Lieberman: Some Democrats said I was being a traitor
An article in Dec 10 New York Times describes the open hostility and divide which is deepening by the day between Senator Lieberman and his Democratic collegues in Washington as well as Democratic voters in Connecticut (which is an understatement).
From the New York Times:
Five years after running as the vice-presidential nominee on the Democratic ticket and a year after his own presidential bid, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut has become an increasingly unwelcome figure within his party, with some Democrats seeing him more as a wayward son than a favorite son.It's fair to say that many Democrats in Connecticut are extermely unhappy with the recent comments of Senator Lieberman. Critics of Lieberman view his public criticisms of Democrats regarding the war in Iraq is a deep betrayl and many say he has gone too far with his rhetoric.
In the last few days, the senator has riled Democratic activists and politicians here and in his home state with his vigorous defense of President Bush's handling of the Iraq war at a time some Democrats are pressuring the administration to begin a withdrawal.
Mr. Lieberman particularly infuriated his colleagues when he pointed out at a conference here that President Bush would be commander in chief for three more years and said that "it's time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that."
"We undermine the president's credibility at our nation's peril," Mr. Lieberman said.
Much of the open criticism has been from liberal groups and House members. But his comments have also rankled Democrats in the Senate. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the minority leader, phoned Mr. Lieberman this week to express concerns with his views, Mr. Reid's aide said.
"Senator Reid has a lot of respect for Senator Lieberman," said Jim Manley, a Reid spokesman. "But he feels that Senator Lieberman's position on Iraq is at odds with many Americans."
An aide to another leading Democratic senator who insisted on anonymity said the feelings toward Mr. Lieberman could be summed up as, "The American people want to hold George Bush accountable for the failed policy in Iraq, and Senator Lieberman doesn't."
Mr. Lieberman, who remains immensely popular in his home state, is aware of the hornet's nest he has stirred.
"Some Democrats said I was being a traitor," he said in an interview on Friday, adding that he was not surprised by the reaction, "given the depth of feeling about the war."
Mr. Lieberman noted that his positions on Iraq had not changed over the years, dating from 1991, when he supported the first Persian Gulf war. In 1998, he and Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, proposed the Iraq Liberation Act, which made the overthrow of President Saddam Hussein official American policy.
"The positive and negative reactions may have less to do with the substance of what I said than with the fact that a Democrat is saying it," Mr. Lieberman said. "It reflects the terribly divisive state of our politics."
Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House minority leader, said the breach was deep.
"I completely disagree with Mr. Lieberman," Ms. Pelosi said at a news conference. "I believe that we have a responsibility to speak out if we think that the course of action that our country is on is not making the American people safer."
The question in some quarters now is whether the moderate brand of politics practiced by Mr. Lieberman, who is up for re-election next year, will hurt him when the electorate is so divided, particularly over some of the president's policies.
This week, for example, former Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. criticized his continued support of the Iraq war and said that if no candidate challenged the senator on it next year, he would consider running.
In 1988, Mr. Lieberman, who was attorney general of Connecticut, narrowly defeated Mr. Weicker, a Republican senator. Two years later, Mr. Weicker ran for governor as an independent and won. He served one term before retiring in 1995.
Mr. Weicker remains something of a fixture in state politics, well known for his independent streak. In 1999, Reform Party supporters encouraged him to run for president in 2000, but he ultimately decided against that.
Mr. Lieberman faces trouble in other quarters in his home state. Although few elected Democrats would criticize him publicly, several Democratic activists promised retaliation at the polls.
James H. Dean, brother of Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, lives in Connecticut and heads Democracy for America, a group that is gathering signatures on the Internet for a letter that criticizes the senator.
An aide to James Dean said he and others from the group would deliver the letter to Mr. Lieberman's office in Hartford on Tuesday. The aide said the letter had 30,000 signatures.
Other Democratic activists warned that they might try to organize a primary challenge against Mr. Lieberman, specifically because of his position on the war.
Tom Matzzie, the Washington director for MoveOn.org, a liberal advocacy group with 10,000 members in Connecticut, said it would consider a challenge if the right candidate came along.
"It's like a betrayal," Mr. Matzzie said of Mr. Lieberman's stand on the war. "He is cheering the Bush Iraq policy at a time when Republicans are running away from the president."
Personally, I've always known Lieberman to be a somewhat thorn in the side to liberals but it seems like this is bigger tha just a liberal matter. Democrats in Connecticut and the nation have always had a problem with Lieberman's closeness with the Bush administration but now, many view his recent comments as the tipping point. Democrats in Connecticut are pressuring Lowell Weicker to run aginst him, town committees are voicing their disapproval with Joementum, and now state and national liberal groups are planning to runa campaign against him.
I don't think Lieberman thought things would get this out of hand as he's basically dead in many eyes of Democrats in Washington. Harry Reid comments that Lieberman is basically alone, Nancy Pelosi says publically (and quite strongly) that she completely disagrees with Lieberman's comments regarding Iraq, and now Weicker is so upset that he might come out and challenge Lieberman for his old post.
How's that Joementum working for you now?
Here's something interesting: Lets say Lieberman gets nominated for the DOD post, how many Democrats would vote for him; would his nomination get filibustered out of spite?