Did Obama Cheer For Lieberman?
by Team Edwards, Sat Jun 16, 2007 at 05:40:25 PM EDT
POLITICS AS USUAL
In light of Joe Lieberman's recent turn from Super Duper Warmonger to Extra Size Super Duper Warmonger Extraordinaire there is a question that the Obama campaign needs to answer.
Was Senator Obama one of the Senators that gave Senator Lieberman a rousing standing ovation when he returned to the Senate after being re-elected? This is also a question that Senator Clinton needs to answer. I called Senator Obama's office yesterday and asked them this question. Even after telling them why I think answering the question would benefit the campaign (if he didn't cheer for Lieberman he should just say so and end of story) times I still did not receive a straight answer.
Why is this so important? I'll tell you after the jump.
The Lieberman issue is important because it is an indicator of where the presidential candidates' allegiances truly lie.
Whose side are they on?
The DC incumbent protection society or the grassroots activists who work hard to elect Democrats that represent their values?
Not only did Joe Lieberman give President Bush the illusion of bipartisan acclaim for the war in Iraq he also made our party seem more split on Iraq than it really was.
Lieberman has been a consistent advocate for a war that goes against everything that our country should stand for. I don't see major differences, policy wise, between Lieberman and neocons obsessed with apocalyptic visions. He has crossed the line. He is no longer just delusional, now he is just plain scary. Even as it has become and more evident the this war is a disaster of epic proportions Lieberman has not only held fast in his beliefs he has decided to turn the warmongering up on the amp that goes to 11 (quick Spinal Tap reference). Lieberman then had the audacity to claim that he was carrying on in the tradition of FDR, JFK, and RFK.
CAN'T KNOCK THE HUSTLE
Speaking of audacity, the way that Obama handled the Lieberman situation was one of the first indications that our party was not witnessing "the audacity of hope" but the audacity of Barack Obama.
When Obama was first elected to the Senate he was given a "mentor". That "mentor" was Joe Lieberman. It should be noted; in the interest of fairness Obama did not have any say in who was assigned to be his "mentor". If anyone is Obama's true "mentor" it is Senator Dick Durbin. I like Senator Durbin a lot. He once gave a great speech about Paul Wellstone and what Wellstone said after he voted against going to war in Iraq. It was one of the most inspiring things I had ever heard. However I think that when Durbin encouraged Obama to run for president he did not have an accurate gauge on how Obama was handling the pressures and influences surrounding him.
This was first apparent when Obama made a very Lieberman like vote on tort reform. It seemed as if Obama had already fallen into the trap of being so scared of being branded a "liberal" that he allowed the fear of that label to control his decisions and how he presented himself. His tort reform vote was hyped as the moment that Obama said to the DC media elite that he was not beholden to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. What about being beholden to the American people?
Though Obama had the moral authority to challenge the war from being right from the start he decided to play it safe and vote against the Feingold - Kerry amendment. Senator Clinton did the same. It's also important to note that when President Bush announced his plans to escalate the war both John Edwards and Chris Dodd made it clear that funds for the surge should be cut off. Obama and Clinton opposed the surge but stopped short of calling for funds to be cut off. This was a sign of things to come. Obama and Clinton both play it safe. Both of them failing to show even a shred of leadership when it comes to the most important issue facing our country today.
In between the Feingold - Kerry vote and the half-measures to stop the escalation was the famous Lamont vs. Lieberman showdown. Soon after Lamont began attracting attention Senator Obama spoke to the Connecticut Democratic Party. While he did point out his differences with Senator Lieberman he told the Connecticut Democrats that he hoped they would have the "good sense" to re-elect Joe Lieberman. The "good sense". Is it just me or does that sound like the typical, "Come on now...don't be a liberal...the war isn't THAT big of a deal...it's not the only issue" head trip?
I hope our party has the "good sense" not to nominate someone who has no backbone and can't take a position on anything without saying "on the other hand" and least 5 times.
It really comes down to this. Anyone who doesn't display leadership on ending the war has no business being our nominee. You want to know why? Because as popular as ending the war may be in early 2009 there are still going to be those who are going to want to do the "safe" thing instead of the right thing. And especially since coming to the Senate Obama has always done the "safe" thing regarding the war. It seems as if he sees this issue as something he can use to show how "moderate" he is. Why else would he always go half-ass on ending this war?
