The Ghosts of Lieberman's Past

By Ralph Nader, Counterpoint, 5–6 August 2006

The “word of mouth” and the contest of lawn signs speak victory for Ned Lamont over Senator Joseph Lieberman in the most closely watched Democratic Party primary in the country. The latest Quinnipiac poll has Lamont ahead by 54–41.

Journeying around this state of poor cities and prosperous towns, I found that the unyielding support of Bush's disastrous Iraq War by Mr. Lieberman is indeed the most compelling negative against this 18 year incumbent. Unyielding support for Bush and the war is the albatross around Mr. Lieberman's neck. Buttons depicting what appeared to be a Bush kiss and political embrace of Lieberman adds visual ridicule to the hot brew swirling around the once shoo-in Senator.

But there is more that has come together to weigh down the Senator. A number of chickens have come home to roost which add up to his low likeability rating and an image of selfishness.

Still on the people's mind in the “nutmeg state” was Lieberman's refusal to resign his Senate seat when he was nominated to be Gore's vice-president and allow a Connecticut Senate election which Democrat Attorney General Michael Blumenthal would have easily won. Instead, had Gore and he won (which I believe they did), the subsequent empty Senate seat would have been filled by a Republican nominated by Republican Governor John Rowland. People here do not forget that ego-trip.

Moreover, again and again Lieberman has done little more than lift a finger for other Democrats challenging Republican incumbents. He did very little to help Bill Curry's brainy run against Governor Rowland in 2002 either by way of raising real money or campaigning vigorously. Rowland was a friend of Lieberman and the Senator did not want to hear Curry's charges of corruption against the Governor. These charges were borne out after the election with Rowland's imprisonment.

When Charlotte Koskoff was getting very close to upsetting long-time incumbent Republican Congresswoman, Nancy Johnson, in 1996, Lieberman could have raised her funds for needed television messages. He did not choose to do so. Ms. Koskoff lost in a squeaker.

That it is all about Joe and not the other Democrats and their Party caught the attention of the journalistic humorists at the annual 2001 Gridiron Club Dinner in Washington. The white-tie dinner brings together the political, business, military and media brass for an evening of steak and satire. The skit on Joe Lieberman was set to the tune of the famous Sixties song “Mrs. Robinson.” The refrain was “Joe Lieberman, me, me, me me, me, me.”

So when the two “all about me” politicians Clinton and Lieberman got together in Waterbury the other day for a Clintonesque affirmation, it became an expedient embrace between a past serial adulterer and a past critical moralizer. Politics sure makes for some strange bedfellows.

Some political observers thought Clinton, who won elections while viewing losses in droves by other Democrats in Congress and in many states, would give Lieberman a critical lift. To the contrary, Lamont's lead widened considerably.

More and more Democratic voters began to sense that Lieberman was taking them for granted, if not for a ride. He became Washington-bound and did not spend as much time back home as he did traveling abroad. More importantly, he became a favorite of the big business lobbies that swarm daily over the nations' capital and Capitol Hill.

There is no better evidence of Lieberman's wanting to have it both ways-incessantly saying how pro-labor, pro-consumer and pro-environment he has been-than his receiving the enthusiastic endorsement by the most powerful, most cruel and greedy corporate lobby of them all the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. With their front groups, the Chamber writes about its involvement in hundreds of state and federal campaigns. This lobby recently bragged about defeating, in 2004, Senator Lieberman's leader in the Senate, Senator Tom Daschle.

What does the Chamber stand for? For starters, it demands that federal taxpayers subsidize corporations (corporate welfare), that the federal cop be taken off the corporate crime, fraud and abuse beat (de-regulation and weak law enforcement), that laws be weakened which protect the environment, workers, consumers and small taxpayers, and that the bloated, wasteful military contracting budget continue to grow.

We have contested the Chamber's crude demands to weaken OSHA (the job safety agency), NHTSA (auto and truck safety), FDA (food and drug safety) and just about any federal activity that stands up for people over corporations where the two conflict.

So the Chamber supports only two Democratic Senators for re-election. They are Senator Ben Nelson (NE) and Senator Joe Lieberman (CT). Its political arm described Mr. Lieberman as having the highest “cumulative voting score” of any “Democratic Senator in the Northeast.” Big Businesses' favorite Democratic Senator!

The Chamber was delighted with Lieberman's votes for NAFTA, WTO and CAFTA and for weakening class action litigation rights for defrauded investors, injured consumers and workers. They were delirious with Senator Lieberman's vote for the Cheney/Exxon energy bill that did nothing to advance more fuel efficient cars or address global warming, as it poured more taxpayer subsidies into super-profiteering Big Oil and Big Natural Gas.

That's Joe Lieberman's record, in contrast to his rhetoric back on the stump these days in Connecticut. All out for more giant unneeded weapon systems, never in eighteen years advancing universal health insurance and always doubting the historic civil justice system's need to evolve stronger at the state level, not be weakened in Washington, D.C.

The Chamber's endorsement stimulates more corporate interest dollars into Senator Lieberman's ample campaign coffers. But strangely, he does not list the Chamber's support on his website's list of endorsements.

I asked Senator Lieberman whether he was going to publicly repudiate the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's endorsement. After all, the Chamber is working overtime to undermine his Democratic Party and its more progressive candidates.

Calls by voters to four of Lieberman's offices did not produce any answer from the Senator.

On August 8th , the Senator will receive the primary voters' answers.