Lieberman Goes on Rightwing Blog, Attacks Al Gore, Chris Dodd, and Ted Kennedy

I don't normally link to right-wing outlet Pajamas Media, but since  this right-wing billionaire backed blog outlet has an exlusive interview with Joe Lieberman.... 

Lieberman - the former Democrat now running as an Independent to retain his Connecticut senate seat - was asked by PJM's CEO Roger Simon if he could forgive once close friends Chris Dodd, Al Gore and Teddy Kennedy, for endorsing his opponent Ned Lamont, the former Democratic Party vice-presidential candidate responded: "I can forgive ... but I probably won't forget."

Lieberman is throwing the whole party under the bus.  It's time for 2008 candidates to step up.  

Update: I think this is a major error on Lieberman's part. He has run a pretty good general election campaign, casting himself as a bipartisan uniter and generally lying about his record. That has largely worked because it's been the narrative in Connecticut for 18 years. Lieberman's still holding on to a piece of the Democratic vote, which he'll need to keep to win.

This attack, or even quiet threat, could change the dynamic significantly. Lieberman went on a very right-wing outlet and attacked the party standard-bearer from 2000. A lot of Lieberman's credibility comes from his position as a VP candidate in 2000; attacking Al Gore the way he did for supporting the party nominee really undercuts his credibility as a Democrat. Chris Dodd is a Connecticut institution, so Lieberman's attack on Dodd isn't going to go over well, and Ted Kennedy is generally very popular among Democrats.

All in all, this is not a smart political move by Lieberman.

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Ted Kennedy's canny Cape Wind chicane

Senator first, liberal icon second.

I've no appreciation of the merits (or lack thereof) of the proposed wind farm.

But I certainly can appreciate Uncle Ted's senatorial shenanigan to get the project stymied.

The Globe has a good roundup.

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Kennedy On Healthcare

On Wednesday, I was fortunate to take part in a call with Senator Ted Kennedy. While the call was brief and focused at least to a certain degree on the release of his new book, the Senator was refreshingly open to various topics and easy to talk to. Going in, I had two questions in mind, one tough and one less so. I figured it would be best if I started with the less tough question. Unfortunately, since we ran out of time, I never got to hear a more in-depth explanation for his position on the proposed wind farm in Nantucket Sound.

Early on in the call, Kennedy referred to the recent Massachusetts healthcare bill which he supported as a "down payment on a universal program." As someone who is less than pleased with the Massachusetts plan, I found this to be an interesting claim. By mandating that people purchase their own health insurance plans if one is not otherwise provided to them, Massachusetts is certainly moving toward a system that is "universal," in that more people are covered. However, it's a universal plan in which the burden falls largely on the individual, especially among the middle class.

Kennedy, whose penchant for both bipartisanship and incrementalism was recently profiled in The Washington Post, responded that he's hopeful that plans like the one recently passed in Massachusetts can be replicated in other large, industrialized states, or encourage other states to take greater action on healthcare. While he doesn't see the structure of the Massachusetts plan as the ideal answer for the problems of the American healthcare system, it does use a variety of unique approaches to tackle the problem of the uninsured at the state level. While I can sympathize with that position, my concern is that the developments in Massachusetts move the debate in the wrong direction, shifting access to healthcare not from a privilege to a right, but from a privilege to a burden.

I sincerely believe in the tenet that you shouldn't allow the perfect to become the enemy of the good. But that argument becomes cliche when it's trotted out to defend bad policy in context of even worse policy. The feeling I was left with after speaking with Senator Kennedy on this point was that he views the Massachusetts plan as a way to open the debate about the public responsibility for guaranteeing some measure of universal health coverage. On that, we can agree. I just hope we continue to move in the direction of making healthcare more universal rather than more individualized.

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Clean Power: Lead or Get Out of the Way

I've long been irked by the moves taken by supposedly progressive lawmakers to block the installation of wind turbines for aesthetic reasons. It really does not get any more hypocritical than people claiming to want to fight global warming fighting even harder against wind power that might obstruct the scenic views of their constituents. It's perfectly reasonable for an elected representative of the people to stand up for the wishes of the people. However, the potential benefits of sustainable energy far outweigh the personal interests of a relatively small group of constituents.

