What You Need To Know: A Summary For You Lazy Asses
· Senator Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) gives me several reasons to dislike him and oppose his continued service in the United States Senate, most obviously his firm support for Operation Iraqi Freedom, but the most compelling one is his proud subscription to the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) philosophy, which means not only is he unwilling to work for a progressive, active government agenda – an agenda I’m hoping to see if we Democrats regain power in D.C. – but also, he gives rhetorical cover and aid for Republicans and conservatism.
· Edward M. “Ned” Lamont, Jr. is a great candidate and a great Democrat. He’s been talking explicitly about active government – something few Democrats do these days – and he has pledged to fight for the liberal/progressive agenda and active government and stand up to Bush and Congressional Republicans when they’re wrong. This is, as he says, a fight for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party, and in this fight Lamont is on the right side and Lieberman is in the wrong.
· I can finally say that I’m supporting someone rather than opposing someone else. I’m supporting Ned Lamont not because I’m against Joe Lieberman but because I’m for Ned Lamont. Ned Lamont is a great progressive American and he’ll be a great progressive Senator who as a TRUE Democrat will fight for an active federal government that works for the common good. I endorse Ned Lamont for the U.S. Senate.
· Ned Lamont had a really great closing statement in his primary debate with Joe Lieberman. Read the stirring words at the end of this piece.
You might notice that I titled this piece “The Case For Ned Lamont” rather than “The Case Against Joe Lieberman”. That’s because I, as a citizen and voter, strongly prefer voting for someone rather than against someone. That said, I think I should begin by laying out my case against Joe Lieberman.
(Btw, you might notice this is coming somewhat late. I was busy. So sue me.)
Senator Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) is well-known as the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee in 2000. He’s less well-known as a failed Presidential candidate in 2004. The reason why he failed was because he was simply too moderate for the Democratic faithful. Chief among his areas of agreement and cooperation with President Bush and Congressional Republicans was his support for the Iraq war, but it went beyond that as well. During the primary season, Lieberman constantly tsk-tsked “big government” solutions and scolded the ideas of active government and big changes. In the May 3 2003 debate in Columbia, for example, he had this to say in response to Representative Richard A. Gephardt’s (D-MO-3) plan to repeal all the Bush tax cuts and use the money to pay for health care for every American:
…this campaign presents our party again with a choice about whether we want to go backward to deal with our nation’s problems like the terrible gap in health insurance for 41 million Americans; or whether we want to go forward with new ideas. We are not going to solve these problems with the kind of big-spending Democratic ideas of the past. And we can’t afford them.
We are not going to solve all of our problems with George Bush’s big irresponsible tax cut, and we are not going to solve them all with this kind of big spending. It doesn’t leave any money to invest in education, to invest in finding cures for disease, to invest in homeland security or international security.
I think a good place to start—and I think this will only happen step by step. The Congress, with all respect, would not pass the Gephardt plan ever. Therefore no single American will get insurance under it that doesn’t have it now. We ought to start where Al Gore and I proposed in 2000: expand the children’s health insurance program, which would have covered every child in America with health insurance by 2005, and let their parents buy into Medicaid at a cheaper rate than they can get in the private market. And that step by step is the way to do it.
Step by step. That sound familiar? Sounds like defeatist Clintonism to me.
He also based his candidacy on electability, rather than ideas, called himself a “Bill Clinton Democrat” and said Bill Clinton’s name in every third sentence. (Maybe that’s why Clinton has come to his aid in his current primary fight.)
A rather tired-looking Senator Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.). Source: The Associated Press (Bob Child)
His service as U.S. Senator has been disappointing as well. What few seem to point out was that it began horribly in the first place – Lieberman won his seat in 1988 by running to the RIGHT of his Republican opponent, liberal incumbent Lowell P. Weicker, Jr. Weicker was (and still is) the real liberal of the two, and Lieberman won in part by getting the votes of dissatisfied Republicans. He even got the support of National Review for chrissakes! Since then, he has deviated from the Democratic/liberal line several times – and not just on Iraq. As Jonathan Chait, writing for the L.A. Times, points out:
Foreign policy is hardly the only smudge on Lieberman’s record. He is a longtime supporter of taxing capital gains at a lower rate than other income — a stance gratifying to owners of stock but lacking in economic sense or basic fairness. He has long opposed sensible financial regulations. Even after his pro-business stance came under fire in the wake of the Enron scandal, Lieberman opposed sensible reforms. (As one of Lieberman’s friends told the New Republic’s Michael Crowley in 2002, “It’ll be remembered that he didn’t go off the deep end” — meaning, after the populist furor dies down, Lieberman could resume raking in contributions from grateful executives.) He supported the disgraceful energy bill and federal intervention in the Terri Schiavo case.
