The Locals Love Their Ned
Nice. From the Connecticut Journal Inquirer:
Last Friday, some of us at the JI spent 90 minutes with Ned Lamont, a former Democratic selectman from Greenwich, who is challenging Joe Lieberman for the Democratic Senate nomination this year. Lamont is for real. Believe it. But he’s not running against Lieberman so much as he is running for the Republic – for the proposition that we retain our citizenship and adhere to the Bill of Rights, even if bad guys attack us.
Of course, Joe Lieberman is to Connecticut politics what Toyota is to the auto industry. He has rolled along, flawless, unperturbed, and inviolate for so long that it is hard to imagine that he could ever really be challenged.
And yet something is happening.
There is a rumbling out there, and Lieberman himself hears it. Indeed, he has become uncharacteristically petulant and defensive.
And I think the reason for the rumble and the senator’s ire is the same: Lieberman cannot make sense of his own defense of U.S. government policy in Iraq.
Joe Lieberman keeps saying that his position has been misrepresented and he has been misquoted by his critics. But I have combed the coverage of the campaign, thus far, and cannot find a single example of his views being distorted or his quotes taken out of context. As I read him, what Lieberman has said, all along, is that we should accept this war and what our president tells us. Suspend citizenship. Ask the questions when the war is over.
And that is what gives Lamont his issue.
Democrats in Connecticut hate the war in Iraq. It is the one overriding issue of 2006.
They are not about to trust George Bush to tell them when the existential war on terror is over and we can have our rights to free speech and assembly back. They don’t want to go to the polls in November and choose among two pro-war Senate candidates.
What about Lamont? What is he like? He is not a polished politician at all, but a citizen who, like many of us, came of age during one misbegotten war and has been called to politics by another. He’s not a part of the office-seeking class. He’s part of a peace movement.
Lamont is not a one-issue candidate. He scores Lieberman for closeness to Bush generally, for his lack of leadership on health insurance, and for his distance from everyday Connecticut.
Lamont is also not merely a vessel for anti-Bush and anti-Lieberman feelings. He is smart as hell, personable, and decent. He’s better informed on history and current policy questions than most Senate nominees, or for that matter most sitting senators. He’s in it to win. He also knows he is an amateur and that heavy guns will be aimed his way before it is over. I think he will be shocked nonetheless. But I also think he will grow as a candidate and wage an aggressive campaign on a range of issues. And I think he will have enough money to compete: He will spend as much of his own money as he needs to and he will become a hero to the anti-war bloggers.
Still, the war got Lamont into this. And if he wins, the war will be the reason. Whatever his fate, bless him for offering voters a choice.
Lamont’s secret weapon is not his personal wealth. That helps. But his greatest asset is a public philosophy. He believes in constitutional democracy. He believes in limited government and popular sovereignty. Even in wartime, the power of government must be checked; even in wartime the president is not a law unto himself; even in wartime the people deserve to be informed by the free exchange of ideas. Even in wartime, the citizens may seek to change the government.
The local press seems to get more and more positive about Lamont every day, even as they grow more tired of Holy Joe, the sense of entitlement that makes him touchy when challenged and the endless warmongering he has done with the power Connecticut voters have given him. More press coverage can only benefit Lamont; when people meet him they like him and are extremely impressed with his intelligence, his sincerity and his integrity.
(graphic via Howie Klein)