The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Monday, June 21, 2004  

The Self-Benching Sen. Lieberman

Poor Sen. Joseph Lieberman. Rejected by Democratic Party voters during the presidential primary season -- fitting treatment given, among other things, his contribution of absolutely nothing to the party’s last campaign for the White House -- it seems the junior senator from Connecticut might be a bit put off at his increasing obscurity.

The Hartford Courant today reports (“Lieberman Now Kerry’s Odd Man Out,” by David Lightman):

John Kerry’s former rivals were everywhere last week, huddling with the likely Democratic nominee, raising money for the Massachusetts senator and touting the candidate’s strengths to the media -- with one notable exception.

Dick Gephardt met with Kerry privately for about an hour at the Capitol. Bob Graham engaged reporters in a conference call on Iraq. Wesley Clark was the host of a big fund-raiser, and John Edwards headed south for some rallies.

Joe Lieberman, meanwhile, went his own way, apart from the crowd.

At almost the same hour Graham, the Florida senator, was protesting that the war in Iraq forced the U.S. to take resources from Afghanistan and thus “put our country at greater risk to terrorists,” Lieberman was at Washington’s Mayflower Hotel.

There, the Connecticut Democrat told an audience consisting largely of Iraq war supporters -- many of them Democrats -- that it’s no shame to back President Bush in this case.

“If the president of the United States happens to be a Republican who shares these values, it's in the tradition of the Democratic Party that we will support that president,” Lieberman said. “Ultimately, loyalty to country is more important than loyalty to party.”

He’s still a Democrat, Lieberman said. He still wants Kerry to unseat Bush, he said, and “I’ve made a carte blanche offer to the campaign to do whatever I can.”

But Lieberman also has strong disagreements with his party mainstream about the war, and it’s freezing him out.

“I wouldn’t say he’s a liability,” said Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, “but the Kerry campaign doesn’t want any noise getting in the way until their candidate gets better known.”

And protestations otherwise aside, Sen. Lieberman isn’t being pushed aside by the party; the current situation is of his own making. As the Courant reminds readers, “Though the senator says he’s eager to help Kerry, he did not follow the pattern of other dropouts, who quickly appeared with the presumptive nominee. Instead, Lieberman took his time endorsing Kerry, and so far has made only one out-of-state appearance with him.”

Lake is correct. Sen. Lieberman isn’t a liability; he’s just irrelevant.

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