Lieberman's New Withdrawal Messaging
by Matt Stoller, Sat Aug 12, 2006 at 11:19:15 AM EDT
Lieberman has a new 'unity' commercial.
This week we had round one of the U.S. Senate race. Now round two begins. I want to thank my supporters and explain to all you why I've decided to fight on. I'm staying in this race because I want to keep working for the things that matter to you. I've led the Senate on issues like national security the creation of the 9/11 commission; efforts to stop global warming; protect social security and find cures for diseases like cancer and diabetes. And I'm staying because I want to help end the war in Iraq in a way that brings stability to the Mid-East and doesn't leave us even more vulnerable. So much needs to be done, but so little is actually getting done in Washington because our politics have become so partisan and polarized. My 30 years of experience has been about bringing people together. I'm Joe Lieberman. And I approved this message because it's time for a new politics of unity and purpose.
Lieberman seems to be calling for an end to the war in Iraq, which is a newish place for him to go. He's already pandering to the voters by misrepresenting his position, since he wants to keep permanent military bases in Iraq. This is weak, pathetic stuff, but it worked in the final days of the primary. I phone-banked a bunch of undecideds who in all likelihood flipped to Lieberman in the waning days of the campaign. "I hate the war, I hate Bush, but I'm just not sure we can pull out right now" was the way they put it.
So why did it work? Voters, while they want change, are torn between comfort and a desire for a new direction. If you get into the specifics of new policy, voters will be much less likely to go for a new direction, since they are comparing what they know with what they don't, and what they know has the inherent comfort borne of routine. The key point to understand is that 'against the war' does not mean 'withdraw our troops'. Sure there's a strong correlation between the two, but there are a substantial number of Americans who want some troops out but don't want to fully leave Iraq because they are afraid of the consequences of withdrawal. Policy-wise, I'm not sure whether this is right or not, and I respect a lot of people who have different opinions on this.
The thing is, policy differences on military strategy don't matter, since Senators do not set military strategy. If Ned Lamont is elected, and Democrats take the House and Senate, Donald Rumsfeld is still commanding our military. George Bush will be the commander in chief for two and a half more years, and the key trait necessary in a Senator is not that the Senator have a good withdrawal plan but that the Senator be willing to hold the people in charge accountable for their consistently failed conservative policies.
Lieberman is probably lying about wanting to end the war in Iraq, and he's certainly changing his rhetoric if not his position. But that doesn't really matter. What matters is that Lieberman has never held the President accountable for failures in Iraq, and if reelected, will continue to give him a blank check for war profiteering, intelligence failures, incompetence, and outright dishonesty. Whether you seek a withdrawal or not, it's better to have a Senator who will challenge George Bush and his failed conservative policies. Republicans, Democrats, and Independents can all agree on that.