Thursday, January 12, 2006

Lieberman Soldiers On

Some Connecticut liberals, unable to step off the Weapons of Mass Destruction dime, are grievously disappointed in Sen. Joe Lieberman. Over in Manchester -- the political bailiwick of Rep. John Larson, who sports a perfect liberal Americans for Democratic Action rating of 100 percent – the Democratic Town Committee produced a resolution a few weeks ago condemning Lieberman’s position on the Iraq war.

The resolution chided Lieberman, whose ADA rating is a reputable 75 percent, for “supporting President Bush in the handling of the Iraq conflict,” asked the senator to work “to help bring American troops home by the end of 2006 or sooner,” and asserted that actions undertaken by the president and his advisors “have served to galvanize the Arab world against the United States.” One attendee at the meeting, creator of Keith Crane, predicted “This is the beginning of a huge movement. I think this resolution will be used as the foundation for other resolutions throughout the state.”

Lieberman made an appearance before the Manchester Democratic Town Committee in the second week of the New Year to answer assertions made in the resolution, in the course of which he mollified some people and further irritated others.

Lieberman pointed out that his defense of Bush could not be considered “unconditional,” as stated in the resolution -- even with respect to his support for the Iraq war -- since he had previously and consistently criticized the president for not having sent sufficient troops to Iraq at its beginning to quell the insurgency. He condemned as “corrosive” the political left’s hatred of Bush, pointed out that the war on terror had promoted democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan, spurred Lebanon to drive the Syrian military from its country after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and cautioned against allowing partisan politics to frustrate efforts to accomplish the democratization of the Middle East.

While the results of a Quinnipiac University survey issued on January 11 shows some slippage of support for Lieberman among liberal Democrats, the same poll shows that only 24 percent of voters would vote against Lieberman based on the Iraq war issue alone, and the resulting deficit disappears because Lieberman’s views have won strong support among Republican voters. At 62 percent, Lieberman’s approval rating is three points higher than that of Sen. Chris Dodd, whose position on the Iraq war has not been publicized in detail but is presumed to be more favorable to Democrat groups that oppose Lieberman.

The interpretation of any poll, which presumably offers a snapshot of the mind of the electorate, is an iffy proposition at best. Results may bear different interpretations. Is Lieberman’s support in Connecticut formidable because he is an incumbent, or because the Republican Party in Connecticut has been so weakened, some would say by its timidity, that it cannot offer serious resistance to determined Democrat incumbents, or because the war in Iraq has not yet become a tipping point issue for people who are not rabid partisans, or because voters tend to cast their ballots for or against people rather than issues? Lieberman’s personality, thoughtful and genial, is attractive to many people in these uncivil and contentious times. Probably all of these answers are in play in the poll’s results.

And Lieberman also is in play. This month the senator paid visits to both liberal and conservative media outlets. Even the Hartford Advocate remarked on his geniality, and in other venues the senator ably defended the position on the war he outlined in his Wall Street Journal opinion piece. The beef about Lieberman from leftist partisans is that his position on Iraq is too nuanced and centrist.

In some press interviews, Lieberman reminded home grown Democrats that their party is somewhat divided on the proper approach in Iraq. He praised Rep. John M. Murtha for having taken a “clear position” against the war, even as he articulated his disagreement with Murtha. "What I'm troubled about,” Lieberman said, “are people who are not prepared to take that position to get out, but still continually snipe at the war… That hurts the war effort, and it's not in our national interest…I'm talking about the corrosiveness of a political overlay, a partisan overlay, in matters of war," There are people on both side of the political barricades, Lieberman said, who sincerely believe that the United States should not pull out of Iraq “until the conditions on the ground allow us to.”

These are not the ravings of a blood thirsty partisan sitting in a ditch throwing mud balls at the opposition, and they are a strong indication that Lieberman feels at home under the broad umbrella of a centrist political vision.

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