Thursday, July 13, 2006

Out of State, Out of Minds

Of all the absurdities about the misguided campaign to purge Joe Lieberman from the Democratic Party, the most striking of the moment is how many bloggers and activists from outside Connecticut authoratatively proclaim to know just what Democrats in the state believe.

For example, over the July 4th weekend, the Hartford Courant published an op-ed from a young operative and blogger named David Sirota, who told Connecticut Democrats like me that Lieberman didn't represent us. In fact, Sirota went a step further, and ludicrously argued that Lieberman was not just outside the mainstream of the Democratic Party, but of the American people.

Now what standing and credibility does Sirota have to make either claim? Well, he spent most of his limited adult life working in Washington -- including a stint with the lone socialist in Congress -- before moving to Montana. To my knowledge, the closest he's come to spending any meaningful time in Connecticut is interviewing for a job in Joe Lieberman's Senate office (with yours truly) and in his Presidential campaign in 2003.

Yes, that's right: the same guy who is viciously attacking Joe Lieberman as the great Satan of the Democratic Party actually sought not one but two jobs from the target of his hatred, and did so at time when all of the supposed sins that Sirota is attacking Lieberman for now were well known. The polite term for that would be chutzpah. Some one less charitable might call Sirota a fraud.

But in fairness to Sirota, he isn't just attacking Lieberman. He has accused Bill Clinton and Barack Obama of being bad Democrats as well. That alone should resolve any question about Sirota's qualifications for discerning what a mainstream Democrat is, be it in Connecticut or anywhere else.

Then there's the Harold Meyerson column in yesterday's Washington Post, which similarly argues that Lieberman is out of touch with his constituents, and not just on Iraq. As best I can tell from his online biography, Meyerson, an editor at the liberal American Prospect magazine, has never spent any meaningful time in Connecticut either -- he grew up in Los Angeles, and now splits his time between L.A. and D.C. So on what basis is he reaching his judgment about my fellow Nutmeggers?

Well, as best I can tell, his evidence consists of:
1) Lieberman has consistently supported the war in Iraq;
2) Lieberman doesn't have as liberal a voting record as other Northeastern Democrats;
3) beyond not reflecting the majority views of his constituents 100 percent of the time, Lieberman "leads causes many of them find repugnant"

Let's dispense with Iraq, and stipulate up front that the majority of Democrats in the state now think the war was wrong.

So what about the other two pieces of supporting evidence Meyerson cites?

On the comparison of voting records, let's first consider the source -- the liberal advocacy group Americans for Democratic Action. Since when did this once great but now obscure national interest group become the benchmark for the views of Connecticut Democrats?

More importantly, most independent long-term voting comparisons -- which are much more valid than any one-year, one-interest group measure -- show that Joe Lieberman's voting record is pretty close to that of his Connecticut colleague Chris Dodd. In fact, they have voted the same way about 90 percent of the time, and that would be even closer without Iraq as an issue. Is Meyerson now saying that Dodd is out of touch with his constituents?

(For more myth-busting evidence about Lieberman's voting record, check out this article from last year in the Manchester Journal Inquirer, in which American Prospect writer and progressive pundit Matthew Iglesias affirmed my point by concluding that Joe Lieberman is "a pretty orthodox Democrat.")

What's left, then, is Meyerson's contention that Lieberman leads causes "many" Connecticut Democrats find repugnant. And what examples does Meyerson cite? "Trade, Social Security, and other key issues."

Setting aside the loose use of the term "many," Meyerson presents no evidence to suggest that the majority of state Democrats, or even a large minority, are opposed to Lieberman's position for free trade -- which happens to be the same as Bill Clinton's, that other bad Democrat -- let alone that they find it repugnant. The reason for that just might be that Connecticut's economy is heavily driven by exports -- in fact, one out of every four jobs in the state is dependent on trade.

Then there's Social Security. Contrary to the lies that the Lieberman-haters continue to spread about his record on this issue, Joe Lieberman has voted against Social Security privatization every chance he could. So I would respectfully ask Meyerson to explain exactly what repugnant cause Lieberman has led there.