Even with the endorsements of Senator Obama and Senator Clinton Joe Lieberman still lost the primary. After Lieberman lost the primary Obama endorsed Lamont. Obama supporters are quick to point out that Obama sent out a fundraising e-mail for Lamont. Wow, a fundraising e-mail that one of his staffers wrote...how nice of Senator Obama. I'm sorry but this is a typical example of a politician playing CYA.
I have arguments from some that Obama had extra time when in Massachusetts campaigning for his good friend (and current Governor) Deval Patrick and he should have used that time to campaign for Lamont in neighboring Connecticut. Normally I would disagree with arguments like these because none of us know how busy a certain public figure is. However I think that the general thrust of their argument is right. Obama campaigned for a lot of Democrats in 2006. Whether the Democratic elite in DC realized it or not defeating Lieberman was very important. It would have sent a very important signal to elected Democrats across the country. Sooner or later the progressive movement is going to need to start challenging half ass Democrats in primaries. Though a message was still sent through Lamont's primary victory it would have had a lot more impact if Lamont would be in the Senate to remind them of what can happen if they don't represent the values of the people who work hard to elect them. Because the issue of the war is so important and because a Lamont victory would have been a very important symbol I think that Obama does deserve a lot of criticism for not campaigning with Lamont.
Seeing Obama with Lamont would have said to Democrats and Independents that Lamont, not Lieberman was the real Democrat in the race. Sure, Lieberman would have still had the Republicans and some Independents but I believe that Lamont would have had a much better chance peeling off the Democrats and a decent chunk of Independents who voted for Lieberman.
What makes Obama's lack of effort all the more troublesome is the fact that he knew Lieberman and knew where he stood on foreign policy. At this point in 2006 Obama had to be thinking about running for president. And he had to know that ending the war would be THE issue in the campaign. Yet it seemed that he really didn't have a problem with Lieberman returning to the Senate. If his office won't say that he wasn't standing and cheering then doesn't that tell us that he likely was giving Lieberman a standing ovation? And if he was glad to see a vocal supporter of the war in the Senate instead of a vocal opponent then how can we trust him on Iraq and foreign policy in general?
Obama recently made a push for GOP Senators to join Democrats in creating a veto-proof majority that would vote to end the war. Obama's campaign spotlighted the effort numerous times. If Obama has been truly interested in creating a veto proof majority to end the war then why didn't he do something to elect Lamont? Do you really think that Obama didn't know in 2006 that there would soon be important votes regarding the war? DO you think that he was somehow unaware that Lieberman would be a leading supporter of the war while Lamont would be a leading opponent of the war?
It may seem as if I am going easy on Senator Clinton but that is not the intention. It's just that, coming from her, what do you expect? I believe that Senator Clinton is at least partly responsible for Joe Lieberman being in the Senate today. If her husband had not shown up to campaign for Lieberman shortly before the primary (a move that psychiatrists everywhere had a field day with) it is likely that Lamont would have won the primary by a margin large enough to force Lieberman to drop out of the race. I believe that Lieberman was able to win the general election because of Republicans came out for him in droves and there was confusion among some Connecticut voters who usually vote for Democrats about who the real "Democrat" in the race was.
After all, Lieberman had been Gore's Vice Presidential nominee just 6 years earlier and, at least for a while, considered one of the "front runners" for the party's Presidential nomination 3 years earlier. This is part of the reason why it is amazing that Ned Lamont ever got as far as he got in the first place. But if Senator Clinton had ever wanted Lieberman gone from the Senate in the first place she would have convinced her husband not to campaign for Lieberman. When President Clinton showed up and campaigned for Lieberman he was sending the signal to everyone to Connecticut that Lieberman was the real Democrat in the race. If Senator Clinton would have stopped President Clinton from sending that signal things would have turned out differently for Lieberman. Sure, the DLC would have had a fit. But it would have been the right thing to do for the progressive movement and the Democratic Party.
