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August 08, 2006

Letting Go of Joe
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

For months now, security-minded liberals have feared the fallout if Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, sometimes dubbed the most hawkish of progressive hawks, loses his primary race to antiwar challenger Ned Lamont. Lieberman's defeat, they worry, will cast liberals as captive to the isolationist left, undercut their credibility on defense, and hurt their prospects for the November elections.

Meanwhile, the left wing is celebrating Lamont’s showing as proof of the might of bloggers and outside-the-Beltway activists to influence politics. Both sides are wrong. Lieberman's defeat—engineered less by Internet junkies than by mainstream liberals in the Connecticut suburbs—heralds not a new peace movement but a hard-fought resoluteness and clarity on national security that Liberals have achieved in recent months. No longer skittish or defensive about criticizing the Bush administration’s stances on Iraq and terrorism, liberals are unafraid of risks and are finding a voice on foreign policy that should win them ground at the polls.

Lieberman didn't lose because he voted for the war or because he opposes an immediate pull-out from Iraq. Plenty of other liberals hold those positions yet remain popular—including, notably, Senator Hillary Clinton, who also faces a primary challenge from an antiwar leftist yet is coasting toward reelection.

In fact, liberals, like other Americans, hold a wide range of views about what to do about Iraq. If a city gets built based on years of faulty plans and flawed construction, even the best engineers may not be able to agree on how to fix it. But liberals —and mounting numbers of independents and conservatives—have come to agree that the war has gone badly wrong and that a radical change of course is needed.

This new consensus took time to gel. Many liberals started off supporting the war and believed for years that American efforts would somehow conjure a stable democracy out of Iraq’s hot and violent recesses. It took years of bloody photos on the front pages, bleak assessments from generals, and rising regional instability before doubt and fear hardened into distrust and frustration. But for nearly a year now, more than 60 percent of the public has disapproved of President Bush's handling of the Iraq war.

Yet as the public mood changed, Lieberman stood still. While professing unhappiness with what he called a handful of "mistakes," he held fast to his basic support of Bush’s policies. He offered no proposals to stabilize Iraq, reduce anti-American hostility worldwide, or spare the lives of more soldiers. Even his "last ditch" speech on Sunday aimed to shore up wobbly voters understated the gravity of the Iraq debacle. He showed no inclination to rethink the administration’s false framework of either “stay the course” or “cut and run.”

Though Lieberman's piety and stern talk of principles have always played well with pundits who celebrate centrism and bipartisanship as ends in themselves, they came to strike Connecticut voters as arrogance. Lieberman’s stubborn consistency fed the impression not of a brave maverick but of a moralist too smug and proud of his cross-party ties to contemplate change, even in the face of America’s worst foreign policy debacle in decades. As a result, other long-standing grievances against him tumbled forth from voters.

In the meantime, the territory of liberal toughness on security shifted under Lieberman. Progressive leaders with strong bona fides as interventionists—including Senators Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden—no longer prove their mettle by blandly supporting the administration. They do so by pulling no punches in their demands for more effective diplomacy, more robust homeland security, and an end to failed Mideast policies. Leadership that aggressively proposes and pushes new directions, rather than offering me-too support for Bush policies, has slowly propelled liberals past conservatives in polls asking which party would do a better job handling national security issues.

For this reason, liberals need not fear that Lieberman's loss will pigeonhole the party into an identity fashioned by the far left, or paint the party as spineless. On the contrary, the Connecticut outcome shows precisely the kind of decisiveness that voters have been waiting for from the minority party. Liberals – led not by operatives but by ordinary voters - have finally drawn a clear line: there is room for a wide range of views on Iraq in their ranks, but the one view they won't abide is the belief that nothing needs to change.

To be sure, agreement that Iraq is a mess cannot, in itself, substitute for a foreign policy platform. Liberals still have to explain how they would do things differently. But the new public view of the war, and the resolve for change that Connecticut liberals have shown, may well shape the terms of the fall elections.

Unlike election day 2002, voters aren’t looking for unrepentant hawks. Unlike 2004, they aren’t swayed by candidates who prize consistent positions over correct ones. As the Connecticut outcome illustrates, in 2006, they are out of patience with false promises and unafraid to take a chance for change.

By Suzanne Nossel and David Greenberg

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Comments

I think you and David have sized things up very well, Suzanne. Especially here:

Yet as the public mood changed, Lieberman stood still. While professing unhappiness with what he called a handful of "mistakes," he held fast to his basic support of Bush’s policies. He offered no proposals to stabilize Iraq, reduce anti-American hostility worldwide, or spare the lives of more soldiers. Even his "last ditch" speech on Sunday aimed to shore up wobbly voters understated the gravity of the Iraq debacle. He showed no inclination to rethink the administration’s false framework of either “stay the course” or “cut and run.”

