Democratic politicians in Washington are tripping over themselves to issue statements officially endorsing Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Ned Lamont. That's a very good thing. But what isn't so good is that most of these Democrats are blathering on about what a great guy Joe Lieberman is - even as Lieberman is leaving the Democratic Party, running as an candidate of one, going on network television to attack Democrats, and ultimately threatening not only Democrats hold on the Connecticut Senate seat but Democrats national efforts to retake Congress. For instance, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's Lamont endorsement statement went out of its way to say "Joe Lieberman has been an effective Democratic Senator for Connecticut and for America" - and said nothing about, for instance, removing Lieberman from Democratic committee assignments now that he's officially left the party. Even worse, Sen. Chris Dodd's (D-CT) Lamont endorsement statement claims "Joe had compiled a strong record on Democratic priorities, like good jobs and a healthier environment" and worse, that Lieberman "is a good Senator, and a good Democrat." Notice the present tense - Dodd is still saying Lieberman IS a Democrat, even as he officially left the Democratic Party last night, and this morning went on national television networks to attack the Democratic Party - even as the Hotline is reporting that Karl Rove has reached out to Lieberman's campaign with offers of White House help in his general election bid.
One of two things is going on here. One possibility is that Washington, D.C. Democrats are so afraid of their own shadow, so insulated in the Senate club, so comfortable in the minority, so pathetically weak that their default reflex is to praise their cocktail party circuit friend Joe, even as he presents a very clear and present danger to the Democratic Party's electoral prospects. This is part of the larger scarred-because-we've-been-bullied psychology of weakness that has plagued the Washington, D.C. Democratic Establishment for too long - a psychology that has justified Democrats embracing right-wing Republicans and that has resulted in repeated election losses for Democrats.
The other possibility is that while Washington, D.C. Democrats realize they absolutely have to officially support Lamont because of the election results, they also are engaging in a wink-and-nod strategy, doing everything they can to still protect Lieberman and tacitly undermine the will of primary voters. Making public statements that Lieberman can then use in television commercials to claim he's a "good Democrat" is a very underhanded but effective strategy for these Washington politicians to opportunistically bask in the glow of Lamont's victory while quietly helping their good buddy Joe.
Thankfully, at least some Democratic politicians understand the truism that praising Joe Lieberman, a guy who is abandoning Democrats and publicly attacking the party, is not good for the Democratic Party. For instance, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's statement endorsing Lamont didn't even refer to Lieberman - a good strategy. Similarly, Sen. Evan Bayh's (D) statement endorsing Lamont simply says he was friends with Lieberman, but said nothing about Lieberman supposedly being The Greatest Democratic Party Standard Bearer and Senator Who Ever Lived. And perhaps the best of all, Wes Clark issued a scathing statement denouncing Lieberman's effort to "have his cake and eat it too." Clark is leading a letter-writing drive to pressure Lieberman to stand down. Here are some excerpts:
"Despite what Joe Lieberman believes, invading Iraq and diverting our attention away from Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden is not being strong on national security. Blind allegiance to George W. Bush and his failed 'stay the course' strategy is not being strong on national security. And no, Senator Lieberman, no matter how you demonize your opponents, there is no 'antisecurity wing' of the Democratic Party...Joe Lieberman is risking our party's claim on his Senate seat by running as a third party candidate. Recent news reports detail the GOP's interest in supporting such an effort. It's time to draw a line...As a party we cannot let Joe Lieberman be this year's Ralph Nader."
These courageous Democrats are showing that at least some are able to get by the outbreak of Potomac Fever and understand that Lieberman represents a very serious Zell-Miller-like threat to the Democratic Party. The reaction to Joe Lieberman from Democrats should not be "wow, what a great guy he is" - it should be "we must crush this craven, selfish anti-democratic opportunist because he is trying to destroy the Democratic Party and ignore the will of voters."
Clearly, in some quarters, there is hesitation to embrace this simple statement of the truth. And that begs questions to all Democratic Party officeholders: Will you unequivocally endorse Democratic nominee Ned Lamont and not package that endorsement with salivating praise for Joe Lieberman - a man who is aggressively moving to undermine the Democratic Party? Will you sign General Clark's letter demanding Lieberman back down? Contact your Democratic Senator today and ask them this very simple question.