Tag Archives: Joe Lieberman

Tomorrow’s Primaries Could Chart Destiny for 2010

In 2006, Democrats took back control of Congress because of public outrage at George Bush and the War in Iraq.  But we should remember it almost didn’t happen – until August, when Ned Lamont proved that Democrats can galvanize that energy to beat an incumbent Senator in a primary.  Tomorrow, Pennsylvania Democrats will be asked to dump ex-Republican Arlen Specter – and in Arkansas, conservative Senator Blanche Lincoln also faces a primary challenge.  And just like Joe Lieberman, the Party establishment is circling the wagons in both states – with President Obama shooting a radio ad that claims Lincoln “took on big insurance companies” to pass health care.  A new poll shows that voters prefer Democrats over Republicans, which suggests that 2010 may not be the nightmare everyone fears.  But it also showed that voters hate incumbents.  If Democrats want to avoid a bloodbath in November, Specter and Lincoln must be defeated.

In a development that Democrats are celebrating, last week’s Associated Press poll found that voters prefer a “generic Democrat” over a “generic Republican” for Congress by a 45-40 margin.  That’s almost a complete reversal from last month, but the poll also shows a dangerous trend – only one-third would re-elect their own Congressmember.  Far from just Teabaggers on the right who are waging a Stalinist purge of Republicans, there is disenchantment on the left that explains the malaise.  And so far, the Democratic leadership and Obama White House are refusing to recognize it.

If Blanche Lincoln and Arlen Specter survive the Democratic primary, it will only get worse.  There is no guarantee Specter or Lincoln would beat their Republican challengers in November – in fact, odds are against it.  In Arkansas, Republican John Boozeman beats Lincoln by 14 points.  In Pennsylvania, Specter quit the GOP because right-winger Pat Toomey would beat him in the primary.  If they face each other in the general, Specter loses byeight points.

Does this mean their progressive challengers – Bill Halter in Arkansas, and Joe Sestak in Pennyslvania – would win?  Not necessarily, but the odds are much greater.  Match-up polls show both Democrats doing better against the Republican in November, but a more important metric is the “favorable/unfavorable” numbers.  As incumbents, Lincoln and Specter have high name-recognition – and voters don’t like them.  You can’t convince someone who’s already made up their mind to change it.  With Halter and Sestak, the outcome is more fluid – because voters will be open to persuasion come November.

Democratic elites always lecture progressive activists about “electability” – how we must temper our idealism and support for liberal candidates for the “greater good” of defeating Republicans.  And yet, Organizing for America – the President’s “field team” that helped him defeat Hillary Clinton and John McCain – is urging supporters to help Lincoln and Specter win the primary.  While I’m sure many of us would support Lincoln and Specter (albeit grudgingly) if they win the primary, to do so now is sick and counterproductive.

Let’s review things for a minute.  As a moderate Republican, Arlen Specter co-sponsored the Employee Free Choice Act in 2007 – but balked in 2009 because of pressure from the right-wing of his party.  After becoming a Democrat in April 2009, he nevertheless remained opposed to EFCA and did not repudiate his prior support for a flat tax when I asked him directly.  He’s been a decent Democratic vote over the past year, but only after Sestak opted to challenge him.

Blanche Lincoln’s record is even worse.  As the White House pushed for health care reform, she vowed to filibuster any bill that included a “public option” – even when her Arkansas constituents supported it.  In other words, she was entering in cahoots with Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans to block any vote on President Obama’s highest legislative priority – one he took so seriously that everything else had to wait.  If Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had a spine, this would have been treated as an act of war.

Senators rarely lose re-election – not to mention a primary in their own party – which is why it’s so hard to hold them accountable with a serious candidate.  When Joe Lieberman lost in 2006, it was the first time that a Democratic Senator failed to get re-nominated in fourteen years.  The fact that two incumbents now stand to get primaried in the same year is remarkable, and should be a serious “wake-up call” to the Democratic Party leaders.

But the leadership is circling the wagons – because the Senate is a “club” (often known as the world’s most exclusive club), and incumbents are terrified that a primary challenge to Lincoln and Specter could mean they’re next.  San Francisco readers will recall how the State Senate rallied around Carole Migden (despite her liabilities as an incumbent), when Mark Leno ran against her in 2008.  What we see right now at the national level is not all that different.

