Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Dodd, Lieberman and Buyer’s Remorse

The poll numbers on the public’s dissatisfaction with Connecticut’s two US senators, Chris Dodd and Joe Lieberman, suggest something is rotten in Denmark.

The approval ratings of both senators dipped below 40 percent in October, according to a recent poll commissioned by the Hartford Courant from the Center for Survey Research and Analysis at the University of Connecticut.

The dip is regarded as especially troublesome for Dodd, who is up for re-election in 2010; Lieberman will not face the firing squad until 2012.

Lieberman’s unpopularity may be traced to his attempt at rebranding. A liberal Democrat for most of his political career, Lieberman jumped the Democrat Party fence more than two years ago when he was challenged and defeated in a primary by Ned Lamont, a wealthy but politically undistinguished anti-Iraq war candidate from Greenwich, Connecticut. Lamont’s candidacy was supported by former governor and senator Lowell Weicker, whom Lieberman had earlier defeated in a bitter senate race, an anti-war faction of the Democrat Party in full rebellion against Democrat war hawks and, after the primary, many well known politicians, including Dodd and former president Bill Clinton.

Since then, Lieberman has further antagonized the Eugene McCarthy wing of the Democrat Party by supporting the presidential candidacy of Sen. John McCain over that of Sen. Barack Obama, who is leading McCain in the polls, though indicators show a drop off in support for Obama as the presidential race nears the finishing line.

The Iraq war has been defused as a Democrat campaign pry-bar used to wedge Republican supporters of the war from their congressional seats because, under a new war strategy adopted more than two years ago, prospects have dramatically improved in Iraq.

The Wall Street collapse has buoyed many Democrat candidates, including Obama – but not Dodd.

Nothing in Dodd’s recent past suggests that he will any time soon bolt the Democrat Party and join Lieberman in a centrist revolt against the left wing of his party; but then, Dodd has never been successfully challenged and defeated in a primary.
Dodd’s problem arises from a perceived stench of corruption.

The media campaign against corruption in Connecticut reached its Thermador – the tipping point of the French Revolution -- during the corruption trial of former Governor John Rowland. Pressures from all corners – ethicists, the media, which was eager to rend a politician perceived to be corrupt, political opponents, state legislators who had begun and then aborted an impeachment process, federal agents armed with RICO statutes -- were brought to bear against Rowland, who finally reached a deal with prosecutor that involved pleading guilty to a single charge of corruption and spending a year in prison.

The heat from that Thermador now threatens to blast the political career of Dodd, who now faces an ethics inquiry over charges that he received preferential treatment on two mortgages from Countrywide Financial, whose president has afforded Dodd special favors.

Lieberman stands in the dock accused of, at worst, traitorous acts towards a party from which he has already disassociated himself. While Lieberman remains a registered Democrat and while he still caucuses with the Democrats in congress, except during political strategy meetings, the possibility that Lieberman will run for re-election in 2012 on the Democrat Party line is laughably remote. Dodd, should he choose to run for re-election to the senate, will be supported by his party; and Dodd stands in the dock accused of corruption, a horse of a different color.

This means that while people seem to be equally dissatisfied with both senators, they are dissatisfied for different reasons.

Before the firing squads cock their rifles, there will be time, to quote the poet T. S. Elliot, “for a hundred visions and revisions that time will soon erase.”
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