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June 17, 2006
Lieberman: Put National Interest Above Partisan Interest

David Broder's column in tomorrow's Washington Post reviews the conundrum of Joe Lieberman, a leader in a Democratic Party that has largely stopped following him. Lieberman knows why his party, especially the state party, appears poised to throw him under the bus, and he forcefully answers their complaints about the Iraq War:

"I think we did the right thing in overthrowing Saddam, and I think we are safer as a result," he continued. "Second, while I have been very critical of the Bush foreign policy before the war and the Rumsfeld-Bush policies in Iraq after Saddam was overthrown, I also made a judgment I would not invoke partisan politics on this war."

That was the point of a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece Lieberman wrote last November endorsing the president's announced strategy to defeat the insurgency and establish a democratic government in Iraq. That article infuriated Lamont and launched his candidacy. "It was decisive," Lamont told me in an interview. "Lieberman suggested that the critics were undermining the credibility of the president. I thought he was wrong."

"My opponent says it broke Democratic unity," Lieberman said. "Well, dammit, I wasn't thinking about Democratic unity. It was a moment to put the national interest above partisan interest."

Lieberman waxes philosophical about the issue for the most part, telling Broder that he anticipated a primary challenge from the Left even while he ran for President in 2003-4. It sounds as if he didn't anticipte that Ned Lamont would capture so much of the vote in the caucuses, and that shock may have an impact on whether he decides to run as an independent if Lamont wins the primary. Lamont now only sits six points behind Lieberman in the polls, up from a 2-1 disadvantage in the caucus.

The trouble with an independent run is that Lieberman would have to have 7500 signatures to qualify, and the due date will be the day after the primary. If Lieberman wants to prepare for an independent run as a backstop to his primary bid, he will have to start collecting signatures at some point -- which will alienate a good chunk of the Democrats in the primary. It's a tough catch-22. Likely, some pro-Lieberman PAC will start collecting signatures instead of Lieberman doing it directly, allowing Lieberman to get drafted into the election.

This fascinates me as an example of how the far Left used a primary challenger to turn out a centrist candidate, in this case a center-left Senator who has one of the few credible voices on national security. It shows how conservatives choose to do so, we can address our high-spending and porked-up Republicans in a similar manner. However, in Lieberman's case, it really seems as though Connecticut Democrats are cutting off their noses to spite their faces. As a Senator, Lieberman cannot affect the course of the war, other than to provide constant anklebiting like John Kerry and Ted Kennedy. His principled stand against allowing partisan politics to occur past the water's edge used to be the protocol for all American politicians, and Lieberman is paying for adhering to an honorable standard.

The Democrats should be worried about the independent run. Lieberman may have a tough time winning the primary, but he should win the seat back as an independent easily, or create a big enough split to hand the seat to the Republicans. If Lieberman wins, he will likely caucus with the Republicans, who will be happy to give him a committee chairmanship for his trouble.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 17, 2006 11:28 AM

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» “To Put The National Interest Above Partisan Interest.” from Blue Crab Boulevard
Today's Washington Post has an article about Joe Lieberman and the Connecticut primary. It's quite interesting to read. "I think we did the right thing in overthrowing Saddam, and I think we are safer as a result," he contin... [Read More]

Tracked on June 18, 2006 6:22 AM


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