Senator Lieberman: Unwilling to be Interviewed
by Jonathan Singer, Wed May 10, 2006 at 08:08:20 AM EDT
A few months ago, I began speaking with the staff of Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman about setting up a telephone interview to discuss his reelection campaign. As I explained over the course of more than a dozen conversations -- including extended dialogues with Lieberman campaign manager Sean Smith -- I was looking to provide the Senator with an opportunity to respond to some of his detractors and critics in a situation that was both respectful and professional. The Senator's staff seemed somewhat interested in the idea, though noncommittal.
I offered examples of some of my previous interviews, which included four major party presidential nominees; a former House Speaker and a former Senate Majority Leader, as well 16 other present and past Members of Congress; two governors; the executive editor of The New York Times; and a retired four-star general.
Lest the Senator remain unswayed, I explained to his staffers that I was undecided on his race against Ned Lamont -- and was perhaps even leaning towards supporting their boss. Although I, like most in this side of the blogosphere, am disappointed by his rhetoric and stance on the Iraq War, I nevertheless largely approve of his positions on the environment, labor, choice (mostly, though not entirely) and other such issues of importance. What's more, I tend to buy into the logic that it's not such a bad thing for the Senate to have moderates on both sides of the aisle who are able to bring the two parties together from time to time. And after all, I had a sentimental tie to Senator Lieberman; my first real campaign experience was on his behalf during the 2000 presidential contest.
The Lieberman staff seemed at least somewhat warm to my request, telling me that they were discussing it despite some apprehensions within the campaign about whether it would be prudent to engage the blogosphere. Nevertheless, over the course of two or three months, I've been asked to wait -- indefinitely. In other words, for the time being, Senator Lieberman would not speak with me.
Last week, when I began planning a post detailing my dealings with the Lieberman campaign and their apparent unwillingness to submit to a short interview, I was asked to give them one more week to discuss my request before going online with this story. I obliged. However, as of today, they are still unwilling to accede to my interview request.
The point of this post is not self-aggrandizement -- I clearly am not the only blogger to conduct interviews and I certainly don't think of myself as a gatekeeper (as, say, does Bill O'Reilly, who hounds people for not appearing on his show) -- nor is it to bash Senator Lieberman, to whom I'm not inherently opposed. Nevertheless, I believe it is very foolish for any politician to believe that they can be aided by ignoring the blogosphere, that the unrest will melt away if they do not engage their critics. We're not going away any time soon, regardless of what some Beltway insiders might hope, so it's probably better to be even a little open to us rather than to more or less act as if we don't exist.
The tide may be turning towards more, rather than less, interaction with the progressive blogosphere. As Matt recently noted, the position of "netroots coordinator" is popping up all over the place these days. DCCC chair Rahm Emanuel, who has taken his fair share of flak on this blog in recent months, was willing to devote 15 minutes for a civilized conversation addressing criticisms from some of our readers. And to be fair, Senator Lieberman's staff was willing to take time to speak with me even if the Senator himself was not.
I'm still open to interviewing Senator Lieberman at this juncture -- and Ned Lamont or any other credible candidate around the country, for that matter. My email is jonathan-at-mydd.com and I'm pretty good at returning messages. Drop me a line and let's see if we can't start up a healthy dialogue.