Lieberman and Lamont

It’s hard to drive down the road here in West Hartford without seeing Lamont and Lieberman signs. Appropriately, some of those with Lamont signs also have ones that also demand that we “End the U.S. Occupation of Iraq” or “Support Our Troops – Bring Them Home.” Lieberman backers tend to be quieter about their agenda, perhaps because most of them don’t even agree with the senator on the big issue of the day.

I am one of those Democrats who is torn by this primary.

I’ve met Joe Lieberman a few times. He’s a pleasant, decent, sort of bland guy who has always struck me as well-meaning and thoughtful, if a little too eager to find a television camera. He’s more hawkish than I am — hell, he’s more hawkish than half the Bush administration — but I’m not entirely dovish so I can live with that. He’s also a little too ready to monkey with everything from Social Security to education in ways that I find a bit alarming. So I guess he’s to the right of me on the political spectrum, which is fine. So is America as a whole.

I’ve only met Ned Lamont once, during one of his recent campaign forays into town. He was just standing around during Celebrate West Hartford! and I took the chance to gab with him. Lamont struck me as pleasant and earnest, forthcoming, not at all some kind of leftwing nutjob — as some have said. But I didn’t imagine that a Greenwich businessman was going to be a hippy in a suit so I certainly wasn’t surprised to find that he seemed … normal.

Solely on their respective agendas, I’d vote for Lamont. No question about that.

But I do believe that if the Democratic Party is going to thrive, it has to offer a big tent. It needs to have room for dissent on Iraq and most everything else. It needs a pretty big, and pretty powerful, reason before it effectively throws out someone with as much visibility at Lieberman. He was our vice presidential candidate only six years ago — and won the race, too, but I’ll let that one go for now. He’s one of the nation’s best known and highly regarded Democrats. Booting him off the party line in his own state would be quite something and would send a message to every voter across America that Democrats are so opposed to this war in Iraq that they’d mothball a fellow like Lieberman for taking a different stance.

I feel quite strongly that we can’t define the Democratic Party that narrowly and expect to regain the majority party status of the mid-20th century that led to so many great things for the United States.

On the other hand, I am so appalled by the filth that Lieberman is mailing to my house to try to whip Lamont that I’m almost ready to pull Lamont’s lever. The mailings are so vicious, so wide of the mark and so utterly scurrilous that my respect for Lieberman is shrinking daily. I am astonished that a senator whose sole claim to my allegiance is his seniority and standing would lower himself to such a degree.

He’s looking ever more like a desperate, gutter politician. And I don’t want somebody like that.

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