THIS CITY IS MINE
Wait a second...what I talking about? Hillary Clinton caring about the progressive movement or the future of the Democratic Party? What three dimensional "here" world did I think I was in? Sorry about that temporary lapse of judgment. Of course Senator Clinton does not care about the future of the progressive movement or the party.
If she did she would give our party's down ticket candidates in 2008 the gift that would keep on giving. She would take a huge weight off of their shoulders by letting them know that they won't have to worry about running as "Hillary Democrats". No matter who they publicly "support" we all know that deep inside everyone at the DSCC, the DCCC, and the DGA would breathe a huge sigh of relief if Senator Clinton dropped out. But of course she isn't going to do that because even though she seems poised to lose if nominated she feels that this nomination is owed to her. Who cares if she is going to squander the best chance for complete Democratic control in over a decade? We're going to make history! I'll save the "master of the obvious - Hillary can't win" routine for another time. My point is that Hillary Clinton standing up and cheering for Joe Lieberman is not a shocker. Its reason 18,291 why our party shouldn't nominate her but it's to be expected.
Some Clintonistas are going to point that Senator Clinton met with Ned Lamont and even loaned him Howard "Hungry Like the.." Wolfson as an advisor.
Isn't that the equivalent of sending a presidential campaign Bob Shrum?
STREETS IS WATCHING
Some of you might say, "Well John Edwards wasn't in the Senate when Lieberman returned so how do we know that he wouldn't have been standing and cheering as well if he where there?" It is a fair question but one there is an easy answer to.
John Edwards has been very clear on how he feels about Joe Lieberman. Out of "the big 3" he was the only one who did not endorse Lieberman at any stage in the campaign. As soon as Ned Lamont won the Democratic primary the first major Democrat who offered to campaign for him was John Edwards. Though it is debatable who said this first (some say Edwards and others say Bill Richardson) the day that Edwards campaigned for Lamont both John and Elizabeth Edwards made it very clear that they believed that Lieberman should immediately drop out of the race. Both made the point that Lieberman had competed for the Democratic nomination so he should honor the wishes of Democratic voters.
It's also worth pointing out that Edwards is the only major Democratic candidate who has been willing to call out Lieberman for his views on foreign policy. More importantly Edwards did not need to be prodded by Lieberman's recent saber rattling at Iran to do so.
During the MoveOn.org Virtual Town Hall on Iraq Edwards made this very poignant statement...
"But this is not the time for political calculation; this is the time for political courage. This is not a game of Chicken. This is not about making friends or keeping Joe Lieberman happy. This is about life and death. This is about war."
Two recent events have made the questions surrounding the standing ovation more important, as if the issue of ending the war isn't important enough. The recent Senate vote has raised serious questions about Senator Obama's Lieberman/Rove like trend of playing politics with something and then blaming someone else for doing exactly what you are doing.
The recent debate on CNN was a good example. After it was pointed out by John Edwards that Obama and Clinton were silent in the lead-up to the vote and among the last to vote Obama told Edwards that it is important that people not "play politics" with the issue of funding the war. If you watch the clip and listen to Obama's voice it becomes clear that he's trying to diffuse the issue by claiming that any discussion of the vote is "playing politics". So Obama plays politics with his vote and then accuses Edwards of playing politics by bringing up the vote. Who does that remind me of?
The second recent event that has made this all the more important is, of course, Lieberman's saber rattling against Iran. Anyone who ever asked "Why is it so important to beat Lieberman?" should watch the clip of Lieberman talking about Iran. Joe Lieberman is a neocon disguised as an "Independent-Democrat". I don't care what Lieberman calls himself but I do care that people in our party knew where he stood on foreign policy but sat on their ass while he got re-elected anyway.
This is about the very core of what our party stands. How can we even consider nominating someone who gave cover to someone who was a sure thing to promote this war? How can we even consider nominating someone who values insider DC culture more than they value the very core beliefs of the Democratic Party?
07' Bonnie and Clyde
Look at the events in chronological order and see if Osama's and Clinton's actions regarding Lieberman and the war both before and after the ovation give you any indication of whether or not Obama and Clinton were among those cheering for Lieberman.
- Obama is elected to the Senate.
- Lieberman is named as Obama's "mentor".