And of course, there’s his constant undermining – rhetorical and otherwise – of his fellow Democrats for the purpose of polishing his own apple and scoring points with his Republican friends (not surprisingly, he’s more popular among Republicans than Democrats, both in the D.C. punditocracy and his own state of Connecticut). I don’t need to go any further than his infamous quote: “It is time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be Commander-in-Chief for three more critical years, and that in matters of war we undermine Presidential credibility at our nation’s peril.”
But doesn’t he vote with his fellow Senate Democrats 90 percent of the time, as he claims in every campaign speech this primary season? Ahem. In a very good piece in the Hartford Courant called “Seasonal Memory Lapses”, Paul Bass points out that Lieberman gets this percentage from voting when it DOESN’T matter, i.e. on non-cloture votes. He explains:
Now it’s true that Lieberman earns high marks on Democratic interest group “report cards.” That’s because he plays a shell game in which liberal interest groups are complicit. He gets the “right” mark for voting against Samuel Alito’s Supreme Court nomination, for instance. But he gives the Bush administration the vote it needs to make Alito a judge, by voting to stop a filibuster.
He did the same thing on other issues like the 2005 bankruptcy bill, prompting Ned Lamont to quip “somebody said about our senator on the Democratic side of the aisle that we can always count on his vote whenever we don’t really need it.” Don’t get me wrong – voting records are important, but if there’s context to be looked at (as there is in this case) it needs to be brought up.
Bass also notes, “It’s fine for Lieberman to join Republicans in ideological arguments. He does that a lot for someone still calling himself a Democrat.” And that’s really my biggest problem with him. The worst thing is, I think he really does believe in this DLC crap that Democrats have to run away from their liberal roots and embrace small-government rhetoric and action, mediocre solutions to big challenges and pleasing “the market” at every turn by abrogating regulations and selling off swaths of the public sector – and all the public responsibilities they entail – to rapacious profit-minded business execs. His stances on health care – in opposition to both the Clinton health care plan and to the Gephardt health care plan – exemplify that. And in believing and spreading the DLC drivel, he not only indicates an unwillingness to work for a progressive, active government agenda – an agenda I’m hoping to see if we Democrats regain power in D.C. – but he gives rhetorical cover and aid for Republicans and conservatism. (Not to mention the rhetorical aid he gives to Republicans on other issues, not the least of which is Iraq.) The final blow against Lieberman for me personally is that I know he won’t be working for active government and the full liberal/progressive agenda, even if and when Democrats get a majority in the Senate again.
I’m not saying he’s all bad. Yes, Lieberman has voted with Democrats more-or-less consistently. And his single greatest contribution to our country and Party was his proposal of the Department of Homeland Security. That’s one of the greatest examples of active government ever, seriously (I just find it ironic that only when it comes to homeland security ol’ Joe will get off his ass and bat for big government). But my problem with Lieberman is that he’s a real ideological centrist and he’s not for active government and progressivism, so if there’s a better alternative, why not? Which brings me to Ned Lamont.
Edward M. “Ned” Lamont, Jr. is everything Joe Lieberman isn’t. He’s a true progressive who on his website explains why he’s running:
I am running for the US Senate because we deserve a Senator who will stand up for Connecticut and stand up for our progressive democratic values. Rather than spending hundreds of millions of dollars a day in Iraq, it is time for America to refocus on issues back home: fixing our healthcare system, upgrading our schools, and rebuilding our aging infrastructure. We will start winning in Iraq as the Iraqis take control of their own destiny, just as America has to start investing again in our own future.
Wow. It gets better. On the Issues page, he takes a strong rhetorical stand and says (emphasis his):
Government has a role in ensuring fundamental rights and equal opportunity for all Americans. Senator Barack Obama reminded Connecticut Democrats recently what a difference good, progressive government can make in people’s lives—from social security and Medicare to the national highway system and the Civil Rights acts. Rather than replacing the hard-earned social safety net with partially funded savings accounts, Democrats should be ready again to defend and build upon all that we have accomplished—equal rights and equal opportunity for all.
