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Will Bill Clinton Stump for Akaka?

Or will he only place his foot on the scale in favor of conservative, pro-war incumbent Democrats who blamed and shamed him during the Republicans’ impeachment overreach?

The Connecticut Democratic primary is getting a lot of attention because the strong challenger, Ned Lamont, actually represents a grassroots movement of local Democrats fed up with the clubby insiderism of disloyal Democratic politicians like Joe Lieberman, who never passed up an invitation to cuddle with Sean Hannity on the radio until he faced this primary threat.

Through the years, Lieberman has routinely bashed and undercut Democrats, and he famously wrote in the Wall Street Journal that criticism of the president was inappropriate during a time of war (though no war has ever been declared in Iraq).

But in Hawaii, you may not have heard that the situation is reversed: longtime progressive lion Daniel Akaka faces a strong primary challenge from the more conservative Ed Case, and Akaka needs help. Polling on the race shows a real challenge to Akaka by Case. Akaka voted not guilty on impeachment, and unlike Joe Lieberman, he didn’t feel the need to be a scold before doing it. Can it be you have not heard much about this race because the establishment is more threatened by Lamont’s grassroots insurgency than Congressman Case’s clubby insiderist challenge? Perish the thought!

Who is Ed Case? Why, he’s a mini-Lieberman. Here’s what we can learn from the Honolulu Advertiser about Case’s support for the President’s stay the (collision) course policy in Iraq:

"I think we are collectively doing what we must be doing at this point given the reality of Iraq today," the congressman said. "Not what has been. Not what we wish might have been, but what is. That’s what it’s always been about for me, is reality. Not some fanciful wish list."


…The crucial vote on the war was in October 2002, and Akaka, along with U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye and U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, was in the minority as the Senate and House gave President Bush the authorization to use military force if necessary in Iraq. Case was not in Congress at the time but he has said, given what was known, that he would have voted to give the president a military option.


…With Iraq in turmoil and the success of the war and the occupation uncertain, Akaka wants the Bush administration to evaluate its foreign policy with the idea of withdrawing American troops as soon as possible.


…Case does not want to change course and believes troops can be withdrawn only after the new Iraqi government and security forces have contained the violence that threatens the country’s stability.


Case has also voted with Republicans on key tangents to the war, such as making money given to Iraq in the form of loans, the treatment of prisoners, the Patriot Act and withdrawal timetables.

Ed Case is also a lover of American torture at Guantanamo, acording to the Associated Press:

Democratic Rep. Ed Case said Sunday that the Guantanamo prison for terrorists was being run well and did not match allegations the detainees were being abused and tortured.


…’I think Gitmo is being operated well and operated in a way that is necessary to the safety and security of our country and in a way that is humane under the circumstances,’ Case said, using the prison’s nickname. ‘The sum total of what I saw does not match the statements by Amnesty International nor by attorneys for some of the detainees.’


…Case said the prison had some trouble getting started as it was built from scratch in 2002, but that concerns about the camp had been addressed. He said the prisoners were given good food, health care, and access to lawyers. The interrogations were carefully monitored and the questioning was nowhere close to abusive, he added.


…Case said the prison was necessary and believed those who advocate shutting it down are making a ‘naive statement born of ignorance.’

So, if Ed Case is a mini-Lieberman, Akaka seriously deserves local progressive grassroots support, the same way Ned Lamont, the Democratic primary challenger in Connecticut does.

Which brings me to my opening question: will Bill Clinton stump for his loyal, good friend, the incumbent Senator Daniel Akaka? Or is he only interested in stumping for Lieberman, against the grassroots of the party, in the service of Hillary Clinton’s presidential ambitions?

It’s no secret Hillary Clinton is disliked by the netroots. The reasons are her willingness to triangulate against the base on issues like war in Iraq and on silly, symbolic "moral" issues like violence in video games. How Liebermanesque! While Hillary has said she will support the Connecticut nominee coming out of the August 8 primary, she has nevertheless dispatched her husband to stump for Joe.

In fact, her positioning in the party strategically tracks Lieberman’s. Fighting to overcome the image as a crazed liberal pinned on her by right wingers like Rupert Murdoch, Hillary has been attending fundraisers for her benefit by. . . Rupert Murdoch, of all people, and echoing Republican talking points with alarming alacrity. If Lieberman falls, her long cultivated presidential campaign position wthin the party is weakened.

In the wake of Bill Clinton’s involvement in the Connecticut race, a Lieberman win in August will now be seen as a win for the old line Democratic establishment, best represented by Hillary Clinton and her army of DC pollsters and consultants, against the grassroots and netroots. The DC Democrats are thus making common cause against the majority of Americans, and the overwhelming majority of Democrats, who favor withdrawal from Iraq. Yes, that’s right: the Democratic DC establishment is apparently now taking sides against the base of the party in favor of President Bush’s war policies. Is that why Bill and Poppy have become such good buddies? On the other hand, if Bill Clinton will stump for Akaka, then maybe the Clintons are not openly fighting against the party’s rank and file. Maybe.

As strong progressives and as friends of the grassroots, John Kerry and Russ Feingold recently co-authored an editorial in the Honolulu Advertiser in support of Akaka and his positions on Iraq. If you agree with them, volunteer for Akaka: he deserves your active support starting right now, leading up to the September primary. Contact the campaign. Get involved. Then, invite the Big Dog to join you. His response may tell us just a little more about how willing Hillary Clinton is to undercut the party’s loyal base of voters.

(Cross posted at the Huffington Post.) 

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