Businessman Ned Lamont SOM ’80, who is challenging U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67 for his Senate seat in this year’s Democratic primary, said in a speech on Monday that Lieberman has failed to represent true Democratic ideals.
Speaking to a crowd of about 50 students in the Branford College common room, Lamont criticized the Bush administration and said Connecticut needs a “real Democrat” in Washington to stand up to the president. Lieberman, he said, has failed to do that on a number of critical issues.
“If you’re not going to talk about this administration’s failed foreign policy, failed fiscal policy, failed environmental policy and failed judicial policy, which are so harmful, then I will,” he said.
In his speech, Lamont focused heavily on the Iraq War, a cause which Lieberman’s campaign supports. He referenced a famous Wall Street Journal in which Lieberman wrote, “The troops must stay.” Lamont said he disagreed with this assertion.
“Stay the course is not a winning strategy,” he said. “And Senator Lieberman cheered the president on every step of the way. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.”
Instead, Lamont said he advocates following the plan of Democratic Rep. John Murtha to remove troops from Iraq and redeploy them to other areas in the Middle East. Lamont said Iraqis need to take on the primary role in determining their future.
While Lamont’s speech was well-received by the audience, members of a pro-Lieberman group on campus, the Yale Coalition for Joe Lieberman, said they think Lieberman has consistently supported Democratic causes.
“Joe Lieberman is a very strong Democrat,” said Marshall Shaffer ’07, head of the YCJL. “It’s true Senator Lieberman has a fairly moderate record on Iraq, but look what else he’s done. On labor he’s consistently beaten down Republicans. He’s led the fight in the Senate against drilling in [the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge].”
Lamont is a millionaire who made his money building cable television systems for schools and communities. In his talk, he compared entrepreneurship to politics, saying the two are similar because creative solutions are needed to fix problems in both. He said Lieberman was removed from the issues real Connecticut citizens were facing.
“Let’s tell Joe that it’s high time you stop by New Haven or Bridgeport on your way back from Baghdad and see what’s on people’s minds,” he said.
Lamont repeatedly posed one question to his audience — “Where’s Joe?” — asking them to consider whether or not Lieberman has stood up for the causes of the Democratic Party in the past. The line drew consistent applause from those in attendance.
One student at the talk asked Lamont what message he was trying to send to swing voters by condemning more moderate Democrats such as Lieberman. Lamont said there was “nothing moderate” about supporting the Iraq war and the president’s tax cuts.
But Shaffer said the Democratic party must have room for many different points of view and that Lieberman brings such diversity to the Democrats.
“If we don’t have room in this party for people with different points of view, we’re doing exactly what we’re accusing the Republicans of doing, and that’s being close-minded,” he said.
Benjamin Simon ’07, the head of Yale Students for Lamont, said he believes Lamont will face an uphill battle in his quest to unseat a powerful incumbent. Lamont acknowledged this fact and said he does not expect high-profile Democrats to support his candidacy.
Several students said they were impressed by Lamont’s speech.
“It was interesting to hear him speak,” Emily Jones ’06 said. “He was sincere about important issues.”
Michael Pearce ’09 said the speech could help raise student awareness of Lamont.
Whatever the outcome of Lamont’s campaign may be, some in attendance said they were simply glad someone was challenging Lieberman.
“We want to say that it’s okay to speak out against Joe,” said Keith Crane, a member of the Branford Democratic Town Committee and founder of the Web site DumpJoe.com.
The primary race between Lieberman and Lamont will take place in August.