Like we’ve seen before, the task for progressives now is to save the Democratic Party from itself.  We will not see the glaring “enthusiasm gap” between Democrats and Republicans shrink if Blanche Lincoln and Arlen Specter win the primary.  They will stand to lose to a cadre of right-wing challengers in November, which will only embolden the Sarah Palin crowd to bring back the Bush Administration.  That’s why it’s so crucial to help Halter and Sestak.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be in Arkansas or Pennsylvania to help out.  MoveOn can help you call its Arkansas members, and recruit them to volunteer for Bill Halter.  Joe Sestak’s campaign website enables you to make virtual calls to Pennsylvania.  It is these tools that elected Barack Obama, and now we’re using them to rescue his legacy.

Of course, everyone knows that Joe Lieberman was a sore loser after Ned Lamont won the primary, stayed in the race as an independent and – with active support from Karl Rove – won re-election.  But the same won’t happen this time.  In both Arkansas and Pennsylvania, the deadlines to file as an independent candidate have already lapsed.

Paul Hogarth is the Managing Editor of Beyond Chron, San Francisco’s Alternative Online Daily, where this piece was first published.

Next Up: A Climate Bill

Woo-hoo. The healthcare bill is done.  People will see many of the provisions go into place immediately and then they can decide how they feel about these reforms based on reality instead of frenzied, uninformed rhetoric.  Let’s just take a moment to recognize this historic occasion.  

Unfortunately, just when we see Congress starting to pass bills promised during the last election, we get an unwelcomed glimpse of some of the ugliest parts of politics.  It disgusts and frightens me that not only were Members of Congress spat upon as they walked to the Capitol, but lunatics threatened to kill the family members of our elected officials.  I am disheartened by the actions of my fellow Americans in the last week but I am not without hope because despite all of these threats, they made real progress and that is something to celebrate.

Healthcare Reforms’ passage also clears the way for the Senate to take up climate and they are thankfully wasting no time.  According to E&E senior reporter Darren Samuelsohn, “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is inserting himself into the energy and climate debate with a series of meetings [on Tuesday and Wednesday] with key players engaged in the closed-door negotiations.”

Senator John Kerry (D-MA) is also doubling down on climate saying, “In the wake of health care’s passage, we have a strong case to make that this can be the next breakthrough legislative fight.  Climate legislation is the single best opportunity we have to create jobs, reduce pollution and stop sending billions overseas for foreign oil from countries that would do us harm.”

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the undecideds are starting to vocally call for Congress to consider a bill.  Earlier this week, Senator Tom Udall lead a group of 22 moderate Senators in calling on Senator Majority Leader Reid to bring up comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation for a vote. The letter is especially significant because most of these folks hadn’t been saying much about climate legislation before.  And if those in the middle remained silent, that would have deadened any momentum.  But they didn’t.  

Although none of this guarantees that we will get a bill and it certainly doesn’t guarantee that any bill that moves will be strong enough to address the problems, it represents significant progress.  Members of Congress have had a hard week so I hope that they go home over the Easter recess and take a few days to recuperate.  When they get back, there is much to do and a lot of momentum to build upon.

Heather Taylor-Miesle is the director of the NRDC Action Fund. Become a fan on Facebook or Twitter.

Will Feinstein Learn the Lieberman Lesson?

With word yesterday that President-Elect Obama wants Joe Lieberman to stay in the Democratic Caucus, the issue of his near-term future is a bit clearer. Wanting Lieberman to stay in the caucus of course is not at all the same thing as allowing him to keep his chairmanship of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, which is the real question. But since the prospect remains of him retaining his chairmanship, it’s worth considering what the impact would be.