Once you strip away these flimsy arguments and faulty claims, what you see is that Meyerson and Sirota and their comrades-in-anger are simply projecting their own views and biases, not those of Connecticut's Democrats. THEY think Lieberman is wrong on trade and Israel and other pet issues of the angry activist base, most everyone they talk to in the blogosphere thinks Lieberman is wrong on these same matters, and so of course most Democrats in Connecticut must agree -- which ipso facto makes Lieberman out-of-touch with his constituents.

But here's the best evidence to debunk that flawed conclusion. The non-Iraq positions that the Lieberman-haters object to, when they are not distorting his record, are not new. Lieberman's independent streak was quite evident to his Democratic constituents in 1994 and in 2000, and on both occasions they chose to renominate him unanimously. And even into the first few years of the Bush Administration, Lieberman maintained the highest approval rating of any politician in the state, with strong support from Democrats. (His numbers only started to slide after the war, and in particular, after the Lieberman haters launched their vicious purge campaign.)

That just goes to show that, contrary to the desperate assertions by Meyerson and Sirota that this isn't about Iraq, it really is about Iraq. That's the new variable here. That's the only the issue that is really agitating Connecticut Democrats who don't subscribe to the extreme Sirota agenda in this primary. And that's the only reason that Ned Lamont's candidacy even exists.

Now, if the Lieberman-haters want to have an honest debate about Iraq and the other issues they are upset about, that's great. I'd happily put up Joe Lieberman's principled, consistent stand on the war -- along with his exceptional record of integrity, experience, and results for the state on other issues -- up against Ned Lamont's confused and confusing six positions on Iraq, his record of opportunism and inexperience, and his idea-less campaign.

But for that to happen, the out-of-state Lieberman-haters need to stop pretending they speak for the broad range of Connecticut Democrats, and even more importantly, they need to stop lying about Lieberman's record.

20 Comments:

Blogger Professor Doctor said...

You do offer a sizable list of arguments for and against Joe Lieberman based around his voting record, but you haven't yet addressed one of the big reasons many have expressed disappointment with Lieberman - his interest in intraparty factionalism, and consequentially, his tendency to save his strongest vitriol for members of his own party. Now, of course, when it comes to governance, rhetoric like that doesn't actually have a big effect - Joe has been reasonably consistent in his votes - but as both Garance and Ezra have said, his rhetoric does have damaging political consequences. As Lieberman spends more time decrying the excesses and mistakes of Democrats than religious conservatives or neocons, he does significantly more damage to the Democratic party than any individual Republican could - after all, if a Democrat is on Fox News talking about how out of touch and dogmatic Democrats are, then obviously the Democrats are the one with the problem (from a perception standpoint).

In any case, thank you for your time. I'm glad that there's a home for pro-Lieberman sentiment on the blogosphere, simply because I think that person-to-person, base-to-base debate is an interesting way to argue politics.

7/13/2006 9:55 AM  
Blogger The Criminole said...

your case against Sirota is majorly weak.

-Maybe Sirota applied for the jobs because... he thought Lieberman needed help?

And Lieberman's voting record is not the issue. Lamont is offering Connecticut Dems the same votes WITHOUT PUBLIC STATEMENTS THAT UNDERMINE THE NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY.

7/13/2006 10:12 AM  
Anonymous david mizner said...

So Sirota's a hypocrite. Or changed his mind. Who cares?

It's not merely Joe's continued support for the war that bothers a lot of Dems; it's his dishonest or clueless claim that things that are going well in Iraq. Even worse is Joe's scolding of people who criticize Bush's handling of the war. "It's time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge he'll be commander-in-chief for three more years. We undermine the president's credibility at our nation's peril."

If Joe's going to win Dems back, he--and people who support him--are going to have address this quote. Explain it. Aplogize for it. Retract it. Something. Unless and until you do, then pro-Joe outfits like this are a waste of space.

7/13/2006 10:12 AM  
Blogger Rufus said...

What david mizner said. Anyone who thinks things are better there now than they were a year ago, as Lieberman said while debating Lamont, is too far removed from reality to belong in the United States Senate.

Lieberman may not be the only one who should be excluded on those grounds. But he's the one we can do something about in the next few weeks.

7/13/2006 10:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joe Lieberman is a Republican mole. This is well known, actually. Paleoconservative William F. Buckley got Joe to run 18 years ago and launched his campaign. Joe works from the inside to unravel any tactical advantages Democrats muster in Congress. While he often votes the party line, this does not offset the other damage he does.

