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August 09, 2006



With a 90% Democrat voting record, I'm not sure how much of a centrist Lieberman really is. I'm even less convinced by the charge that he has "waffled" in this alleged centrism. The war in Iraq may not have been the only issue in the campaign, but it was the biggest, and on that issue Lieberman hasn't budged an inch. Many other Democrats have indeed waffled, voting for the war in '02 but carping about it now, and not one paid a political price in this year's primaries. If anything, Lieberman got in trouble for *not* waffling; had he done so, he'd have done fine.

However one would describe Lieberman's political views ("center-left" seems about right to me), I don't think it's fair to say he "equates" his semi-moderate views with civility. I think he's a very civil and decent person, on the one hand, and holds the views that he holds, on the other. I'm not aware of any evidence that he intentionally stakes out positions on the issues based on any misplaced sense of decency (e.g., thinking that Policy A is the better one for the country but advocating a more moderate B instead in the name of "civility"). To the extent that his semi-moderate views and his civility correlate at all, the causal relationship is the other way around: his civility makes him a lot more friends across the aisle, and in so doing, also makes his generally liberal views appear more moderate than they are. I don't think we'll have that problem with Lamont.


X, this is from Lieberman's speech last night, and I see the confusion here:

I expect that my opponent will continue to do in the general election what he has done in the primary … partisan polarizing instead of talking about how we can solve people's problems, insults instead of ideas. In other words, more of the same old partisan politics that has assailed Washington today.

I will continue to offer Connecticut a different path forward. I went into public service to find solutions, not to point fingers. To unite, not to divide. To lift up, not to tear down. To make my community and country a better place to live and work.

People …and not just the Democrats are angry at the direction of this country - so am I. People are fed up with the petty partisanship and angry vitriol in Washington.


I'd just like to add, the Lamont win will probably have certain other political and policy effects. One in particular -- and I'll admit, I'm biased against the typical blog position here -- is net neutrality. Interesting dKos diary about how Dems reacted to Carter's upset, and how they might do the same, here.

Plus, Lamont has mostly gotten a pass on the Net Neutrality issue from his supporters -- all of them net neutrality backers, but as a cable exec, his views on the issue don't really line up well with his. That either means the possibility of dissent on the Lamont side, or net neutrality could get chucked overboard.


Hugo, I don't mean to derail the thread, but I really don't understand this sentence:

As a registered Democrat and a Christian evangelical, I welcomed Joe Lieberman's willingness to talk about his deep and profound religious faith. It was vitally important that we have national figures who are unabashedly religious -- and not all Republican conservatives.

Because there's currently a glut of atheists holding office? Because it's better to have a devout Wiccan in politics than an agnostic?

While I understand the need for religious progressives to make themselves heard so as to show that conservatives do not "own" religion, I think a statement like this ignores the systematic bias against non-religious people in politics, and how "willingness to talk about religion" in a campaign context is different from the same willingness in other contexts.


It's not zero-sum, Jeff. We need more religious progressives whose faith is serious and whose left-wing credentials are equally first-rate. That doesn't mean it wouldn't be nice if those who were atheists, or Wiccans, could also be open about their faith -- or lack thereof.

Col Steve

Lieberman confused personal decency with waffling centrism - Hugo, I believe you are perpetuating the perception Lamont wanted voters to have.

Lamont: I tell them, Connecticut is a progressive state. You're not losing a Senator, you're gaining a Democrat.

But, as XRLQ pointed out and looking at other indicators of Lieberman's voting record:

NAACP: 85 percent in 2005
NARAL Pro-Choice America: 75 percent in 2005
National Education Association: 88 percent in 2003-2004
American Civil Liberties Union: 83 percent in 2003-2004
American Conservative Union: 8 percent in 2005

and Liberman's own words

"That’s something that separates me from my opponent – I don’t hate Republicans. I know that some times the best way to get things done in the Senate for my constituents is through bipartisan cooperation.

That doesn’t make me a bad Democrat. It makes me a better Senator.

But don’t take my word for it. Ask the state AFL-CIO, NARAL, Planned Parenthood, the League of Conservation Voters, the Human Rights Campaign, and more than a dozen other leading progressive organizations that are standing by me in this primary, because I have stood by them in the Senate."

If you look at Lamont's stand on issues, rarely (except for Iraq) does he contrast with Lieberman's position - usually, Lamont is taking a shot at the Bush administration and reinforcing the point how cozy Joe is with the President.

For example, the vote on Defense of Marriage Act is one of the rare cases he cites he would have voted different than Lieberman. However, even Paul Wellstone - surely not a waffling centrist - voted Yes along with Lieberman.

Lamont is quick to point out he's mad about Congressional "pork" and then fault Lieberman for how CT is only 49 out of 50 in getting Federal dollars (and his web site is pretty quiet about saving the Groton Sub base which even DoD thinks can be closed even though Lieberman held saving the base up as a key indicator of his effectiveness)

Lamont may be *more* progressive than Lieberman, but the difference is really one issue and one person deep..


Col Steve: But not all votes carry equal importance. For instance: Voting against Alito's confirmation was an empty gesture after voting for cloture.

