecapping Murtha were excessive. I believe that is precisely what he set out to do - aggressively cut Murtha's legs out from under him almost immediately after Murtha had come to forward with his call for a change of course.

I also agree with m. that Lieberman's threat to run as an independent was a real killer for him. For a guy who had a vital need to convince party loyalists that he was truly one of them, the decision to openly declare his contempt for their judgment, and to attempt to blackmail them into voting for him, was startling. It almost looks like a political version of "suicide by cop."

I actually don't enjoy feeling unwelcome and marginalized. I am somewhat argumentative. But I'm a Democrat, and like many of my breed usually prefer arguing with other Democrats!
 
"The funny thing is that if Lieberman had never suggested that he would run as an independent if he lost the primary, he would probably not be in serious danger of losing the primary."

Oh, this one is just too much fun. The reason Lieberman has threatened to run as an independent is that he *is* threatened.

The Liebermonger is history on Tuesday, only to be resurrected as the SecDef after daffy Donald finally retires.
 
What qualifications does he have the be secdef.
 
As a Connecticut resident, I intend to vote for Lieberman as an independent in the fall, and I expect he will win as an independent. I don't think Lamont will pick up many more votes in the general than he gets in the primary. About 45% of the states's voters are independents who do not vote in the primary, and not many Democrats are going to bother to vote in an August 8 primary (most of my neighbors are away on vacation), just the I-Hate-Bush radical fringe. That leaves a huge chunk of moderate, centrist voters who like Joe and will vote for him in November.

Note, too, that Lieberman has barely attacked Lamont. That will change. Lamont is a weak vessel for the radical left - contrary to popular impression, he is not a self-made internet millionaire - rather, he is the scion of one of the most blue-blooded, aristocratic families in America. His grandfather was JP Morgan's partner. The Lamont library (the main undergraduate library) at Harvard was named after the family. Ned Lamont is notable because he took a large family fortune and made it bigger instead of pissing it away. What a claim to fame! Lieberman never took the gloves off, and let Lamont define the race as being about Bush. Lieberman won't let that happen again.
 
Sorry David, heat of the moment type of thing. Deleted it and improved it!

Kervick &c.,

stop getting your selves worked up about a future loss.

In Nov, should JL run as an Indy he'll win the election handily.

the liberal blogosphere will instead of figuring out why they lost (and never do), they will spin a loss into a win. ("He got 40% of the vote, the people spoke" is an excuse I've already heard)
 
It would also seem that Lieberman is a victim of the way the media work. For a Democrat to criticize a Republican is a dog bites man story. For a Democrat to criticize his party is a man bites dog story. Given that, Democratic criticism of the Republicans, unless it is particularly shrill, a la Joe Biden, is likely to be ignored by the MSM while any Democratic criticism of the Democratic Party would get trumpeted full blast. The result is that everyone knows about Lieberman's criticism of Democratic calls for withdrawal, while one would have to learn about his criticism of Bush's mismanagement of the war from some source whose agenda is furthered by its dissemination, a category which would exclude Democratic doves (who want to portray Lieberman as Bush-lite) and Republicans (who want to deny any criticism of Bush), leaving only Democratic hawks, which aren't numerous enough.

What Lieberman needs to do is start talking about the twin threat to a decent outcome in Iraq: Democratic calls for withdrawal and the administration's insistence on sticking to failed strategy. The latter is slightly less of a threat because it at least leaves open the possibility to continue with a different strategy later, although if things deteriorate, the value of that may evaporate.
 
"...almost the entire Democratic establishment for Lieberman and against Ned Lamont?"

Strange that you would bring this up and not see it as a pure political calculation. If you back Lamont and Lieberman wins, you now have a relatively senior senator that you have pissed off. If you back Lieberman and Lamont wins, you have a freshman senator who will have to kiss everybody's ass anyway. Pure politics.
 
So Lieberman will win in a run as an independant?

He can't win a primary with the entire democratic establishment supporting him, but he'll win in a general election with the entire democratic establishment campaigning against him?

In a state whose majority is made up of democrats?

That's certainly some creative reasoning!
 
aside from all the excellent reasons already mentioned to oppose, in fact, despise Senator Lieberman, let's not forget that this Republican in Democratic clothing gave the Republicans cover in the Clinton impeachment scandal (scandal that there was an attempt to entrap and remove Clinton). His sanctimonious posturing has never been bearable. The war position was just icing on the cake.
 
"So Lieberman will win in a run as an independant?

"He can't win a primary with the entire democratic establishment supporting him, but he'll win in a general election with the entire democratic establishment campaigning against him?

"In a state whose majority is made up of democrats?"


