BLAST FROM THE PAST: RET-JOE-SPECTIVE


This week Joe Lieberman announced he won’t be running for re-election. This blog and Lieberman go way back. My third ever (run-on sentence-filled) post, eight years ago, was kvetching at the news he would run for president (and celebrating that Tom Daschle wouldn’t).

Lieberman has been a frequent target of this blog. Though I like to think I’ve always been fair to Joe, like in this post noting that Lieberman lent his endorsement to plenty of city- and state-wide campaigns well to the left of his national profile:

Damning by faint praise? Yes (also damning by harsh but deserved criticism).

Lieberman lived up to expectations, by declaring himself the only guy to go toe-to-toe with George Bush on values while not getting many people to vote for him – aside from Bob Kerrey and the staff of TNR.

(But I wanted him kept in the debates anyway.)

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DODD 2012!

As of this afternoon, Connecticut Attorney General Dick Blumenthal is officially running for Senate. Folks who’ve spent time in Connecticut may remember that Blumenthal was famous until today for almost running for higher office every cycle but never pulling the trigger. For comparison’s sake, Elliot Spitzer used to be mentioned in the same breath as Blumenthal as a rising star Attorney General destined for bigger things. In the time Blumenthal’s been Attorney General, Elliot Spitzer went from government attorney to private attorney to Attorney General to Governor to Slate Columnist.

It’s good to see Blumenthal step in to run for Chris Dodd’s now-open seat. It does raise the question though of who will run against Joe Lieberman if Joementum tries to test his luck again in 2012 (there was a rumor Blumenthal would run against Lieberman in ’12, although then again they said the same thing in ’06). I suspect Ned Lamont will take another go at it, assuming he doesn’t become the Governor of Connecticut first. That would be fun. More outlandish: A restless Chris Dodd, figuring the sheen of scandal has faded, unretires himself to run for the other Nutmeg State Senate seat. After all, Joe Lieberman makes most anybody look good. Even if Joe ran as an Indy and not a GOPer, I think he’d pull more GOP than Dem votes. An outlandish scenario I guess, but a fun one to ponder.

GOOD NEWS FOR JOHN McCAIN

After watching tonight’s debate, I have all kinds of good news for my friend John McCain (no, not “that one” – the other one): First, the Treasury Secretary just got the authority you want to give him to renegotiate mortgages – it was included in a bill signed last week you may have heard about – though that was after you un-suspended your campaign.

Second, if you’re all about your collaboration with Ted Kennedy and Joe Lieberman, the bills we used to call McCain-Kennedy and McCain-Lieberman are still out there waiting to be passed, and I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt those bills if you went back to supporting them again (though judging by the bailout bill, who knows).

Third, if you’re really against cutting taxes for rich people, there’s a man running for president right now who wants to cut taxes for the middle class instead – and it looks like he’s going to win!

Can’t say anything tonight changed that. Neither of these guys is a particularly good debater, and despite the hype, neither man took very good advantage of the town hall format tonight. But Obama was crisper and sharper tonight than either of them had been in the last debate, and he came off more comfortable and compelling and denied McCain another opportunity to change the race.

CHUCK’S CHANCE

So Chuck Hagel is saying his ideas are closer to Obama’s, but he doesn’t plan to endorse either candidate. Could mean he’s still trying to negotiate himself a spot on the ticket (seems unlikely), or he doesn’t want to offend his friend John McCain or hurt himself further within the GOP, or he wants to burnish his non-partisan credentials by being not even partisan enough to support a presidential candidate.

Who knows? But it occurs to me that Hagel could draw some more of the attention he seems to relish, and earn some good will from congressional leadership, if he stays neutral but pipes up every now and then to slap back some of Joe Lieberman’s ridiculous attacks on Barack Obama.

Picture it: Lieberman pops up to say Obama can’t protect us from terrorists because he’s a McGovernite, and then Chuck Hagel pops up to steal Lieberman’s thunder to declare the comments out of bound, appeal for a politics that elevates us and doesn’t appeal to our fears, vouch that both candidates are committed to keep us safe, remind his good friend Joe that such fear-mongering got us into a quagmire in Iraq, etc. – all this coming from a Republican who is so non-partisan he won’t endorse a candidate! There’s your David Broder headline.

I mean, is that any more politically risky than musing about impeachment? And the guy’s not running for re-election.

WASHINGTON ORIGINAL?

This article strikes me as a good example of why Washington reporters get a bad rap. The big story, apparently, is that Marshall Wittman has worked for a lot of different Washington power brokers who don’t get along with each other or often agree (although Caesar and Linda Chavez are somewhat farther off from each other than Ralph and Bruce Reed). Leibovich isn’t writing a story about the course of Wittman’s evolving political ideology – instead, we learn that Wittman likes interesting people and snappy quotes. He’s into McCain! He’s into Lieberman! (Not that getting from one’s talking points to the other’s is a colossal leap) Makes it easy to forget that people’s lives are actually affected by politics.

THE DEMOCRATS’ MISSING LINC

With all the ink spilled over the Chafee-Laffey primary last Tuesday, and the inevitable comparisons made to the Lieberman-Lamont primary last month, you could almost lose track of one of the critical ways in which the two primaries are not parallel at all:

Joe Lieberman is a not-so liberal Democrat from a strongly-Democratic state.

Lincoln Chafee is a not-so conservative Republican from a strongly-Democratic state.

That’s the difference: Lieberman evoked so much opposition within his own state because the median Connecticut voter is a Democrat well to the left of him. Chafee would have lost his primary had only Republicans participated, but he drew many of the GOP votes he did based on the recognition that the median Rhode Island voter was a Democrat to the left, not the right, of Chafee.

Joe Lieberman isn’t the Democratic equivalent of Lincoln Chafee. Ben Nelson is more like it. As for the Republican equivalent of Joe Lieberman, there just isn’t one. No state as red as Connecticut is blue has a Republican senator as close to the center as Joe Lieberman is. John McCain isn’t even close.

SORE POINT

Can we please put the phrase “Sore Loserman” to bed forever? There’s plenty to criticize about Joe Lieberman’s independent run, but surely we on the left should be creative enough to come up with a pithy pun of our own, right? No need to ressurrect a Republican phrase (it sounds like Gore-Lieberman! Get it?!?) designed to disparage the Democratic ticket’s (woefully insufficient) objections to the willful and systematic disenfranchisement of voters of color in 2000.

The invocation of the “Sore Loserman” line by progressives betrays the same maddening tunnel vision evinced by the “Chirac for President” signs I would run into at anti-war rallies back in the day.