Col Steve

tpjim - Exactly. One of Lamont's few other instances of "I'd vote different than Lieberman" was the Alito confirmation (not cloture) vote. Given the weak Republican candidate, the winner of the Democratic primary (pre-Lieberman running as an indie) would more than likely win the seat. So, if there really was so much difference between the two democrats, why did almost all major "progressive" interest groups back Lieberman, even when Lamont demonstrated a strong candidacy?


Col Steve:

One of Lamont's few other instances of "I'd vote different than Lieberman" was the Alito confirmation (not cloture) vote.

Did you really mean to say this? Lieberman voted for cloture, then against confirmation. Lamont is also on the record against confirmation. I can't find an unambiguous statement out of his mouth about cloture, it is true; the best I can find is "I would have fought Alito's confirmation", and some third-person reports that said he was against cloture.

In any case, you suggest that Lieberman's voting record leaves little room for improvement. This leaves out his tepid 64% lifetime rating from the ACLU. But in any case, the voters are entitled to ask for improvement, even a little of it. And they're also entitled to take Lieberman's other public actions (besides voting) into account: his disdain for habeas corpus in the Moussaoui affair; his role as a co-founder of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (a sort of HUAC of the American campus); his persistent public cluelessness on the war; his providing cover for conservative power grabs in the name of a spurious bipartisanship. It's this last, especially, that I think our host is referring to.

If the argument is "by demanding more, the Democrats will end up with nothing", then Lieberman is only increasing the chances of this happening with his independent campaign.


I'm with Jeff. Saying there need to be more out religious politicians in US politics is rather like saying that you feel there need to be more wealthy white male policitians. Perhaps more progressive candidates need to show they're religious -- or perhaps things should be looked at again so that being religious is no longer a prereq for getting ahead in politics.

Col Steve

tpjim - you are correct. My point was Lamont (and I apologize I forgot the site) stressed the opposition to Alito confirmation, but didn't acknowledge Lieberman voted against the nomination - giving the impression Lieberman supported Alito. As you note, the more important vote was on ending the filibuster which Lieberman, as part of the "14," vote for. My sentence was not clear on that distinction so thanks for "tightening my shot group."

Sure, democratic voters could opt for a little more. My original point was Hugo's use of "waffling centrism" which conveys more than a little difference. Spurious bipartisanship is hard to measure. Are the democrats better or worse off for the "gang of 14" than if the republicans really tried the nuclear option?

It would be interesting if Lamont wins to see how he'll vote on items such as a supplemental funding bill for the military. The one sure way Congress could end significantly US participation in Iraq would be to vote down supplemental funding bills - which generally pass by almost unanimous consent.


My understanding is that Lieberman's voting record over the years, as measured by various different systems on various different issues, shows him to be a "middlingly" liberal for a Democrat--in other words, more liberal than half his fellow senatorial Democrats, and less liberal than the other half. He's consistently liberal on environmental issues in particular, an area where he's done some real good IMO.

His perception as a centrist/conservative is due to the fact that he tends to abandon his party and provide cover for conservatives on high profile issues. This is, from my perspective, why he needs to go--rather than oppose Republican shenanigans and point out their folly he provides political and intellectual cover, while marginalizing those in his own party who'd like to offer serious opposition. It's not even his support for the predictably disastrous Iraq war that bugs me--it's his apparent view that supporting the war also means providing political cover for the BUsh administration of Abu Ghraib. He's a political disaster for his party for largely self-serving reasons, which is why he needed to go.

I would also add that civility may be a virtue, but it's been defined in contemporary political disocurse in too broad a way. If it's uncivil to point out that George Bush is historically bad at his job, I don't think I'm capable of civility.


Hugo, I agree that Lieberman is less of a "partisan" in the strictest sense of the term, i.e., he doesn't hate Republicans or refuse to work with them on issues he believes in solely because they are Republicans. That's a strange thing to hold against the guy, though. It sounds like you are confusing petty partisanship, or lack thereof, with adherence to principle vs. confused centrism on the issues. Lieberman's not confused on the issues at all, nor is he anywhere near the "center" of anything except the Democratic Party itself. His fatal flaw is that he's more interested in advancing the causes he believes in than he is in senseless partisan sniping.


X, but you're still using the word "partisan" negatively, the way Lieberman uses it negatively. I'm with Tom DeLay here -- partisanship, when it involves actively working with others who share your beliefs to move the nation closer to your vision of justice -- is a good thing. Partisanship is about conviction, though intense convictions can be accompanied by courtesy towards one's opponents. Lieberman rightly rejects nastiness, but in rejecting partisanship as well, he's throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.

I'm not against political parties. If there were a "Christian Socialist Green" party in this country, I'd be a standard-bearer (or at least a footsoldier). Until then, I'm a reluctant Democrat, not because I dislike parties but because the Democratic Party is such a confused mishmash of positions that it's hard to generate much enthusiasm.


I'm using "partisanship" to mean, well, partisanship. If your principles take a back seat to the interests of your political party, then you are a partisan. If you've chosen your party because it comes closer than the other to matching your principles, and remain more loyal to your principles than to whichever political party you've chosen to identify with, then you're not. If "actively working with others who share your beliefs to move the nation closer to your vision of justice" were a political party, Lieberman would be the most "partisan" Democrat on Capitol Hill.


I commend you for offering a rationale and concise evaluation of the results of this primary race. It seems too many people are wasting time focusing on negativity (such as whether Lieberman should be making an Independent run at all) rather than looking at the positive side of the results.

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