CA-10: Ellen Tauscher and Joe Lieberman

Considering the fact that Ellen Tauscher is Joe Lieberman's BFF in congress, it isn't surprising that Ellen Tauscher is scrubbing Joe Lieberman pics from her website. While this is an acknowledgment she is running scared, for some reason Ellen Tauscher is failing to realize why Lieberman was rejected by Democrats in each of the last two cycles.

While the internets have slammed Counterproductive Katie for suggesting the successful primary campaign against Lieberman was misguided, it is Ellen Tauscher herself who has the money quote on Joe Lieberman's rejection.

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"A Vote for Lieberman is a vote for more war...."

The Fix has an interesting catch from a Gallup survey.

So, a new poll from Gallup is sure to cause considerable agitation in the world of elected officials. The survey, testing 1,009 voters from Dec. 8-10, asks people to rate the "honesty and ethical standards" of a variety of professions. The results are somewhat dismal (even for the most cynical observers).

...

Governors are the most respected of public officials with 22 percent rating their ethics and honesty as high or very high and 26 percent scoring it low or very low. Journalists nudged out governors with 26 percent rating their ethics as high or very high and 25 scoring them low or very low (We'll take it.)

Not surprisingly, the most trusted professions remain those related to healthcare. Eighty-four percent of the sample rated nurses as possessing high standards for honesty and ethics. Druggists/pharmacists (73 percent), doctors (69 percent), dentists (62 percent) and engineers (61 percent) rounded out the top five.

I find this fascinating.  Unlike car salesman or nurses, what journalists 'sell' to the public is trust.  And yet the public doesn't rate journalists as having particularly high integrity, which is puzzling because they still in some ways dominate public discourse.  If I were a journalist seeking to serve the public, I might find this incredibly alarming and a reason to fret and examine why the public is skeptical.  For Cillizza, who I'm picking on only because his attitude is hardly unusual among journalists, it's cause for snark and nothing more.  'I'll take it' is his mantra, since it doesn't really matter if you trust him or not, he's secure in his post at the Post.

This could explain why paid media is so dominant in the narratives of campaigns.  I've seen two campaigns up close where journalism essentially made zero difference - Jon Corzine for Governor in 2005 and Ned Lamont in 2006.  Voters are using different sources of information to make political decisions at this point, and the press doesn't really help matters by allowing paid media and statements from campaigns back and forth to dominate the discourse.  Whether paid media is dominant because voters have somehow 'changed' to a more apathetic and less information-rich stance or whether journalism has become less trustworthy isn't clear.

My guess is that journalists are no longer communicating in a way that makes sense to voters.  For instance, if you look at most Connecticut papers, you would find almost no coverage of the fact that Lieberman misled voters on his main campaign promise to bring the troops home as soon as possible, or that Lamont's claim that a vote for Lieberman is a "vote for more war" happens to be true.  The campaign is over, so it's apparently not relevant that Senator Lieberman just called for more troops, which simply cannot be taken as anything but a call for more war.   This isn't just sour grapes; it would have been incredibly tough for Lamont to win regardless, but the fact that Lieberman was able to utter statements in the post-primary which are now revealed as lies, and have basically no coverage in local papers, is remarkable.  It's shallow.  It disempowers Connecticut voters, who are not told the truth about what they voted for.

I don't really have an answer for irresponsible lack of follow-on coverage, or the boring scandal-driven untrustworthy nonsense that passes as news.  At this point we still need the press, I suppose, and we need them to dig up credible information so that we can consider public discourse reasonably and responsibly.  Still, it would be nice if journalists considered a lack of trust from the public as an identity crisis rather than an opportunity for snark.  In the meantime, the press will continue to lose relevance and other more unpredictable social structures will take its place.

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CA-10: Counterproductive Katie Merrill

If Katie Merrill had the goal of preventing a primary campaign against Ellen Tauscher, it might not have been the best strategy to provoke the publisher of the most widely read political blog in the world into declaring, "So in CA-10, we will have a candidate, and there will be a primary."

But as Jane Hamsher noted, Tauscher has greater problems than netroots. Sure, California bloggers are going to cover this race closely (Calitics is averaging more than a post a day on Ellen Tauscher in December of all months and Markos lives in the east bay). And sure, if things get interesting the national blogs will have the ability to get the race nationwide attention. But all of that will be focused towards understanding and supporting what is actually going on in California's 10th congressional district.

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The lessons of Ned Lamont

(cross-posted at Daily Kos)

Over at MyDD, there's a little discussion going on about the merits of having a primary challenge against Senator Max Baucus (D-MT). It's been noted that he's no friend to Democrats on many domestic issues. You know it's bad when even The New Republic thinks that Baucus is a sellout:


If you look closely enough at recent domestic policy debacles, you'll invariably see his fingerprints. Facing George W. Bush's massive tax-cut proposal in 2001, Baucus undermined the Senate Democrats' strategy of forcing concessions by maintaining a united front. In private negotiations with his GOP counterpart, Chuck Grassley, Baucus produced a bill that handed the White House virtually all of its top priorities. Afterward, he boasted that he'd done Democrats a favor, since they "would have been in trouble in 2002 just saying no to every one of the president's proposals." We shudder to think what might have happened had the Democrats been labeled "obstructionist."

Then there was the 2003 Medicare debate. Baucus, true to his method, agreed to a set of procedural conditions that undermined Democratic unity and preordained a disastrous outcome. Then he used the little authority he retained to--how to put it?--give away the store. In addition to agreeing to Health Savings Accounts--a gambit that he had once condemned as irresponsible--Baucus assented to a provision preventing Medicare from negotiating discounts with pharmaceutical manufacturers.

