A major political strategy in use by American Democrats for a couple of years now is playing out in the state of Connecticut, where long-time Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman is being spanked by his party for supporting the part of the War on Terror being fought in Iraq.
Lieberman's status as the Democratic nominee for his seat should have been assured, since he is running for his fourth six-year term, but he was narrowly upended earlier this month by a very, very rich political neophyte who agreed to run on an anti-war platform. The ultimate Democratic strategy was to put the new guy, Ned Lamont, up against an unknown Republican candidate who would lose, ensuring a new anti-war voice in Congress.
National pollsters label Connecticut as a Democrat-dominated "blue" state, but the reality is that Independents outnumber Democrats and Republicans alike by a huge margin. On national political maps Connecticut, like many other states, should be portrayed in a neutral color because the majority of voters have long since rejected both major parties and usually vote the man and the issues.
Lieberman knows his state and he knows his politics and most of all he knows Connecticut's voters. Within days of losing the primary battle by about four percentage points, and immediately after qualifying to run as an independent Democrat, polls sampling the wider ocean of Republican and independent voters showed Lieberman with a commanding lead over Lamont. The Republican candidate barely registered, and it isn't likely he will do much better as time goes by.
There are 11 weeks left until Election Day and much can change in that time. But a major point in Lieberman's favor is that Connecticut voters know him from stem to stern. Lamont is in a different situation.
No one really knows him and in the Democratic primary race he benefited from a hands-off policy that left him responding only to issues-oriented challenges. That is likely to change in the race for the senate seat, especially with a Republican in the mix and the penchant for political races to get much nastier after Labor Day when vacations are over and people are paying attention.
The Republican, Alan Schlesinger, doesn't even have the support of his own party structure in Connecticut, which actually happens far more than might be suspected, but in this case is probably a good move. Schlesinger, by many accounts, is in denial over a gambling problem that he doesn't see as a problem.
People generally don't have a problem with gamblers, as long as they aren't running for public office and are winning. But they do have a problem with gamblers who lose, fake an ID so they can lose some more, and then brush it all off as a misunderstanding. Taxpayers have a quirk about sending people to Congress who already have money issues.
It would take a major upheaval in the center of the earth to get Schlesinger into striking distance in this race.
The big issue at stake is Lieberman's support of the War in Iraq. The Democrats have been hell bent on portraying that war as a losing proposition for at least two years now, and have no qualms about telling voters that the lives of Americans lost there have been wasted in a worthless and losing cause.
But Connecticut has nearly 300,000 veterans among the ranks of the voters. That is 300,000 people with a better than average knowledge of war and its impact. 300,000 people who in all likelihood don't want to see America's politicians turn another entire generation of veterans into scapegoats for their shortsightedness as Congress did to the Vietnam generation.
300,000 voters who usually have a spouse, significant other, or person they influence and carry significant clout in this election. And that can throw a huge monkey wrench into the Democratic strategy.
Because unlike political talking heads, clueless World Terrorist Media reporters, and those who work for its affiliate, the American Terrorist Media, Connecticut's veterans generally support the War on Terror and the War in Iraq. Yes, they want to see some concrete advances and victories, and yes they have concerns about when our troops should starting leaving Iraq and under what conditions.
But many veterans also are acutely aware that the premier Democratic talking point to support their lack of support in Iraq, the Weapons of Mass Destruction, is not and never has been a key point in the decision to invade and toss Saddam Hussein out of office. Veterans, better than most people, know first-hand that it isn't the kind of weapons a potential adversary possesses that decides whether to fight, it is the intent in the mind of that adversary.
Once the Taliban got the stuffing knocked out of it in Afghanistan, many of its surviving fighters began migrating to Iraq, with good reason. Among them was Abu Al-Zarqawi, the number one terrorist in Iraq who was dispatched by US forces June 7.
In 2001 Al-Zarqawi was seriously wounded fighting against us in Afghanistan, and traveled to Baghdad where he was given the best of medical treatment, in addition to security. After he was stabilized he enjoyed a long and secure period of recovery, and then was set loose in the Iraqi countryside to again begin working against the free world.
That countryside already had terrorist training camps established, and was reported to have a partial jetliner fuselage in place for practicing highjackings. Most of this is spelled out in the book The Connection by author Steven Hayes. In that book Hayes goes to lengths to connect terrorists and their activities from the early 90s to the invasion of Iraq and afterward.
But the part that makes the best case for invading Iraq is Al-Zarqawi's presence there and Saddam Hussein's knowledge of it. How do we know Saddam knew Al-Zarqawi was in Iraq? Because Saddam's son Uday ran the hospital where Al-Zarqawi recovered from his wounds!
The fact is, Iraq was the next launching point for terrorist attacks against the US and the Bush administration stopped them before they were launched. Any experienced street fighter will tell you, once you know someone is planning to hit you, the best response is to hit them first before they are prepared.
That is what the US did, that is what Joe Lieberman supported, and that is going to give Ned Lamont an 11-week migraine, because Connecticut's veterans know it.
President Bush gave a spirited and heartfelt defense of the War in Iraq in a press conference Monday, and made the ultimate point about our efforts there. If we leave Iraq before that country is able to defend itself against all enemies, foreign and domestic, the terrorists will prevail there and follow us here.
We have already been attacked once this decade. We don't want to see another attack on our soil, ever. Joe Lieberman will help see to that. Ned Lamont won't.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006