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September 7, 2006
A Rumor A Day Keeps The Fringies Away

Does anyone else get the distinct feeling that we're seeing a whispering campaign getting started against Joe Lieberman? Two days ago, Insight reported the all-but-unbelievable allegation that the Republicans sent millions of dollars into Joe Lieberman's campaign -- in the middle of a brutal midterm campaign where the GOP's control of Congress is in real danger. Today, the gossip du jour in Connecticut has Lieberman replacing Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon:

Since Senator Joseph I. Lieberman lost last month’s Democratic primary in Connecticut, a rumor has gained new life — particularly among his liberal critics — that President Bush might nominate him to replace Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, should Mr. Rumsfeld be ousted as many Democrats have demanded.

Mr. Lieberman, now running as an independent, has denied any interest in the job, and the White House has said it stands behind Mr. Rumsfeld. But that did not stop Ned Lamont, the primary victor, from alluding to the rumor on Wednesday to criticize Mr. Lieberman’s support for the war in Iraq.

“It doesn’t matter if Donald Rumsfeld retires and somebody who thinks just like him goes into place,” Mr. Lamont said at a Sperling Breakfast here, named for the journalist who started the gatherings years ago.

If people want to really play Conspiracy Theory, we can combine the two stories into one narrative. Karl Rove -- you have to have Karl at the heart of any great Conspiracy Theory these days -- funneled millions of dollars into Lieberman's campaign to ensure his victory, disregarding a number of tight races where Republicans could actually gain seats at the expense of Democrats. Once Lieberman gets elected, Rumsfeld will resign, allowing George Bush to appoint Lieberman -- and a Republican governor could name a Republican successor. (Jodi Rell leads her Democratic opponent by thirty points in the race for governor.) Presto! Karl delivers a Senate seat to the GOP!

Don't be surprised if that theory gets floated, if it hasn't already made its way around the 'sphere.

Meanwhile, back at planet Reality, the whispering campaign seems designed to attack Lieberman as a Republican straw man. Anyone who has followed Lieberman's career and studied his voting record would scoff at this notion. To the GOP, it makes little difference whether Lamont or Lieberman holds the seat. The votes upcoming in the Senate will not have much impact on the war effort, and on everything else Lamont is a Lieberman clone.

However, the effort has an obvious benefit to Ned Lamont, as these rumors and innuendo play into that image of Lieberman as a Republican dupe. It's not surprising to see Lamont giving the gossip more legs, although it does seem somewhat disappointing. It shows that if the efforts to spread these rumors don't originate with his campaign, it certainly fits within his electoral strategy.

Lamont will certainly keep the fringies away from Lieberman with these tactics. However, those may be the only voters that stick with him if Lamont continues to campaign this way.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 7, 2006 5:13 AM

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