- Obama votes against the Kerry - Feingold amendment. So does Clinton.
- Obama endorses Lieberman for the CT Senate primary. So does Clinton.
- After Lamont wins the primary Senator Obama endorses him for the general election. So does Clinton.
- Though he campaigns for Democrats across the country Obama does not campaign for Lamont / against Lieberman. Neither does Clinton.
- When Lieberman is re-elected he returns to the Senate and is given a long and vigorous standing ovation. Senator Obama's office will not deny that he was among those standing and cheering.
- When the President begins to escalate the war in Iraq Senator Obama opposes the escalation but stops short of calling for funds for the "surge" to be cut of. So does Senator Clinton.
- When a vote for funding the war comes up in the Senate presidential candidates like John Edwards and Chris Dodd make it clear that they oppose anything that does include a timetable for withdrawal. Senator Obama remains quiet about how he will vote. So does Senator Clinton. Senators Obama and Clinton are among the last to vote. First Obama and then Clinton. They both vote the right way but fail to show even an ounce of political courage.
Maybe Senator Clinton can get a pantsuit that matches Senator Obama and they can walk around like little "twinsies".
When you look at the events before and after the standing ovation it is hard not to draw the conclusion that Obama and Clinton were among the Senators standing, clapping, and cheering for Senator Lieberman's re-election.
Both Senators Obama and Clinton were familiar enough with Lieberman's foreign policy to know exactly how he would vote with respect to the war in the future. Both Senators endorsed Lieberman for re-election and only endorsed his opponent when they had to out of a political necessity. Is it really that shocking that they would cheer wildly when he returned to their ranks?
When I first heard that Joe Lieberman had received a standing ovation when he returned to the Senate I was saddened, then I became angry.
Who would cheer for someone who has given cover to a war that has cost so many people so much?
Then I became curious.
100 Senators. - 1 (Lieberman).
Of the 99 who gave him a standing ovation?
"It had to be mostly Republicans", I told myself, but there were conflicting reports concerning wether or the ovation was given by the Senate or the Democratic caucus.
Either way, which Democrats gave Lieberman the ovation?
The first to come to mind were the usual suspects. Salazar, Ben Nelson, Landrieu, Pryor, Carper and the rest of the DLC hacks.
I can just see Salazar now in his cowboy hat...
Give me a W...give me an A...give me an R...give me an M-O-N-G-E-R...What's the spell? JOE LIEBERMAN!!!
The questions about who else was cheering for Obama remained in the back of my mind until a few days ago when I was reminded of the standing ovation. I started to think about the symbolism of 2 of the "big 3" Democratic nominees cheering for the re-election of someone who the people who give their time, energy, and money to the party worked so hard to defeat.
This is about more than Lieberman. This cuts to the very core of Obama's candidacy. Isn't his major selling point that he was right about the war from the start? He deserves a lot of credit for being right at the start. But where did his courage go after that? We need someone who will lead our party and our country in the future, not someone who will play it safe every time while they point back to a speech that they gave 5 years ago as proof that they stand of something.
And how can Obama represent a "new kind of politics" when he is more willing to stand up and cheer for a returning colleague than he is willing to stand up for the convictions of those whose votes he is asking for.
Isn't he taking part in the very kind of" small politics" that he rails against?
Barack Obama is selling himself as "hope" and a "new kind of politics". But what is so new about incumbents only caring about getting the other members of their "boys club" re-elected?
If Barack Obama wants our votes then he owes us a straight answer on this.
No "non-denial denial".
No parsing words.
No "It depends on what you consider a standing ovation."
We deserve a "yes" or a "no".
I repeatedly asked his office if there was a way I could get an answer and I never received one.
How can we nominate someone who is cheering for Joe Lieberman's re-election one second and telling us that they will represent our deepest beliefs the next?
Changing the atmosphere in Washington DC is one thing, although this is further proof that the atmosphere in Washington DC has changed Barack Obama more than the other way around, but does Senator Obama think that if he gets elected we're all going to sit around and marvel at his personality (his campaign manager did say he was going to run a largely "personality based' campaign) and that will keep us from getting furious at the right? It's not going to happen. It seems as if Obama's talk about taking the focus off of "ideology" is a way to clear the path for his attempt to be everything to everyone.