It’s maybe the second day of Group Psychology 101 that as soon as you start creating special rules for individuals, the entire system breaks apart. If Joe Lieberman keeps his chairmanship, what’s the functional message to everyone else in the caucus? If I’m a conservative, red-state, but generally well behaved Senator like Ben Nelson, I’m thinking to myself “I didn’t just spend two years with subpoena power over the Bush administration to campaign for the Republican presidential nominee and Senate candidates. I didn’t refuse to stamp down Obama-is-a-Muslim rumors. I don’t fear for the country if the party I want to caucus with gains power. I didn’t spend the past year undermining the Democratic nominee for President. I didn’t quit the party when it became personally inconvenient. If Lieberman gets to chair Homeland Security after all of that, what do I get?” And I won’t even start to delve into what traditional liberal lions like Sen. Boxer must or at least should be thinking about all this. Doing the right thing gets you where?

It would create an active dis-incentive to party loyalty over personal ambition. The problem child gets the special attention. Anyone who grew up with a sibling or simply attended school knows how this works. Which brings us to Senator Dianne Feinstein. ALl indications are that she’s in line to chair the Senate Intelligence Committee in the next Congress. Meanwhile, she’s laying claim to the CW’s inside track for California Governor in 2010. Combine those circumstances with the considerable number of Feinstein boosters who are convinced that there’s some sort of magical party-bucking ratio that makes a reasonable and moderate California Democrat (the only sort of Democrat who could possibly win the Governor’s race, natch) and Feinstein’s dicey record on FISA, on trainwreck Attorney General Michael Mukasey, and support for the nomination of homophobic and racially questionable Judge Leslie Southwick, and you’ve put Feinstein in quite a position.

If Lieberman is allowed to retain his committee, then the lesson that chairing a committee is secondary to personal priorities leaves Feinstein campaigning for Governor as chair of the Intelligence Committee. Specifically, if burnishing her middle-of-the-road credentials for the governor’s race collides with the interests of the Democratic Senate Caucus, the presidential agenda, or even the right thing, Senate Democrats would have signaled to her that her electoral ambitions come first. And in fact, that acting out is the best way to get special favors in DC, which would be good to have when it comes time for big name stumpers in 2010.

Now, far be it from me to suggest that the United States Senate operates on the same psychological level as a group of children. But the potential power-play aspects of this are clear and inescapable. Unless we rally to the Lieberman Must Go cause now, we risk a free for all that undermines the Senate and the Obama agenda and sets a clear example that personal ambition trumps Democratic functionality. And if bucking the system is how you get places, then bucking the system is what we’ll get more of. And I certainly don’t want to give Senator Feinstein more incentive to run to the right for the next two years.

full disclosure: I work for the Courage Campaign but write this independently

This Just In (Again): McCain is Nervous about California

So I just got back from a McCain rally here in San Diego and aside from feeling dirty, he’s definitely a bit worried about California.  He brought out every gun he’s got, big, little, whatever.  He was introduced by Mayor Jerry Sanders, former CA SoS Bill Jones and Governor Schwarzenegger (McCain “will say ‘Hasta la vista’ to wasteful spending in Washington.”).  On stage but silent were locals such as my councilman Kevin Faulconer and County Supervisor Ron Roberts.  Along for the ride on the plane and the photo ops were wife Cindy, mother Roberta, and his murderers row of pseudo-moderates: Governor Crist from Florida and Senators Richard Burr, Lindsay Graham and Joe Lieberman.  They didn’t say anything but they stood there very moderately.

And then Senator McCain went ON AND ON about the evils of radical Islamic extremism (radical extremism? Is it also exceptionally unique? Largely big?).  He told people that it’s a titanic struggle against people who want to destroy everything and that there is nothing more evil than what we’re up against.  He gave “my friends” plenty of “straight talk” about…evil.  Troops aren’t coming home because that would be surrender (does that mean that we can’t win if the troops come home?).  He said that he was the only one who knew Rumsfeld’s plan would fail and the Petraeus plan was necessary (presumably not even Petraeus knew).  Spent about two seconds on making tax cuts permanent and saying that it’s bad when Congress spends money (just like the Constitution says. Oh wait…).  

Closed things off trying to roll around in the filth of the Reagan legacy and then noting that $35 billion in earmarks could have gone towards $1000 for every child in the country.  How much would the $2 trillion in Iraq money have translated into for the kids? McCain was mum on this point (the answer because I like math is…a whole lot more).

