Lieberman can help keep Dems diverse

In a recent column, Ben Simon criticizes Connecticut senator Joseph Lieberman in favor of Ned Lamont (“Lamont could help reestablish Dems’ hold,” 2/27). While Lamont’s political experience as a selectman for Greenwich ranks nowhere near Lieberman’s (he has been senator since 1988 and is a former Connecticut attorney general and former state Senate majority leader), Ned Lamont has repeatedly commented over the last few weeks that he is a fast learner. Indeed — in almost no time, he and his staff have learned the art of spin and fact manipulation.

A former entrepreneur in telecommunications, it’s no surprise Lamont is so adept at putting on a show. On blogs, Lamont and his supporters have posted information similar to that in Simon’s editorial. But as my grade school librarian used to say, “Not everything you find on the Internet is true.”

Simon unfairly accuses Lieberman of “abandoning his constituents and his party.” But a look at his record shows Lieberman is a committed, principled Democrat who fights for progressive causes for the left. On labor issues, Lieberman has consistently beaten back Republican attempts to water down collective bargaining; it’s no accident that a host of Connecticut unions endorsed him last week. He led the fight against drilling in ANWR, called for increasing pollution regulations and demanded Bush take steps to reduce global warming. Thus, it’s no surprise he has a lifetime approval rating of over 80 percent from the League of Conservation Voters. Lieberman voted against two Supreme Court nominees, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito LAW ’75, in large part because of their troubling anti-choice stances. He voted against John Ashcroft’s nomination for Attorney General because he didn’t believe Ashcroft would protect Americans’ privacy.

Lieberman’s commitment to civil rights has been strong and clear: In the 1960s, he marched in Mississippi for African-American voting rights; in the 1970s he fought to end discriminatory practices against gays and lesbians. This past year, he supported Connecticut’s groundbreaking civil union legislation.

A supporter of labor, privacy, the environment and civil rights? Yeah, I guess Joe Lieberman must truly be a card-carrying Republican. Wait a second …

Simon asserts Lieberman supported the contracting of United Arab Emirates-owned companies to guard our ports and “refused” to oppose Bush on the matter. In fact, Lieberman sent letters to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Department of Treasury Secretary John Snow expressing “serious concerns” with the proposed sale of operations, asking for a delay in Bush’s Dubai port deal so the matter could be investigated further. Lieberman did not stop there. On Monday, he chaired the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Senate Committee hearing, at which he spearheaded the investigation on the contracts. The only thing Lieberman “refused” to do here was let our nation take any unsafe action.

Simon wrote that Lieberman was the only Democrat willing to work with Bush on social security privatization. Not true: Lieberman signed a letter with 41 other Democratic senators opposing Bush on Social Security reform. Last I checked, that’s a pretty big majority of Democratic senators. What’s more, Lieberman has strongly opposed Bush tax cuts — every time.

Simon implies Lieberman lacks Connecticut Democratic political support. On the contrary, Sen. Chistopher Dodd, Congressman John Larson, Lieutenant Governor Kevin Sullivan, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, State Senate President Pro Tempore Donald Williams and State Speaker of the House Jim Amann have all recently voiced support for Lieberman’s reelection.

“This isn’t a requirement,” Dodd said in a campaign speech Feb. 24. “It’s an act of love and affection. We don’t need a battle in our own state about Democrats. Democrats stand with Joe Lieberman.”

In these precarious times, we need every experienced Democrat in D.C. that we can get. By running for office, Ned Lamont is splintering the party and increasing the chance that Connecticut might end up with a Republican senator. What kind of message does it send to our party at the national level if, in a Democratic primary, we un-elect a respected U.S. senator with a strong record and history of fighting for progressive causes?

Senators are supposed to put country first, and that’s what Lieberman does. He’s a patriot and a leader, not a partisan hack.

There’s no question that Sen. Lieberman sometimes supports policies closer to the “political center.” Considering Democrats have been trying to capture “the middle” for years, this strikes me as not only good policy, but good politics.

We’re Democrats. We support people from all walks of life, with all types of viewpoints. Our diversity is our strength; it always has been. If we push Senator Lieberman out of the party, we are exactly what we accuse Republicans of being: close-minded. The day we become that is the day we’ve lost our way, and our souls.



Marshall Shaffer is a junior in Berkeley College. He has worked for Joseph Lieberman.

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