Lieberman has become a "dead-ender," tenaciously holding on to a 2002 worldview and approach that are now the property of only a small minority of Americans. Although the public is not yet decided what they want to do about Iraq, the vast majority of them want to do something different, and Lieberman appears so stubbornly wedded to a failed policy that there is no chance that he is the right man to send back to the Senate to think creatively about different options. Lieberman continues to spearhead his own lost cause of increasing irrelevance and anachronism.

I also think he is going to learn, to his dismay, that many of the independents and centrist Democrats whose vote he seeks are also going to abandon him. Most, though not all, Connecticut Democrats will rally to Lamont immediately. Others will gradually come on board as respected national leaders make the case that a Lieberman "independent Democrat" campaign will dangerously divide the party in a vital election year - not just in Connecticut, but nationally. Many sleepy "name recognition independents" will jump on the Lamont bandwagon too, as is their wont.

And the Republicans in Connecticut most likely to bolt their party this year are those who oppose its foreign policy - not Lieberman's people.

Soon Lieberman will find his friends abandoning him, and his numbers dropping, and will get out for good.

Let's play a quick round of Mad Libs, shall we? You know the game - you're asked for a kind of word, it goes into a blank in a sentence, and the sentence turns out differently depending on what you choose.

"___________ (noun), they worry, will cast liberals as captive to the isolationist left, undercut their credibility on defense, and hurt their prospects for the November elections."

Is the correct answer:
A) Lieberman's defeat,
B) Murtha's withdrawal plan,
C) Failure to nuke Lebanon, Syria, Iran, or any combination thereof,
D) any or all of the above, or
E) Anything at all.

Given that we've seen decades of fact-free demonization of Democrats with fine judgment and honorable military service records by draft dodgers, isolationists, and assorted cranks, I think you'd have to be a fool to think that Lieberman's loss is an integral part of any Republican attack on Democrats. Republicans attack Democrats as "soft" on national security because it works. They don't do it because it makes sense; they have the mission, and then they make up a reason. That's how their campaigns work.

Furthermore, it's hard to argue that being "tough on defense" is the same as doing whatever your political opponents say it is. Few people look tough when they're taking orders, and Joe Lieberman is *not* one of them, so you can worry about how it'll look for him to lose, or you can prepare to fight Republicans. Your call.

Depperman, I stopped after the first few exclamation points. It doesn't sound like you're interested in dialogue or what Suzanne had to say.

Suzanne, if you manage to scroll down this far, excellent post. I read the growing consensus among Democrats about the same way. And I agree that more and more independents and even Republicans are recognizing the White House's failed policies. I would only add that Americans deserve a level of competence in execution as well as analysis from the White House that we haven't seen in several years now. I think it's useful to remind people that it's the analysis side that too often gets overlooked in some criticisms of Bush's policy.

Frankly, it's embarrassing that much of the media still puts up with a foreign policy based on gut feelings supported by neocons calling for world war three as a substitute for their failures to read Iraq.

I am not a big fan of censorship, but could you at least limit comments to, say, a thousand words or less?

Suzanne: I, too, favor taking down the nutty rant, above. Please consider approving comments before they post.

And I, too, agree with your analysis. The Bush White House is so far right they think the center is the left. Connecticut is not Berkeley. I grew up in Connecticut. It is mainstream America. Hartford used to be the capital of the insurance industry; New London built our nation's nuclear submarine fleet; Greenwich is home to Wall Street powerbrokers. The state has a strong history of bipartisan political life.

The Lamont victory is a victory over the failed Bush foreign policy. Thank you, Nutmeg Middle Americans.

Ahahaha. This guy has been copy/pasting his crap all around for the last few days. Just google for some of the interesting turns of phrase within, and you'll see. Man needs his own blog, he does.

Unfortunately, I agree. Three years and $300 billion dollars later, the voters are starting to get nervous with the status quo.

But, since the completion of a five-sided structure in Arlington, and the engineering of the ultimate offensive weapon--which we showed a willingness to use shortly thereafter--"Lamont for a change" is as far as we're going to get in a struggle back toward representative democracy.

Lieberman understands who really calls the "shots." If the Connecticut voters want real democracy or real change, they're going to have to fight to move some tax revenue out of the hands of the weapons makers and military contractors and into the hands of some underserved school districts and public media.

Otherwise, our bellicentric culture will continue to gobble up not only our society, but the rest of the world, too.

http://www.smotherboards.ru/
http://www.svideocards.ru/

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