This was the intention all along: install a Republican disguised as a Democrat, with the overall goal of putting a more "moderate face" on the NE Democrats.

Joe's actions have harmed the Democratic party for many years. Nobody "hates" Lieberman, it's just that Joe is a Republican and thus his views lie outside those of the Democratic party mainstream. Joe's views are unpopular. His ostrich-based approach to the Iraq problem is especially difficult for America to tolerate.

Politics 2006 is going to be tough on Joe Lieberman. He is being held to account, and there is so much to account for.

7/13/2006 10:38 AM  
Blogger SeedFreak said...

Jon is talking about Progressive Totalitarianism.

I need to ask some serious questions--

The people of Conn. are a politically diverse group of people--they are not all Progressives. In order to accomplish anything for them Lamont will need to come to the center and reach across the aisle to make the deals that he must in order to get a bill passed, a law written, an earmark made for work to be done and the jobs that go with it created. How will he accomplish any of it if he will not compromise Progressive Totalitarian doctrines, and likewise--what would happen to him if he did cross the line and work with opposition to get bills, laws and earmarks? How will the Progressives react to him--will he be excoritated, cannabalized, cursed at with the same furor?

Can Lamont work for the people of Connecticutt if he only sticks with the Progressive Totalitarian Doctrines?

The answer is that he cannot. So what is he going to do?

7/13/2006 10:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Progressive Totalitarian" is an oxymoron

You have inadvertently answered your own question, because the Lamont camp's tent is a very big one.

7/13/2006 11:02 AM  
Blogger SeedFreak said...

The name is not how it functions, so don't sidestep. Answer the question.

7/13/2006 11:20 AM  
Blogger dangerstein said...

Anonymous proved my point about the irrationality and hypocrisy of the Lieberman purge campaign for me. If Joe Lieberman were a Republican mole, he must be the best secret agent in the world, because he fooled the entire party into nominating them as their vice-presidential campaign in 2000.

As for the other comments, Rufus and Criminole proved my other main point about Iraq being the only real complaint the Lieber-haters have.

As for this notion that Lieberman is undermining the party by thinking independently and speaking out when the party is wrong, this is a specious argument.

It is the same canard used by segrationists when Hubert Humphrey and others spoke out against the party's opposition to civil rights legislation.

Moreover, it's the same complaint that many liberal bloggers have rightly lodged against the party establishment for being mealy-mouthed in opposing Bush and articulating a compelling alternative agenda.

The only difference in this case is that they disagree with the substance of what Lieberman is saying.

That's one of my biggest problems with the Lieberman-haters -- their mind-bending intellectual inconsistencies.

They want people to stand up in a principled way -- which is just what Lieberman does -- but only if the position you take meets their pogrom purity test.h

7/13/2006 11:47 AM  
Anonymous david mizner said...

Dangerstein:

I notice that you failed to address my comment. Again here's the quote that so many of us find so offensive.
"It's time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge he'll be commander-in-chief for three more years. We undermine the president's credibility at our nation's peril."

Now, please address it. Try to defend it. Or disagree with it. Until you do you have no credibility.

7/13/2006 12:39 PM  
Blogger SeedFreak said...

The last anon still hasn't answered the question.

What will the far left do to Lamont if he shakes hands across the aisle to cut a deal for Conn. It is, in their eyes, a damnable political sin. So I ask again, what will happen?

This is a BIG elephant in the far left wings for-themselves-only tent and they can't answer it. Tsk.

7/13/2006 12:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh my god... a young david sirota applied for a job with someone he didn't agree with? Maybe you came to DC with a ton of money and could sit around waiting for the perfect job to come around but when there are 15,000 highly qualified applicants each year on capitol hill, most people wear out a pair of shoes looking for a new job.

7/13/2006 1:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You say "But for that to happen, the out-of-state Lieberman-haters need to stop pretending they speak for the broad range of Connecticut Democrats, and even more importantly, they need to stop lying about Lieberman's record."

I am an out-of-stater, who does not HATE Joe Lieberman. I simply think he needs to be replaced, as I feel about any senator --Democrat or Republican -- who supports a president who took our nation to war on a pack of lies. That issue trumps all other issues, and if the Democratic candidate in any state continues to support the lie, I feel he or she is not worthy of support. Joe Lieberman doesn't own his senate seat. If he loses in a primary election, he should be the gentleman he professes to be and support the winner.

