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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Article highlights Connecticut Democrats frustration with Lieberman

The "dump Joe" Lieberman movement is that talk of the political world right now as everyone is paying close attention to wahts happening in Connecticut.

Emily Biuso for the Nation magazine wrote an interesting piece
on the "dump Joe" movement that is currently happening in the state.
At the close of a regular Democratic Town Committee meeting in Manchester, Conn., in December, 79-year-old Joe Rafala, a World War II veteran and party worker for more than 60 years, decided he had had enough with the state's junior senator, Joe Lieberman.

Rafala, like many in Connecticut, had voted for Lieberman in the past but is troubled by Lieberman's continued public support for the Iraq war. Before the meeting adjourned, Rafala presented a surprise motion proposing that the committee reproach the senator by sending him a letter criticizing his stance on Iraq.

"I was upset about our boys and girls in the armed forces getting killed, coming home in body bags," Rafala says. On January 3, the committee overwhelmingly passed the resolution. Rafala, who considers himself a moderate Democrat, speaks for many in the state who have tired of Lieberman's constant cheerleading for the war and for President Bush. "This man has gone too far," he says.

It's pretty unusual for a Democratic Town Committee to formally criticize its Democratic senator. Lieberman appears to be taking the action seriously, as he has offered to meet with Rafala and others from the committee early next week. But the senator's office did not respond to requests to comment for this article.

Lieberman has been a fixture in Connecticut politics since 1970, when he served in the State Senate. He was a popular state attorney general in the 1980s, and voters catapulted him to the U.S. Senate in a stunning upset in 1988 against incumbent Lowell Weicker. Though liberals griped at Lieberman's frequent backbends toward the center, support for him remained strong.


But Lieberman's support for the war has alienated many of his constituents who are frustrated with an occupation that seems to have no end in sight.


The chairman of the Manchester Democratic Town Committee, 82-year-old Ted Cummings, is also a veteran of World War II; he has led the party there for 44 years -- longer than any other chairman in the state. Manchester's Democrats have traditionally been moderate, he says, but lately they've been critical of the Patriot Act and of the Bush Administration's failed attempt to privatize Social Security. Like Rafala, Cummings once supported Lieberman, but now he is fed up.

"Lieberman doesn't speak about the fundamental and most critical problems in nation-building," Cummings says. "People are asking, 'What side is he on?'"

Others in Connecticut are asking the same questions.

Myrna Watanabe, chair of the Harwinton, Conn., Democrats, is planning to propose a similar resolution to the committee in her northwest Connecticut town. She has been publicly critical of Lieberman recently and is hoping the other committee members will agree to admonish him in a letter. "They are disgusted with Joe," she says, "and pretty disgusted with the war."

Even longtime political allies of Lieberman are speaking out. Toby Moffett, a Democratic U.S. congressman who represented parts of northwest Connecticut from 1975 to 1983, overcame his reluctance to criticize Lieberman because he felt he couldn't remain silent about the war, which he calls "a gigantic, horrendous mistake."

"There's not a nicer person in politics -- he's genuinely nice," Moffett says of Lieberman. "But his support for this outrageous war far outweighs that he's likable. It's pretty serious for someone representing the state to take exactly the opposite position."


But are Connecticut voters really ready to dump Joe? Recent polls suggest that Democrats, at least, are starting to consider it. Remarkably, Lieberman's approval ratings are higher among Republicans and Independents than among members of his own party.
Another reporter sees the writing on the wall and can see the possibility of Lieberman losing in the primary.