Point is, McCain is desperate to make everyone scared because he’s scared of Romney.  Rally in San Diego seven hours before the polls close to talk about fear? Hm.

CA-12: Connecticut for Lieberman vs. Jackie Speier?

You have to be a complete fool to claim to be a Democrat and then package in your campaign trial balloon a prepared statement of praise from Joe Lieberman.  Anyone you has been paying any attention knows that is the kiss of death in Democratic politics, especially in a blue seat in a major blue geographic area effectively serviced by mass transit. I’m surprised we haven’t seen any quotes (yet) from Dan Gerstein.

I don’t have a problem with people who worked for Lieberman running for office, but there needs to be an apology right off the bat so voters recognize that the candidate has learned the errors of their ways and is willing to take responsibility all those who have suffered due to their support for Bush’s main man in the senate.

But that isn’t the route Yul Kwon (CA for Leiberman) is taking. Nope, he seems to think Lieberman praising him makes him look good (like Bush, or like Brownie during his confirmation). That just isn’t the case. Speier v Yee would have been a hard fought but fair campaign. Yet anyone running on the Connecticut for Lieberman ticket in the Bay Area should expect far, far worse.

UPDATE: Even one of our friends at the California Majority Report agrees that, “being a former Lieberman staffer doesn’t really win one a lot of friends in the Democratic Party.”

Feinstein Wants to Hear From You Err… Maybe Not

Senator Dianne Feinstein wants to hear from you — or does she?

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D/R California) wants to hear from her constituents.  She has boldly stepped into the 20th century by including an “email contact” page on her ultra modern web site (see screenshots below). If you are surprised at how high tech it is, remember that she represents Silicon Valley. Her web site can be nothing less than hot.

She considerately adds modern internet “radio buttons” so the constituent communicator can easily select their area of concern.  Brilliant if I say so Miss Dianne and brava!

The text at her site says

Every e-mail I receive is read, and your opinions are carefully considered.

but there is no “OTHER” radio button. 

If you have an “OTHER” question not addressed by the site’s radio button selection, you will be forced to select an unrelated radio button topic.  That selection will get you a warm fuzzy squirmy non-response.  Ask about FISA and click the GAY ISSUES radio button and you will quickly receive an automatic GAY ISSUES vague non-response that has nothing to do with your FISA question.

Huh!?  It’s as if she is not truly carefully considering the opinions of her constituents.

Senator Feinstein has made a few odd, almost Liebermanish moves in the past months.

She strangely supported an extension of the odious FISA Act and recently inexplicably supported the Bush Administration’s circle jerk about MoveOn.org’s NYT howl during the run up to Petreaus.

None of the “radio buttons” has anything to do with her anti MoveOn.org vote nor her support of FISA.  She doesn’t  offer any explanation nor even a mention of her two votes supporting the Bush administration on her modern web site.


What’s a constituent to do?

Aha!  Her site offers what is called “Dianne’s Journal”.  Surely she would have journaled about those controversial votes but…

no, she hasn’t journaled for her constituents since April 2007.  Wake up Dianne!

If you don’t make more of an effort to at least appear to be somewhat interested in carefully considering the opinions of your constituents, you may be doing K Street work for hubby’s interests after 2012.

But before that happens, Diane, please fix your web site.  It is an embarrassment.  It is shameful for the goyim to see such drek.

Clinton Touts Endorsement of Ellen Tauscher

I wrote this for today’s Beyond Chron, San Francisco’s Alternative Online Daily

As further proof that Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign does not deserve progressive support, the New York Senator announced yesterday that she has received another prominent endorsement – from Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher of Walnut Creek.  As chair of the New Democrat Coalition, Tauscher is a so-called “moderate” Democrat who supported the War in Iraq until recently, is a hawk on defense spending, and has routinely deserted progressives for business interests.  Last October, merely days before the mid-term elections, she publicly fretted that party activists were driving the Democratic Party “over the left cliff.”

Tauscher was first elected in 1996 by defeating a Republican Congressman, as she emphasized her centrist credentials in a district that was economically conservative but socially liberal.  But after the post-2000 re-districting gave her a much safer seat, she continued to act as if she represents a “swing” district.  Tauscher’s icy relationship with progressives have driven liberal bloggers to actively consider a primary challenge against her in 2008. 