I don't pretend to speak for Connecticut voters, just for myself as an American citizen. I became interested in the Connecticut primary, because I think Mr. Lieberman is being disingenuous in threatening to take his marbles out of the game and run as an independent if we doesn't win the primary game.

7/13/2006 2:12 PM  
Anonymous Max Renn said...

So based on this attack on Sirota (that he worked for the 'lone Socialst in Congress'), can I say that this 'blog and that Lieberman supporters in general have no respect for Bernie Sanders and will not support Bernie's run for Senate from Vermont? Perhaps Joe can move to Vermont and run against Bernie as a 'sensible moderate?' God you're sleazy,

7/13/2006 4:47 PM  
Blogger CMBurns said...

I am glad their is a blogslite which is supporting Joe Lieberman. As a Lieberman supporter I was posted messages at DailyKos and MYDD defending Leiberman against these slanderous attacks.

Regarding Lieberman's position on the Iraq War. He and I may have disagreements on the Iraq War. and 1/2 of the Democrats in the US Senate voted for the IWR. They may have supported it for various reasons. Lieberman just wants the mission in Iraq to succeed. Lieberman believes that stability in Iraq must occur before US troop withdrawal.

I think it is unfair to remove Lieberman from office because of his position on the IWR when 1/2 of the Democrats in the US Senate voted for the IWR and 2/3 of the Democrats in the US Senate oppose and immediate withdrawal.

The Democratic Party should not have litmus tests. It should be a big tent party. Which is why I and Joe Lieberman are members of the Democratic Party. Evicting Lieberman will send message to Moderates- voters who we need to appeal in order to win elections because the Liberal Base is Smaller than the Conservative Base that they are not welcome in the Party.

Another bad thing with ousting Lieberman is that Lieberman is a Democratic Senator with 18 years Seniority. He is in line to chair the Senate Homeland Security Commitee. Lieberman is the type of voters both sides reach out to in order to get anything pass. It would be a mistake to remove a Senator who has clout like Lieberman for a political novice whose candidacy exist because of one issue.

Bipartisanship and Compromise is necessary to get any legislation passed in the US Senate. You need 60 votes. During my lifetime. The US Senate consists of statesmanlike people such as
1)David Pryor-AR
2)Sam Nunn-GA
3)Bennett Johnson-LA
4)Bill Bradley-NJ
5)Claiborne Pell-RI
6)Dale Bumpers-AR
7)Wendell Ford-KY
8)John Glenn-OH
9)Bob Kerrey-NE
10)Richard Bryan-NV
11)Bob Graham-FL
12)John Breaux-LA
13)Fritz Hollings-SC

7/13/2006 5:26 PM  
Blogger Professor Doctor said...

The only person who has yet addressed my comment dismissed it as progressive totalitarianism - which, as far as I'm concerned, is a ridiculous assertion towards a group trying to remove someone from office through legal elections - and a few others have willfully ignored it, claiming once more that support for the Iraq war is the only reason people are trying to topple Joe.

Can someone please engage this on the merits?

7/14/2006 9:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The most, or second most, obnoxious thing about Lieberman is that he is deceptive and dishonest.

For example, his people claim he voted against Alito. But the truth is that he voted to end debate on the nomination, thus defeating a fillibuster, which was the ONLY way to effectively block him. Joe then went and voted against Alito on the floor vote so he could claim to have voted against him, but the floor vote was a foregone conclusion even without Lieberman's vote.

He did the same thing with the pernicious bankruptcy bill.

And his refusal to join with democrats in opposing bush's plan to gut it, until it was clear that bush was defeated and joe was no longer needed, reeks of the same dishonest, deceptive back-stabbing on core democratic issues.

Joe Lieberman, you are no Democrat. You're a self-promoter. The party is your whipping boy. Here's hoping you go down in flames.

7/14/2006 11:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"gut it" should read "gut social security"

7/14/2006 11:49 AM  
Blogger Sundog said...

Hey, guess what, fella? I don't have a clue what Connecticut voters think.

We're just WATCHING THE POLLS. Hello? Anyone home in there?

Deal with it.

7/14/2006 2:14 PM  
Blogger Stalin the Shark said...

Ahem. "Progressive totalitarianism". Is that what primary elections are called these days?

7/14/2006 6:48 PM  

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