The Best Week Ever
Posted by Michael Signer
Wow -- big week, with both Lamont and London, in rapid succession. I've been sampling opinions from all the bedraggled lawyer-types who I run into on the Metro coming home from work at 11 p.m.
So here's what I'm hearing this week, which for political and national security junkies was definitely The Best Week Ever.
In true Hegelian spirit, let's do a little thesis-antithesis-synthesis on two key issues: (1) What this means for progressives, (2) What in tarnation Joe Lieberman is doing.
Thesis: Progressives are becoming isolationist. This is my personal biggest fear, and I've heard it reiterated by a couple of friends, particularly Truman Project types. We had Vietnam and McGovern, and progressives kind of collectively threw up their hands and retreated from (a) foreign policy generally, (b) national security generally. What we see with Iraq is Vietnam Redux -- history repeating itself, as tragicomedy.
A smart friend (again, on the Metro) worried that the worst has already happened -- Republicans have "framed" the election as Democrats-going-McGovern, not only cutting-and-running, but screaming and fainting as they do so.
The flaw with this reasoning (as another friend, who was an early donor to Lamont, pointed out), is that it depends on a stereotype of Lamont voters as all peaceniks, all Birkenstock wearers, all wiping latte foam off their upper lips as they stride out of the ballot box, triumphant. And we really don't know enough about the actual proclivities of those who voted Lamont in -- are they all Deaniacs? Are Deaniacs really all that bad?
Antithesis: Progressives are becoming tough and smart. This is what our own Suzanne Nossel argues, but we have two different strands here -- the Nossel argument, which says that progressives are cannily weeding out the bad (both political and policy) types, and starting to become more sophisticated about just what kind of engaged security/foreign policy leaders they're supporting (like, the argument goes, Hillary, who supported the war but beat Rumsfeld soundly about the head and shoulders in a recent Senate hearing).
And then there's the Eli Pariser argument from WaPo a couple of days ago, along the lines of all those Deaniacs who patted their bellies and smiled, as their man ascended to legitimacy at the head of the DNC: Democrats will only win when they become more principled, more identifiably left, leaders by conviction, not calculation -- and that's what Lamont means.
Synthesis: This is an opportunity, not an event. There's a gold ring hovering right in the nutmeg-scented air above Connecticut -- progressives can make the Lamont victory about being tough and smart, about separating the Democratic Party from its most avid and weirdly unquestioning supporter of the President and all his failed policies. So we are not in a moment of resolution right now, but of pregnant possibility. It is a moment to talk about national and global leadership, of courage, of strength and potential. If pulling the troops out of Iraq is the right policy choice, it's still neither the message nor the future. It's a piece in a puzzle -- and the picture on the puzzle (if this is done right) will be of a party with the nation's confidence.
Thesis: Joe Lieberman has gone crazy: The friend who's the Lamont-lover and unabashed Lieberman-hater sent me the following Lieberman quote yesterday:
"I'm worried that too many people, both in politics and out, don't appreciate the seriousness of the threat to American security and the evil of the enemy that faces us - more evil or as evil as Nazism and probably more dangerous that the Soviet Communists we fought during the long Cold War."
"If we just pick up like Ned Lamont wants us to do, get out by a date certain, it will be taken as a tremendous victory by the same people who wanted to blow up these planes in this plot hatched in England. It will strengthen them and they will strike again."
Antithesis: Joe Lieberman is tough and smart: Well, there's not too many who think this right now.
Synthesis: Um, none.