Assessing the Lieberman-Lamont Race

I remember a conversation that I had with a very smart donor about Lamont before November, one in which he said that the second worst situation for progressives would be a loss to Lieberman in the primary, and the worst situation would be winning the primary and then losing the general.  At the time, it seemed like an eminently reasonable opinion, because he was essentially arguing that either situation would reveal the impotence of the progressive movement.  As you know, the second scenario came to pass.  After the election I was confused as to why Joe wasn't chest-beating, wasn't talking anymore about saving the soul of the Democratic Party.  I didn't understand why the press wasn't helping him.

I still fully don't, but with conservative Democrat Max Baucus calling for a withdrawal in six months, it seems fairly clear that Joe Lieberman just doesn't matter anymore.  The whole escalation fight has been between Bush and a number of Democrats, including Reid, Pelosi, Biden, Murtha and Kennedy, all of whom have different positions and strategies.  McCain is in there too, backing Bush with even more of a surge.  So are the blogs and Moveon, pushing for withdrawal.  Moderate Republicans are in a pickle, being pushed back and forth.

But where's Joe?  Sure he was at that AEI event calling for escalation, but would he have mattered without McCain?  I don't think so.  Lieberman is just out there, like another irrelevant warblogger.  It's weird.  It's unexpected.  My sense is that a good part of this is traceable to his defeat in the primary on August 8.  I wish we had won in November, and it hurt us that we didn't.  But maybe not as much as I had feared.

What do you think?

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Crashing Lieberman's Swearing In Party

Connecticut Local Politics has an hilarious, revealing, must-read post on Lieberman's party yesterday. Here are some highlights (emphasis in original): We were sitting in the Union Pub at the Connecticut Democratic Delegation's Welcome Party for their new members when we were informed that we were just across the street from Senator Lieberman's party. What's an intrepid Connecticut blogger to do? Crash, of course (especially since we had seen every Connecticut Democrat at the party, but didn't see anyone elected on the Connecticut for Lieberman line)!(...)

Upon entering, there was a sign welcoming us to the Stuck with Joe Sticking with Joe Victory Celebration honoring supporters of the Senator for sticking with Joe, followed by a list of corporate sponsors (Aetna was the only one I saw) and what I can only assume was either nuclear secrets or damaging photographs - I suggested that CGG take a picture of the sign so people would believe that we actually got inside, when an aide, overhearing me, whisked the sign away!(...)

With the sign gone we felt silly standing by the empty stand, so we went in search of someone we knew to talk to and immediately happened upon Dan Gerstein.(...)

While we were waiting, we witnessed the following exchange:

Town DTC Chair: Hi Senator, I'm Town DTC Chair from Town and -

Joe Lieberman: [sour look] We got killed in Town. All is forgiven.

DTC: [semi-sarcastically] I forgive you too, Senator.
Please, go read the whole thing. I wish I could do on-site reporting even half as well as this. It paints a picture of a Senator and a campaign that remains traumatized by blogs, and a once very public figure who has now became afraid and secretive. It is also serves as an important contrast to the dozens upon dozens of members and their staff came to the blogger row yesterday. While the majority of the caucus appears to be warming up to the netroots, now viewing us as friends and providers of vital energy, Lieberman has turned sharply inward. He now clearly represents a time in the past.

Lieberman's Hacking Story Will Continue

Via Connecticutblog, we learn that the Stamford Advocate has filed a Freedom of Information Act Request to find out more information on the Lieberman hacking lie.

This week, O'Connor and Blumethal's offices told The Advocate they have closed the investigation after finding no evidence of criminal conduct, tampering or sabotage. They did not say what had caused the problems with the Web site.

The Advocate has filed Freedom of Information requests with both offices seeking more information on the investigations.

The lack of answers has prompted outrage from many online bloggers who over the summer accused Lieberman of using the crash to smear Lamont and his supporters.

Wednesday's national Daily Kos blog's headline read: "It's official: Lieberman and Co. lied about 'hacking.'"

