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Late Nite FDL: Sometimes They Get One Right

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I have been anxiously awaiting somebody to write this piece in the traditional media.  All ye scribes sucking thy narratives out of Joe Lieberman’s fax machines, consider this an official corrective. If you won’t listen to dirty liberal bloggers, listen to Chuck Todd writing in the National Journal, because it matches up very well with what things look like here on the ground in Connecticut:

First and foremost, Lieberman’s problems aren’t all about Iraq.

His unwavering support for President Bush on Iraq was simply the tipping point. If this was just about Iraq, then many of the rank-and-file Democratic activists who are supporting Lamont would be biting their tongues on Iraq and sticking with Lieberman. The "Iraq" in this equation has been oversimplified.

Lieberman has been living on the edge with the party’s base for some time, beginning with his "sermon on the mount" critique of former President Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky mess. During the 2000 campaign, there were two moments many Democrats won’t ever forget involving Lieberman: (1) his overly nice-guy approach toward Dick Cheney in the vice presidential debate; and (2) when he went against Al Gore‘s legal team in regards to the rules involving military ballots.

Absolutely.  There were plenty of Senators who voted for the war in Iraq who get little ink spilled about them in the blogosphere.  Lieberman has consistently managed  to consolidate many odious qualities in one repellant package.   Almost every day he pinned a sign on his back saying "kick me."  He shouldn’t be surprised at this point that a few have taken him up on the invitation.

Individually, these moments were painted positively by the press, and they added to Lieberman’s reputation as a different kind of politician.

But, taken in total, these deviations from the party paint a picture of Lieberman as a "me-first" politician to the extreme. (I say "extreme" because all politicians are "me-first" to a point.) In short, many Democrats believe Lieberman has built his national reputation by contrasting himself in a positive light against rank-and-file party members. It’s not dissimilar to what some conservatives have charged Rhode Island Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee with doing over the years. It’s one thing to be a conservative Democrat; it’s another thing to enhance that image by trashing parts of the party to which you purport to belong.

I’m not sure the comparison holds up because Chafee knuckles under to the party when it really matters and his rebellion is largely symbolic, whereas Lieberman does real damage.  But Chuck’s on a roll so we’ll let it slide:

Frankly, Lieberman’s decision to prepare a backup plan may undermine his own cause in the primary. Think about Lamont’s main grievance against Lieberman: that the incumbent is not a real Democrat. By prepping an indepedent run, Lieberman is proving Lamont’s charge true. What message is Lieberman sending other than "When the going gets tough, the tough get going right out of the Democratic Party"? Remember Gore’s critique of Bill Bradley in the 2000 Democratic primary that the former New Jersey senator didn’t "stay and fight"? The same charge certainly applies here.

Yes, Holy Joe’s political tin ear does indeed seem to be consistently evoking the Starland Vocal Band’s Greatest Hits

Lieberman appears to be making strategic decisions out of anger. He’s clearly irked that he’s become the liberal wing’s whipping boy. Considering some of the venom that’s being spewed at him, he can get sympathy on a personal level. But Lieberman has prided himself on not being an angry pol, and that he is somehow different from "regular" politicians.

"Considering some of the venom that’s being spewed at him?"  I’m not quite sure that makes him sympathetic, considering most of it is coming from people he’s openly called traitors.  It probably makes Lanny Davis weep, but mostly it seems to induce sympathy from folks who don’t like what this could portend for themselves.  What a ruckus this is causing in the entitlement club.

But the major point — Lieberman and his people are making decisions out of anger — is absolutely valid.  They’re livid and making stupid, hot-headed decisions.  Like that party name, "Connecticut for Lieberman."  Why didn’t they just call it the "kiss my ring" party?   Might as well.

Regionally, Lieberman losing the primary but running as an independent probably costs the Democrats at least one of their three targeted Connecticut House seats. All of those Republicans (Reps. Rob Simmons, Christopher Shays and Nancy Johnson) will endorse Lieberman in order to paint themselves as moderates. It might work. At a minimum, the Senate race in the fall is a major distraction in those House races.

Absolutely.  Not enough has been made of this.  Anyone who thinks it imperative that the Democrats retake the house this fall should be hurling much appropriate venom Lieberman’s way, because he certainly deserves it.  He’s peeing in the pool for everyone, and cares not one little bit.

It’s hard to find much news that’s positive for the Democratic Party or Lieberman in this situation. He brought this on himself, and that’s what he’s never understood. He had plenty of opportunities to fix this with local Democrats but chose not to. Who knows, Democrats might get lucky with Lieberman winning big in the primary, and this whole story is swept under the rug. But given Lieberman’s moves, it’s apparent that won’t happen. The question now is just how much collateral damage this campaign is going to cause the party.

I’ve been talking to a few people who know Lieberman about this constitutional inability to think that the campaign against him isn’t a plot of some kind.  His insistance that Maura in Stamford was a "plant" being a case in point.  The idea that Ned Lamont and Tom Swan sat down, plotted this whole thing out and put Maura up to it is patently absurd; if you knew the people involved, you’d quickly realize Ned would rather sing karaoke.

And it’s doubly ridiculous once you meet the grassroots Connecticut folks who are living for this stuff right now.  The Lamont people could not stop them if they tried.  Joe is fundamentally unable to perceive that he has a "Connecticut problem," or that those opposing him are not all part of some top-down, authoritarian master plan (he really has been hanging out with Republicans too long).  But his inability to gauge where this is coming from also means he is rather powerless to effectively counter it.  

He’s fully capable of raising and spending boatloads of cash, which he is certainly doing, engaging in smear tactics and pulling in the crony pack to back him up.  Whether it will be enough, or whether they will all go down with him remains to be seen.

It’s still anybody’s game. 

(graphic by Darkblack) 

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Firedoglake.com. Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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