The Rittenhouse Review

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

Saturday, December 10, 2005  

Our Next Secretary of Defense? Or Just Another Republican Back-Bencher?

It’s not just me, a fact that doesn’t surprise. There are plenty of Democrats disappointed with Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) and his unremitting support for the White House and its failed war on Iraq, and it’s all over today’s papers.

In “Lieberman’s Iraq Stance Brings Widening Split With His Party,” New York Times reporters Raymond Hernandez and William Yardley write:

Five years after running as the vice-presidential nominee on the Democratic ticket and a year after his own presidential bid, . . . Lieberman . . . has become an increasingly unwelcome figure within his party, with some Democrats seeing him more as a wayward son than a favorite son.

They report Sen. Lieberman is held in low regard by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and note a possible challenge from former governor and senator Lowell P. Weicker Jr., discussed earlier this week. And there’s more:

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, a liberal advocacy group with 10,000 members in Connecticut, said it would consider a challenge if the right candidate came along.

Meanwhile, in today’s Washington Post, Shailagh Murray makes the same points in “Lieberman Wins Republican Friends, Democratic Enemies With Support for War,” and adds:

The administration, on the other hand, can’t stop gushing over Lieberman. Vice President [Dick] Cheney called him “a fine U.S. senator,” and Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman contrasted him with his “retreat and defeat” Democratic colleagues. White House spokesman Scott McClellan cited Lieberman, the Democrats’ 2000 vice presidential nominee, as an exception in a party otherwise “trying to score political points off the situation.”

There have even been rumors that Lieberman is being considered as a replacement for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, if the embattled Pentagon boss retires. Lieberman dismisses the speculation as a “Washington fantasy.” But he caused tongues to wag when he had breakfast with Rumsfeld at the Pentagon on Thursday.

The question seems to be turning toward motives: Is Sen. Lieberman pursuing what’s best for the country, the party, or himself?

I’d be pleased to see Sen. Lieberman go to the Pentagon. It’s a better place for him -- a better place for us to have him -- than the U.S. Senate.

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