It's funny.  In my research into the 1960s I'm finding out just how much we newfangled progressives owe the New Left and the reformers of the time.  The Freedom of Information Act was pushed through by Ralph Nader, and Connecticut Citizen Action Group, which Nader also founded, generated the social network used to beat Lieberman in the primary.  And SEIU, which backed Lamont in the general, has leadership that came indirectly from the radical organizers of the New Left.  At the same time, NARAL, founded in the early 1970s and a direct outgrowth of the feminist movement, was on the other side.  

Anyway, that's just an aside.  What's fascinating about the Advocate is that they are clearly responding to the pressure from bloggers who are angry that the whole story isn't being told about the campaign.  We know, for instance, that Lieberman just out and out lied when he said he would try to end the war as soon as possible.  We know he called Lamont a liar for saying that a vote for Lieberman means a vote for more war, and immediately after winning reelection Lieberman called for escalation in Iraq.

The hacking story is just a symbolic little obvious lie, but we want answers.  The press isn't bothering to hold Lieberman accountable for lying to the voters of Connecticut about his position on the war; at least the Stamford Advocate is willing to investigate the hacking story.

We're not letting this go.  The Lieberman people want to let their disgraceful campaign be part of the past.  And if Lieberman had paid heed to the voters and called for an end to the war in Iraq like he promised, we might as well.  But he obviously lied, and citizens of Connecticut just didn't see through it at the time.  And so now it's time he be held to account.

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Lieberman's New Tea Party for Grown-ups Caucus

I've been confused since the election about Lieberman.  Why isn't he making a bigger deal out of his victory and his supposed power to control the Senate?  Is it because the idea that he has some power to swing the balance of power is nonsense?  Did his power originate from his status as a Democrat who bashes Democrats, with his loss in the primary conferring what amounts to a neutering?  I'm not sure, but Josh Marshall has a blog post about some really weird intra-centrist politics in the Senate.  Via Roll Call we learn that all is not well in centrist grown-up land.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) has relinquished his position as co-chairman of the Senate Centrist Coalition, halting talks with co-chairwoman Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) over the future of the organization in favor of creating his own bipartisan group with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).

Snowe, meanwhile, has begun working with Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) to refashion the Centrist Coalition into a group that includes more than just ideological centrists and which they hope will appeal to Senators from all over the political spectrum.

As recently as early December, Snowe and Lieberman had said that they and their staffs were in talks over how to refashion the Centrist Coalition into a broader alliance of Republicans and Democrats who would work to end the vitriolic partisanship that has characterized Capitol Hill the past few years.

More recently, Lieberman suggested to Snowe that she work instead with Landrieu, Snowe spokeswoman Antonia Ferrier confirmed.

Josh quotes more of the article on the new group.

While still in the preliminary stages of development, the goal for Lieberman and Alexander is to create a group of Republicans and Democrats that primarily get together to socialize.

Oh, so it's a tea party, apparently.  I've always suspected that Lieberman's politics were more about aesthetics than reality, based more on a general hatred of Democrats who are honest and liberal than anything else.  He has a history of putting together extremely smart people who are proficient at a kind of incrementalist technocratic elitism.  Lieberman works from within, and considers that the 'nobility of compromise'.  He genuinely sees in bipartisanship and compromise a moral goodness, no matter what the outcome.  And so as the Senate drifted to the right, he drifted with it, and continued his exceptionally bright and arrogant technical proficiency and admiration of the social scene of DC elites.  Of course, the new liberalism is neither elitist in social structure nor particularly respectful of existing institutions, which is why he hates it so much.  

Given that Bush has crushed the comfy bipartisan Beltway atmosphere for Republicans, it's becoming more difficult for someone like Lieberman to get along with people like Olympia Snowe on policy and political grounds.  It makes sense that he sets up his own little circle of friends that aren't going to be so mean as to consider that the country has gone in the wrong direction.  Since the Democratic caucus is generally unified that we are off the rails, and the Republicans are split on the matter, Lieberman is way out on his own, for real.

And that's my best guess as to why he's been silent for so long.  He just doesn't look particularly relevant anymore.  