Progressives despise Ellen Tauscher because, beyond her voting record, she uses her status as a Democrat to undermine opposition to Republicans.  In 1997, she joined the Blue Dog Coalition – a group of conservative Democrats who frequently cut deals with the Republican Congress.  In 2006, after the Democrats re-gained a majority, President George Bush met with Tauscher and other moderate Democrats, in an obvious move to undercut the influence of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

In 2004, Tauscher’s candidate for the Democratic Presidential nomination was Senator Joe Lieberman.  After his primary campaign went nowhere, she argued that it wasn’t about his support for the War in Iraq, but “more about satisfying the Democratic desire to have somebody who is going to go out and beat George Bush.”  So what does her endorsement mean for Hillary Clinton?

Send feedback to [email protected]

Garry South

I want to follow up on Todd Beeton’s article on the fake John Edwards whine. Todd already took down the piece, but of course Carla Marinucchi went to the go-to wanker:

Democratic strategist Garry South, who advised Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman during his bid for the party’s 2004 nomination, said “there’s always a danger when you’re running for public office that a pattern of behavior starts to emerge. And it might be utterly unfair to draw conclusions when things add up to a pattern — but that’s what people do, and that’s what the media does.”

If you want a pattern, let’s talk about Garry South destroying the (all once-bright) futures of Gray Davis, Joe Lieberman, and Steve Westly. It is literally like he won’t hire a client without potential to be on the top 10 list of the biggest losers in the Democratic Party this millennium. There are plenty of reasons for the Open Letter to Garry South.

And can we finally retire the term of him as a “Democratic strategist” after all the evidence the Democratic Party rejects him everywhere he goes? He’s a “Connecticut for Lieberman” strategist and has the record to prove it.

The Calitics Interview: Chris Dodd

Yesterday the Calitics staff sat down with Sen. Christopher Dodd, Senate Banking Committee chair and candidate for President in 2008, for about a 30-minute interview.  Dodd impressed me as someone who thinks clearly about issues and the implications of them, who carefully ponders all of his decisions, and who always strives to do the right thing.  In other words, a Democrat.

He’s also embraced new media, hiring Tim Tagaris, who should be familiar to the netroots as having worked on Ned Lamont’s campaign (here’s a bio).  Dodd talked about the new media era and how it can impact a campaign like his that is looking to get their views out in the face of the media-hyped monster that his Hillack Clintobama.

The full interview (not transcribed, but paraphrased) on the flip:

We asked Dodd about the role that blogs and the Internet are playing in his campaign.  During last week’s debate, they set up a live streaming “war room” where people could watch his staff react to portions of the debate (Dodd actually criticized the debate format in his convention speech, which I thought was accurate).  He said that his campaign cannot “rely on what’s filtered through the traditional media.”  He talked about how he can read articles on the Presidential race, and see where his portion of the story “died on the editor’s desk,” because you only have so many column inches and you have to talk about Hillary and you have to talk about Obama.  The Tom Friedman quote that Brian Williams brought up in the debate (“nobody has come up with a specific energy and environmental policy”) really stung him, because Dodd HAS done just that, and he said that he sent it to Friedman to boot.  We talk about the proposal later.

Now I’ll segue into a Q-and-A shorthand format.

Next question: When the media does stop at the Hillary-Obama phenomenon, how do you react to that?

A: “We’re building an operation solidly.”  Dodd believes in an almost architectural way to build an organization, by making the underlying structure solid.  Iowa and Nevada, he said, are all about organization; getting people to stay in caucuses for two hours and horse trade with their neighbors requires it.  And in New Hampshire, he’s a fellow New Englander.  His crowds are “decent-sized”.  And people seem to have an “amnesia about the last election,” where Kerry’s organization in Iowa was solid enough to help him win that race.

Q: Talk about the corporate carbon tax.