WOW. You know how LONG I’ve been waiting for someone to say this? You might think it’s just rhetoric, but rhetoric is important to me precisely because I want to see Democrats talking EXPLICITLY about active government and using it to help all Americans. And that’s what Lamont’s doing.
Edward M. “Ned” Lamont, Jr. Source: Wikipedia
Lamont isn’t a single-issue candidate as Lieberman claims. He’s been attacking Lieberman on other issues as well, and most importantly he ties it all into one general theme: Lieberman has been totally impotent on advancing and fighting for the liberal/progressive agenda, hasn’t been committing himself to the idea of an active federal government working for the common good and the common citizen, and has been cooperating with Republicans in covering their asses and denigrating Democrats so insolent as to dare question the President. Lamont is the candidate who will fight for the liberal/progressive agenda and active government and stand up to Bush and Congressional Republicans when they’re wrong.
Lamont claims that this a fight for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party, and he’s right, as this great The Nation article points out. And in this fight, Lamont is on the right side – the liberal/progressive base that’s been driving the Democratic Party ideology since FDR – and Lieberman is on the wrong side, the side of the DLC and centrism that preaches the REPUBLICAN mantra of small government, superiority of the free market and business, and that Democrats should cower in fearful respect of the GOP’s ideological and rhetorical dominance. Lamont will not cower. In the sole Lamont-Lieberman debate on July 7, he responded to a question about what being a Democrat means to him simply and succinctly: “when it comes to the Democrats, I think it’s important we go down to Washington, D.C., and start talking about the common good. I think that’s where we make a difference as Democrats, and I think that’s when we start winning again.” Lieberman, for his part, came up with some blather about JFK and then went back to bashing Lamont. In response, Lamont said (emphasis mine):
I think it’s so important that the Democrats stand up and present a constructive alternative to the Bush administration. And I do find that Senator Lieberman too often is willing to undermine the Democrats, be it on issues of war and peace like the war in Iraq, or be it on a variety of other issues, be it, you know, Social Security, be it affirmative action, be it vouchers.
These are important issues that say a lot about what type of a party we are and what we stand for. We stand for the public good. We stand for public education. We stand for universal health care for each and every American, and I think it’s important that when Democrats say that, that’s when we start winning again.
Finally, a Democrat who’s willing to talk about what he stands for rather than what he is against! Senator Lieberman, I appreciate your service for the country and for the Democratic Party, but there’s just a better alternative. And finally, I can say that I’m supporting someone rather than opposing someone else. I’m supporting Ned Lamont not because I’m against Joe Lieberman but because I’m for Ned Lamont. Ned Lamont is a great progressive American and he’ll be a great progressive Senator who as a TRUE Democrat will fight for an active federal government that works for the common good. I endorse Ned Lamont for the U.S. Senate.
To finish this off, I want to leave you with some breathtaking words from Lamont – his closing statement from the debate. I found these words so stirring that I’m not going to bold any of it – the whole thing is damn good and important and inspirational, one of the finest things I’ve ever read from a politician, the kind of stuff I’ve been hoping and dreaming and waiting for Democrats to say. So just read it – it’s good stuff.
As I travel flat out around the state of Connecticut, people tell me one thing. They want their political leaders to stand up, think big ideas, dream big dreams, say what you mean, and mean what you say. And with Ned Lamont as your next Democratic senator, I mean to do just that. It won’t take me 18 years to sign onto a bill that says health care is a basic right for each and every American. And I’ll vote to roll back the Bush-Cheney-Lieberman energy bill, which provides billions of subsidies to big oil and does so little for conservation, energy independence and the environment.
And I will not find common ground with the Bush administration when they are trying to privatize Social Security. I’ll fight for Social Security. I’ll fight for our constitutional liberties. I believe so strongly that we’re stronger as a country when we are true to our basic values and we work in concert with our allies.
And most importantly, I will bring our brave troops home to the heroes’ welcome that they deserve. Rather than spending $250 million a day, $250 million a day in Iraq, we’re going to invest. We’re going to invest in those kids at Harding High School, we’re going to invest in grade schools and clean energy and affordable housing and public transportation. We’re going to bring our cities back as great as they were 100 years ago.
And, Senator, this is not about anybody’s career. This election is about the people. And I don’t want you to vote against somebody. I want you to vote for somebody. I want you to vote for your dreams. I want you to vote for your hopes. I want you to vote for your heart.
AUGUST 11 2006 ADDENDUM: Added the two pictures of Lieberman and Lamont.