I think that every Democratic Senator should tell us whether they cheered when Joe Lieberman returned. And I'm sorry but if they claim that they were "cheering for a friend" they are full of it. They are well aware that if Lieberman would have lost it would have forced them to realize that they do not own the Senate seat they occupy. They saw Lieberman's win as an establishment victory over the grassroots. They thought that this would discourage primary challenges and keep them cozy in their seats.
Because Senator Obama and Senator Clinton are running four our party's nomination we especially need an answer them. They have been behaving in a very similar manner regarding the war, especially since 2005. Chances are that both of them stood and cheered for Joe Lieberman. It would make sense considering their previous lack of action to defeat Lieberman.
I hope I am wrong. I hope that only a few Democrats stood. But if one of them gave Joe Lieberman a standing ovation and you support that candidate you might want to ask yourself if you are supporting a candidate who represents your convictions.
THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
Of course there is also the issue of whether or not Obama or Clinton can win. While each of them have on occasion out performed the other Democrats the totality of 2008 general election polling, including the polling done by Rasmussen, brings up serious questions about whether they can win. This is especially true of Senator Clinton. And when you look at the totality of 2008 general election polling a clear pattern emerge. That pattern shows that John Edwards is clearly the most electable Democrat. He also best represents our values and has led on important issue after issue after issue.
Silly me. I think "He stands up for what I believe in more than the others do and he has a far better chance of winning. Game. Set. Match." But then again, that's just me.
I'll save the electability issue for another day. But I do find it amusing that Clinton and Obama play it "safe" yet they are consistently out performed by Edwards the bold progressive leader.
MONEY AINT A THANG
To me the whole Lieberman fiasco, even without an answer about the standing ovation, is the nail in the coffin for Obama and Clinton. Coupled with...
- The K Street obsession with Clinton.
- The Wall Street obsession with Obama.
- Obama's pledge to take no money from lobbyists despite the fact that his finance team hits up the lobbyists spouses so the same favors are done for the same money,
- Their lack of leadership on issue after issue. Compare their health care plans and energy plans to Edwards' and you will see what I am talking about.
- The fact that poll after poll after poll shows that they will both have problems keeping WI and MN blue. The GOP VP is likely to be Pawlenty, Huckabee, or Barbour. If It's Pawlenty it's going hurt us in the northern Midwest and if it' Huckabee it's going to hurt us in IA and MO, two of our pick up possibilities. Edwards even leads Giuliani by an impressive amount in all of these states. And he has a much better chance of flipping OH or FL. He's the only one who can flip VA and WV and he's stronger in NM, NV, and CO. Not to mention the fact that he even plays in KY. What I'm trying to say is that Obama and Clinton have not been very impressive in General Election polling and there are numerous indicators that Edwards is far more electable that either Clinton or Obama.
MOMENT OF CLARITY
When things like this happen it just brings home the point that when you have a candidate who does the right thing, stands up for what you believe in, and has a much better chance of winning you nominate him.
Why even put up with Obama not answering this question? If he hasn't blown it already with you isn't this Lieberman episode a clear sign?
Why settle for someone who does things like this when you don't have to?
When you really think about the symbolism of how each candidate handled the entire Lieberman vs. Lamont episode, wouldn't Obama and Clinton's standing ovation for Lieberman be a deal breaker?
Is that a dramatic way to look at all of this? Yes. But these are dramatic times that call for bold leadership.
CHANGE THE GAME
If Senator Obama or Senator Clinton gave Joe Lieberman a standing ovation then how can we trust them to stand up for what we believe in? Even if they didn't want to cheer for Lieberman, which in both cases is doubtful, if they bowed to pressure and joined the ovation how can we trust them to withstand the pressure that will come from all sides if they are the Democratic nominee?
One thing is clear. We need to know whether or not Senator Clinton and Senator Obama gave Joe Lieberman a standing ovation.
I'm not expecting anything but spin from Senator Clinton.
But for Senator Obama this is a question that he desperately needs to answer.
*Special thanks to Jay-Z whose song titles I used liberally