It should be obvious to many readers that I am referring pretty specifically to Senator Ted Kennedy. As far back as 2003, Kennedy has publicly opposed a plan to install wind turbines off of Cape Cod in Nantucket Sound. The plan's opponents, like legendary journalist Walter Cronkite, talk a lot about making "natural treasures" like Nantucket Sound "off limits to industrialization." But personally, I think it's pretty crass to call a project like this "industrialization." After all, wind power is more about reversing the impact of twentieth century industrialization than furthering it.

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire blog has the details on a move by Kennedy to scuttle the plans for this proposed wind farm.

Sen. Ted Kennedy and other rich land owners on Cape Cod continue their attacks on a proposed wind turbine power plant on Nantucket Sound. Aides to Sen. Ted Stevens (R., Alaska), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, say Kennedy suggested an amendment, now tucked in the Coast Guard's annual authorization bill, that gives Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican foe of the project, a veto even though it would be located on a federally owned part of the Sound. Two Democrats on the panel, Senators Maria Cantwell and Frank R. Lautenberg, objected. A third Democrat, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, has issued a statement complaining that the move makes a "mockery" of efforts by Congress to increase clean domestic energy supplies.

I'd like to say that we should take this story with a grain of salt as it comes from aides to a Republican Senator. After all, when news of the Romney veto came to light, it was Stevens and fellow Alaska Republican Don Young who took the heat. But unfortunately, given Kennedy's opposition to this plan, it seems to me that news of his involvement is most likely accurate. After all, why should Stevens take a hit for Kennedy?

The right loves this story. And love it they should. It's a clear cut case of liberal hypocrisy. Here's a leading member of the party that claims to be pro-environment trying to shut down an environmentally responsible project because it would take away from his scenic views. It's classic NIMBYism. John Stossel couldn't make up a better narrative if he tried.

There have been some attempts by Cape Cod environmentalists to downplay the potential benefits from the project. Senator Kennedy's nephew, Robert Kennedy Jr, has been one of the project's most outspoken critics. Initially, that gave me some pause as to the true environmental responsibility of the project. But at best, it seems that his judgement is likely clouded on this particular subject. Here's how the Natural Resources Defense Council characterizes the project:

As the first offshore wind energy undertaking in the nation, Cape Wind would set a precedent for similar facilities that could improve air quality, public health and global warming emissions. The Cape Wind project would provide 420 megawatts of electricity from 130 emissions-free turbines. That is enough to supply 75 percent of power needed on Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard.

By using clean energy instead of fossil fuel electricity generation, the Cape Wind project will eliminate approximately 360 tons of particulate matter, 2,400 tons of sulfur oxides, 800 tons of nitrogen oxides, and 1,000,000 tons of carbon dioxide for every year of operation. That will reduce respiratory problems and other pollution-related health effects, as well as reducing the carbon pollution that causes global warming.

I have a great deal of respect for Senator Kennedy. But on this issue, he needs to either lead or get out of the way. This isn't about the views from Cape Cod. This is about the future of our planet.

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Feingold and Leahy Have a Field Day

Leahy and Feingold did a good job.

Patrick Leahy, the senior Democrat on the committee, said that while al-Qa'eda suspects should be monitored, doing it illegally risked infringing Americans' civil liberties.

"My concern is for peaceful Quakers who are being spied upon and other law-abiding Americans and babies and nuns who are placed on terror watch-lists," he said.

That's the essential frame.

Kennedy was an embarrassment.  His arguments were bombastic, legalistic, narrow, and he made a great argument that the rule of law is annoying.  As an example, take this:

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said the White House, by acting without Congress, had exposed NSA officers and telephone companies to legal action for violating the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. That law forbids domestic surveillance without a warrant approved by a special court.

This is pathetic.  The worst thing about this program is that it opens up NSA officers to legal liability? WTF?  What about setting up Bush to be a tyrant?  What about grandiose moral arguments about national purpose?  Those poll well, but you aren't going to convince Americans that spying on terrorists is a bad idea because it will keep phone company lawyers busy.

I suspected that Kennedy was unprepared, just like he was during the Alito hearings. Our party can and should do better than this, we don't have the room for unprepared Senators to step on the correct frame.

Thankfully Feingold and Leahy were there, and showed passion, poise, and intelligence.  This was a good day.

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