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A Long Awaited Follow-Up On Press Stenography

Back on August 8th, Matt wrote a piece that listed many of the journalists who simply repeated the Lieberman camp's assertion that their campaign went down as a result of "dirty tricks." This Robert Yoon piece from CNN is a good example of that stenography. as documented in Matt's post and in the comments to that post, the stenography on this subject extended to, at least, the AP, the CBS Evening News, The New York Times, and MSNBC and, not surprisingly, Fox News. "Reporting" in this case was simply repeating whatever the Lieberman camp said. For example, to quote Yoon:"This type of dirty politics has been a staple of the Lamont campaign from the beginning, from the nonstop personal attacks to the intimidation tactics and offensive displays to these coordinated efforts to disable our Web site," said Smith in a statement e-mailed to reporters Monday evening.

"There is no place for these Rovian tactics in Democratic politics, and we demand that our opponent call off his supporters and their online attack dogs."

Tuesday afternoon, the Lieberman campaign formally complained to Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, asking him to investigate attacks on the site.

In its letter to Blumenthal, the campaign, citing joe2006.com's Web-hosting company, said the site had been brought down due to traffic "neither natural nor done by normal site visitor volume."

When asked by CNN whether the service outage was due to an unpaid bill, Sean Smith, Lieberman's campaign manager, said "Are you kidding?"(...)

The Lieberman campaign said Tuesday in a statement: "... The the suspension of displaying the Web site www.joe2006.com was not due to to an overdue account. Friends of Joe Lieberman is completely paid in full. The screen that showed yesterday is a default image from the server. In order to isolate where the denial of service attack was coming into the site, we disabled it as rapidly as possible. Once we were able to isolate all the site files for study, we were able to add an appropriate one-page maintenance message." As you can see, huge parts of this article were simply direct quotes from Lieberman campaign statements. I bring this up because now, to great fanfare, it turns out that such claims from the Lieberman camp were utterly inaccurate:"The investigation has revealed no evidence the problems the Web site experienced were the result of criminal conduct," said Tom Carson, spokesman for U.S. Attorney Kevin O'Connor.

State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal confirmed the joint investigation "found no evidence of tampering or sabotage warranting civil action by my office." Both men declined to provide additional information, such as what might have happened to the site.

Calls to Lieberman went unanswered yesterday.

Lieberman's site, www.joe2006.com, failed the afternoon before the Aug. 8 primary, which he lost to Lamont. Lieberman won a fourth term in November's general election as a petition candidate.

Dan Geary, who developed Lieberman's site, had classified the problem as a denial-of-service attack, which is characterized by attempts to prevent access to a site by overwhelming it.

The Web site crash received media scrutiny, fueled by comments from Lieberman and his staff who implied it had been hacked by Lamont's supporters.

A Lieberman campaign spokeswoman, Marion Steinfels, had called it a "coordinated effort to wreck our Web site and make us incapable of communicating with each other and our voters." At this point, the only news outlets covering this latest development in the story are local outlets in New England. With only two exceptions, one from Massachusetts and one from NYC, those outlets are all in Connecticut. No AP. No New York Times. No CNN. No MSNBC or Fox News News. Certainly no mentions of their Election Day reports that unquestioningly repeated the Lieberman camp's claim that the website was down because of an "attack."

I wonder if the news organizations that are reporting on this story will continue to press Lieberman's staff to make a statement. If such a statement comes, will it be repeated without question, or will the journalists to point to earlier claims from the Lieberman camp on the incident? Will anyone ask Lieberman's staff why they had no problem jumping to the conclusion that the website was under attack? Will anyone ask why they held at least one press conference on the story but are unwilling to comment now? Will anyone comment on this smacking of crass political maneuvering on Election Day back in August, and be less willing to simply repeat claims from the Lieberman camp in the future as a result? It would be nice if they were, but I'm not holding my breath. We have entered an era where being an "objective" and responsible journalist has little to do with actual research, and has much more to do with simply repeating, word for word, statements from campaigns. Is this environment, is it any wonder that paid media now far surpasses free media when it comes to influencing elections? Is there anyway back to a time when journalists considered their job as being much more than just stenography?

CT Blogger goes into more detail.

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