A: Dodd believes he can generate 50-100 billion dollars annually through this tax, which can be put into alternative energy programs.  This will have the effect of equalizing price for peopple.  People want to go green, but if it’s cost-prohibitive and they’re struggling to get by, they may not make the sacrifice.  It makes it easier to purchase things like wind and solar and ethanol, etc.  Dodd said that he got a great response on the proposal, particularly from Al Gore.  He also wants to mandate a 50mpg fuel economy standard by 2017.  I’ll quote his Boston Globe op-ed for a more detailed description:

That’s why, in addition to whatever else we do, America must enact a corporate carbon tax. Used in conjunction with cap and trade systems that allow clean corporations to sell pollution credits to dirtier companies, a corporate carbon tax can be implemented quickly, affect every energy sector, and above all provide the strongest disincentive possible to polluting.

Some argue that corporations would simply pass on costs of a corporate carbon tax to consumers. But in an era where the price of gasoline already jumps 30 to 40 cents in only a few weeks’ time, such arguments ring decidedly hollow. You cannot be serious about acting on the urgent threat of global warming, about making us less captive to Middle East oil, or investing in renewable energy, unless you have a corporate carbon tax that eliminates the last incentive to pollute: that it’s cheaper. With all we are facing — from health and environmental concerns to war abroad — making dirty energy a less attractive option to consumers and business is nothing to be afraid of.

But it’s particularly attractive because the revenues of a corporate carbon tax can be used to bring the cost of clean energy down. Used to fast-track renewable energy research and development and deployment of clean energy and energy efficient technologies, a corporate carbon tax would generate more than $50 billion annually, helping us get technologies out of the laboratories and onto our roads and into our homes and businesses, jumpstarting America’s global competitiveness in the process.

Dodd also described it as a jobs program, and that the jobs of the 21st century can be alternative energy jobs.

Q: On Iraq, what are your thoughts on what to do after the expected veto of the funding bill with a withdrawal date?

A: “Any bill you send without definition is wrong.”  Bush obviously wants to play out the string and hand this problem to the next President.  This is the first Administration in his history in the Congress that treats diplomacy as a threat or a weakness.  Dodd would ramp up diplomacy and political solutions to the problem of Iraq.  He says that he gets people coming up to him all the time, Democrats and Republicans, who say “Don’t quit on this.”  Dodd is also a co-sponsor of Feingold-Reid.  I’m happy with his stance on Iraq.

Q: What is the status of your legislation restoring habeas corpus?

A: Not moving.  But he’s committed to the issue.  “When I first introduced it, I thought it would go over people’s heads,” would be too obscure.  He didn’t realize how widely held this opinion was that we need to restore habeas corpus, that it speaks to who we are as Americans.

Dodd talked about how the best advocates of his bill were the senior officers of JAG.  They understand that you cannot torture people or detain them indefinitely without telling them why they were charged.  He talked about all the reasons why you have to change the law.  And he said that if he were President, “I don’t know what I could fix by executive order.”  I said, “If you’re like this President, everything.”  Big laugh.  I killed with Chris Dodd.

Q: Talk about Webb and Tester.

A: He has a lot of respect for them.  Called Tester “a keeper” and great with his constituents.

Q: Talk about jobs and why so many people think they’re falling behind.

A: We need more union households.  Ben Bernanke made a speech in Omaha where he admitted that less union households have increased inequality.  Dodd has offered legislation to overturn the Kentucky River case, where people listed as supervisors cannot organize.  He talked about rising costs in energy, education, health care.  And he said that the GI bill was so successful in getting so many to college and into a good job.

He also mentioned that real unemployment is probably twice as much as reported, because it doesn’t count those who haven’t looked for work or have stopped looking.  And he said that 10 million households in this country haven’t been to a bank.  We need to get people out of the shadows and into that system.

Dodd finished by talking about trust.  Elections are rarely about the candidate; people want to know if you’re listening to them (a primal reaction).  He thinks America is not that divded and is just looking for leadership to get them from A to D and not A to Z.

Q: Talk about how you are interacting with Joe Lieberman now.

A: This was a great answer, and I encouraged Dodd to keep talking about it.  He had a 40-year relationship with Lieberman.  It was a tough choice for him to back Ned Lamont.  And ultimately, he said, “I did the right thing” because he respected the wishes of the voters.  He said Ned was a great candidate and would have made a great Senator.

OK, that was it.