Um, yeah.

This same Democratic majority has had no problem voting in Republican governors.

I guess you don't realise (and I don't blame you, because this has been pushed into the background) that the Republican candidate's unpopularity is second only to Katherine Harris. In fact, the GOP has quietly asked him to step down - seems he has a lil' ol' gambling addcition - and he's refused. Connecticut has Repubs of a more moderate stripe, and they appreciate Lieberman for his service and his more centrist philosophy. If the Democrats mantra in the general election is going to be "A vote for Lamont is a vote against Lieberman", the Republicans are going to be "A vote for the Republican candidate is a vote for Lamont." [Sorry, can't remember the Republican's name... which is another one of his problems.]
 

In Nov, should JL run as an Indy he'll win the election handily.


Nonsense. JL has all the advantages now in terms of the Democratic machine backing him, the high level Democratic functionaries backing him up everything. When that fades, he's going to fall even further.

POinting to a 2 month old poll showing he might win in a 3-way is irrelevant. Lamont's support has changed dramatically since then, and there is little reason to assume that he might not get more support from the Dem community.

As while, CT voters are very anti-Bush and anti-Iraq war. In a 3-way, I think JL would loose, his best chance is tomorrow.
 

That leaves a huge chunk of moderate, centrist voters who like Joe and will vote for him in November.


Let me point out the obvious once again. George Bush has a net -35% rating in CT. The war is quite unpopular in CT. The Democratic machine will switch allegiances largely. No more visits by Bill Clinton to JL.

Lieberman's best chance of winning is NOW.


Note, too, that Lieberman has barely attacked Lamont.


Again. nonsense. Lieberman has run a mediocre campaign, but he has attacked Lamont. Certainly far more vigorously than he ever attacked Dick Cheney in 2000.


Lamont is a weak vessel for the radical left - contrary to popular impression, he is not a self-made internet millionaire -


He may not be a self-made millionarire, but he does have a reasonable record as a business and the fact that he is not a vessel for the radical left is precisely why he can appeal to people who are tired of JL's brownnosing of Bush.


Ned Lamont is notable because he took a large family fortune and made it bigger instead of pissing it away. What a claim to fame!


Well, it worked for W, and Steve Forbes too, come to think ot it.
 

If you back Lamont and Lieberman wins, you now have a relatively senior senator that you have pissed off. If you back Lieberman and Lamont wins, you have a freshman senator who will have to kiss everybody's ass anyway. Pure politics.


Unlike JL, who focuses on kissing Bush's ass ?

Anyway, the thing that astonished me was JL's arrogance when he was first challenged. He seemed to have a fundamental misunderstanding of how democracy works, and seemed to think the Senate seat was his by divine right.
 
Space Ghost,

In a few days, JL cut his defecit in half. Ergo, the support for NL has changed dramatically.

From what I have read, people are only expecting the more liberal wing of the Connecticut Dem Party to turn out.

JL has the support of the indies in CT (who make up about 70 of the CT electorate) and moderates, GOP and Dems. That leaves for NL...not much.
 

What Lieberman needs to do is start talking about the twin threat to a decent outcome in Iraq: Democratic calls for withdrawal and the administration's insistence on sticking to failed strategy. The latter is slightly less of a threat because it at least leaves open the possibility to continue with a different strategy later, although if things deteriorate, the value of that may evaporate.


Well, yes. A few democrats calling for a timeline for withdrawal, in a country where Republicans control the White House and Congress is so obviously and clearly more of a "threat" to Iraq policy than an administration that has controlled IRaq since day one, and has had essentially everything it desired legislatively on that topic from Congress -- and has failed miserably.

Its so bleeding obvious, ennit, which represents such a great threat to the future of Iraq.
 

In a few days, JL cut his defecit in half. Ergo, the support for NL has changed dramatically.



I would suggest looking at the longer term trend, which shows NL going up from barely 20-25% support to a possible majority at this point. YOu are indeed correct that the support for NL has changed dramatically although not in the way you cite. (I would suggest referring to Mystery Pollsters blog on this matter for the longer term trends).


JL has the support of the indies in CT (who make up about 70 of the CT electorate) and moderates, GOP and Dems. That leaves for NL...not much.


1) JL is way out of line with CT's -35 % approval rating for Bush
2) JL is way out of line th CT voters feelings on the war. around -20% at least n

Indies in CT give Bush about a -51% disapproval rating, and disagree with JL on the war (-21%)

JL"s best chance is tomorrow, and I actually think the race is closer than the Q polls indicate, becasuse of JL's support by the Dem machine, and his GOTV operation.

But if he loses, watch the Dem machine and celebrity appearances fade away.
 
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