Lieberman’s campaign motivations are important in judging candidacy

To the Editor:

While I appreciate the respectful tone with which Michael Harris responded to the College Democrats’ op-ed supporting Ned Lamont for Senate, I believe that many of Harris’ arguments miss the point (“Reasons for running aren’t key to the race,” 9/20). Of course we realize that, legally speaking, “The U.S. system doesn’t judge reasons for running, it just requires you to be a citizen and fill out the necessary paperwork.” But voters do get to judge candidates’ reasons for running. Harris himself admits that “Lieberman’s reasons for running are not good ones,” so why should that not be taken into account? Voters can, should and do look for character in their public servants. If Joe Lieberman is in fact — as we allege and Harris does not deny — advancing a campaign that harms the principles he claims to believe in for the sake of his own naked self-advancement, then voters should hold him accountable for that.

In our original editorial, we identified several policy areas in which Lamont will do a better job than Lieberman. While Lieberman strongly advocates the “stay the course” policy in Iraq, Lamont believes we should start drawing down troops and make it clear to the Iraqis that ours is not an open-ended commitment. Lamont supports universal health care, while Lieberman has actively worked to kill such proposals. A volunteer teacher, Lamont knows we need to invest in our public schools, while Lieberman favors diverting money to voucher programs. Lamont supports energy legislation that protects the environment and reduces our dependence on foreign oil; Lieberman supported the Cheney energy bill, a massive giveaway to the oil industry that did little to encourage conservation. Lamont thinks government intervention in the Terry Schiavo case was uncalled for, and that those kinds of private decisions should be left to families; Lieberman supported government intervention. Lamont thinks emergency contraception should be available to all rape victims; Lieberman suggested they “take a short ride to another hospital” if denied care.

But if Iraq, health care, education, energy policy, privacy and reproductive choice are not enough, we could pile on Lamont’s support for gay rights as contrasted with Lieberman’s vote to stop federal aid to public schools that used materials “supportive of homosexuality.” Or we might mention other major votes with which Lamont has taken issue, such as Lieberman’s votes to confirm Michael Brown as Federal Emergency Management Agency chief and Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General.

We understand that Lieberman has the legal right to put his own political advancement ahead of the party and the principles he claims to believe in; we just don’t think he should. He also has the legal right to vote with President Bush on key issues, to campaign with Republican candidates in close House races, and to claim that Democratic critics of the Iraq war “undermine the president’s credibility at our nation’s peril,” but we don’t think he should do that either. This year, Ned Lamont offers Connecticut voters a change. We think they should take him up on it.

Brendan Gants ’08

Sept. 20, 2006

The writer is the president of the Yale College Democrats.

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