Baucus and his defenders--alternately known as his press office--make two arguments on his behalf. The first is that Baucus is simply doing what he needs to do to get reelected. (This argument usually masquerades behind the mantra of doing what's best for the "people of Montana.") But, unless the way to get ahead in Montana is to insist on overcharging Medicare patients by billions of dollars, the senator has been going far above and beyond the call of duty.

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On John McCain and 'Adults'

Steve Clemons, though he takes some needless and inaccurate swipes at the progressive left, has a pretty good take on Lieberman's Marshall Wittman hiring.  In particular Clemons is worried about a McCain-Lieberman ticket in 2008 occupying the 'center' of the American political spectrum and pulling in disaffected Democrats, Independents, and Republicans to create a unity ticket.  I saw this up close in Connecticut, and it worked quite well for Lieberman.  

McCain is as skilled as Lieberman as a politician, so it could work for him as well, though only if we let it happen as we did for Lieberman.  I say 'we', though in this case I don't mean the netroots, I mean all those ostensible reformer groups with the credibility of occupying the center, as well as the Democratic Senate leadership.  CREW, Common Cause, NARAL, etc, these are the groups that failed us totally in Connecticut. I don't know why. I'm sure some of them preferred to retain credibility in DC instead of actually dealing with a corrupt and increasingly right-wing political chameleon willing to act in utter bad faith, whereas others were overburdened and just made the choice to lay off $387k in street money given the immense threat of a continued right-wing Congressional majority.

Regardless of the reasons, 'the adults' didn't want to intervene in Connecticut, so we lost.  Voters just didn't want to believe that Joe Lieberman wasn't the man they thought he was.  Jane thinks, and she could be right, that there just wasn't enough time for the voters to realize that Lieberman is a phony.  I'm not sure about that.  It's possible that voters will recognize it given time, or it's possible that the unwillingness of various political elites to point it out will mean that voters will never realize it. I'll be watching his SUSA approval ratings, which I suppose is the only way to know. The dynamics remind me of the McCain ticket, which is something I blogged about while I was obsessively covering the Lamont race.

No matter how many times Atrios shows that this is Saint McCain's war, or Thinkprogress shows McCain lying or changing his various positions, or the Senate Majority Project goes after him, the internet left just doesn't have the reach to make it stick.  What we need are 'the adults' in the liberal establishment to consistently attack McCain and lay down the corrupt and untrustworthy narrative.  This is one of the reasons I don't trust Obama, because he acted like a dependent battered partner and apologized to McCain after McCain viciously attacked him for no particular reason.  I see weakness there and moral hollowness, papered over by charisma, brilliance, and ambition.  I've also never heard Edwards criticize McCain, and Hillary Clinton allowed a surrogate to go after McCain in the clumsiest manner possible before retracting her criticisms.

But more than that, beating McCain is going to require a repudiation of the 'adult' moniker that Democrats just love.  Whether it was the Graham-McCain-Warner 'compromise' on torture, which we saw from a mile away, or the Baker commission, or the new Defense Secretary, or Condi's lies about 9/11, it's time to realize that the Republicanish 'adults' are not in fact mature but are simply crazy and sleazy.  Robert Reich shows the way by breaking the seal on McCain's media image.

I talked with John McCain Sunday morning in the green room just before "This Week." I asked him why he continued to call for more troops for Iraq when he must know it's a political non-starter. He said he thought it important for the morale of the troops.

McCain gives every impression of meaning what he says, which is one of his greatest assets. But I simply can't believe this one. What's most important for the morale of the troops is knowing they'll be coming home soon, not hearing some politician say we need more troops when there's no possible chance of that happening.

I think McCain knows Iraq is out of our hands - it's disintegrating into civil war, and by 2008 will be a bloodbath. He also knows American troops will be withdrawn. The most important political fact he knows is he has to keep a big distance between himself and Bush in order to avoid being tainted by this horrifying failure. Arguing that we need more troops effectively covers his ass. It will allow him to say, "if the President did what I urged him to do, none of this would have happened."

McCain is smarter on this score than Dems who intend to engage in post-Baker Commission "what we must do now" bipartisanship. It may make Dems feel relevant and important, but it will also make them complicit in the impending failure. Come 2008, they will share the responsibility for the horror of Iraq. HRC will be drawn in, as will Barak Obama and all other Dem notables who will feel it necessary to participate in a "plan."

In the end, McCain alone will be able to escape blame. At least, that's what I think he's thinking.

Reich is smarter and more progressive than most 'adults' in the establishment, but he's showing the way forward.  The flip side of McCain the media darling and his 'Straight Talk Express' is a very simple 'McCain the pandering corrupt politician'.  It's a perfect narrative, replete with Keating 5 and pro-war sentiments that have already been effectively laid down.  We have a head start on McCain which we did not on Lieberman.  Still, Democrats ought to go after McCain on this starting right now.  They ought to immediately stop caring what the Baker Commission says.  Democrats won this election, not the partisan Bush-crony James Baker.  That should be obvious.  And yet somehow it's not.

If we don't learn the lesson of Connecticut, which is that we must have all hands on deck to change voter impressions about a charismatic media darling with a long relationship to the electorate, then we may find ourselves with President John McCain and a new conservative Republican 'reformer' majority in the House and Senate in 2008.  And the worst part will be that 30% of liberal voters will vote for this scenario because the Democratic leadership was too scared to explain to them what they are voting for.  Start hitting him now.

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