Tuesday, January 30, 2007

An Only Tangentially Lieberman Related Post

I don't watch much C-Span (and probably should watch more). But I have happened to catch Ted Kennedy on two occasions in the last few days lambasting the republicans for their obstruction of the minimum wage bill. To those of you who have lived your entire lives during the Reagan/Bush era, this is what a liberal is, and this is what a liberal does: advocate a bill that would merely redress more than a decade of decay in the real minimum wage, a meager nominal increase in a most meager wage, benefitting primarily a constituency that is completely powerless (both economically and politically) and from whom not a dollar of political contributions will be forthcoming. And doing so simply because it is the right and decent thing to do.

There have been many depressing things we've witnessed over the last six years, and we all know what I'm talking about so I won't catalogue them here (hint: start with Iraq and Katrina and work your way down). But in some sense the most depressing thing has been the spectacle of the republican party devoting hour and hour and legislative day after legislative day to blocking this tiny bill, this minimum wage increase that is so small and affects so few relative to the size of the workforce that it really doesn't even register a blip on the economic radar. To what end? Isn't this just mean-spirited? Doesn't it really suggest, as Kennedy has implied, some outright hostility on the part of republicans to the working poor?

I could understand the reasoning behind opposing the very concept of a minimum wage law, perhaps based on some simplistic economic argument that completely disregards any other policy objective or social good, but that is not what is going on here. The republicans tried repealing the existing minimum wage law and they didn't have the votes. The Senate of the United States has been given over for the last number of days to blocking this pathetically small increase in the minimum wage, with republicans submitting amendment after amendment tying any increase to legislative favors for their favored constituencies, constituencies not only far more affluent than those who would benefit from an increased minimum wage but far more affluent than the average American.

Quite simply, the highest legislative body in the wealthiest and most powerful country in history has been largely devoted for the last week to denying this pitiful crumb to some of the poorest among us. They are not debating Iraq. They are not addressing crushing health care inflation and a health care delivery system that is broken. Day after day the time, effort and political capital of one of the two major political parties in this country has been dedicated to making sure working people at the very bottom of the labor ladder don't get a break.

My God, what a sorry spectacle. I can't help but feel that this is symptomatic of a society in decline, a society that is shrinking from what I believed to be a broad, historical imperative in this country: the advance of the society as a whole, an advance that takes special care to make sure that as many Americans as possible have adequate access to financial and educational opportunity, adequate health care, and some measure of security that financial or health setbacks will not result in privation and desperation.

Here's the tangential Joe angle. I know Lieberman hasn't joined this disgraceful republican assault on the minimum wage bill, but he is increasingly aligning himself with this party and these people. His willingness to help shield republicans from the ful political consequences of the Iraq catastrophe, his willingness to support a republican presidential nominee, his tendency to imply that the absence in Washington, D.C. of his treasured bipartisanship is more a failing of the democrats than the most secretive, uncompromising and ideological administration in our history, all aid the republicans in their reactionary legislative agenda and therefore impede the effort of democrats to achieve their most basic and core legislative objectives.

But the Joe angle is really tangential. The larger issue is whatever afflicts the republican party that would lead them on such a weird, quixotic and mean-spirited quest to block an effort to arrest a decade long decline in the wage our society guarantees to anyone willing to work. There is something seriously wrong in the soul of the republican party.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Lieberman (and Bush) Again Debase the Debate

Juan Williams of National Public Radio interviewed Bush earlier today.

MR. WILLIAMS: Now, you've got a vote tomorrow in the Senate to consider a
resolution opposing the troop buildup. Vice President Cheney said last week that
vote would validate the insurgents' strategy. And so, do you agree?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, there's a lot of strong opinions about it. My
attitude is – my feeling to the Senate echoes what Joe Lieberman said the other
day – Senator Joe Lieberman – and that is it is ironic that the Senate would
vote 81 to nothing to send a general into Iraq who believes he needs more troops
to do the job and then send a contradictory message.
The junior Senator from Connecticut has become BushCheney's security blanket, virtually their only argument to counter the perception (a perception confirmed by the polls and by overwhelming Congressional opposition) that support for the escalation is pathetically weak. Their repeated invocations of Lieberman's support have become almost incantatory. Indeed, Lieberman's preposterous syllogism alleging some contradiction between opposing the escalation but confirming Petraeus has become an official White House/neocon talking point. Is one obliged to oppose Petraeus's appointment merely because he is willing to implement Bush's escalation policy? Isn't the Senate obliged to confirm the General they believe most capable of implementing Bush's policy, however flawed? Were the Senate to reject Petraeus, would Bush respond by submitting for confirmation another General who opposes the escalation? If not, blocking Petraeus's appointment would accomplish nothing other than subjecting our military to a period of rudderlessness while chaos continues to sweep Iraq.

This is just another example of how the BushCheney adminisration, with the assistance of Lieberman, continues to debase the Iraq debate by resorting to transparently fallacious and political attacks on anyone opposing yet another increase in troop levels on the eminently reasonable basis that all prior increases have failed to effect any meaningful and lasting improvement in Iraq.

Did the White House argue that it would be inconsistent to confirm John Roberts as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court if one disagreed with Roberts' positions on judicial issues? Does the White House really mean to suggest that it would be a contradiction to vote to confirm any Bush appointee to the executive branch merely because that appointee will implement Bush policy? The very notion is absurd in the extreme, a fundamental misreading of the Congressional prerogative to advise and consent. And yet Bush in his NPR interview is arguing precisely this, echoing Lieberman's moronic assertion that one is guilty of inconsistency unless one believes that policy differences with the Administration should be pursued by blocking Bush appointees, no matter how qualified or competent, in some misguided, scorched-earth attempt to bring the entire executive branch (and in this case the very prosecution of the war) to a screeching halt.

I obviously oppose Bush's ridiculous escalation, but even I would have to concede that blocking Petraeus's appointment on the basis of nothing more than opposition to the escalation would be the height of irresponsibility, and perhaps even a vindication of BushCheney's and Lieberman's disgusting insinuation that opponents of the escalation wish for it to fail.

Of all Lieberman's sins, this is perhaps the greatest. He has consistently sought to delegitimize the quintessentially American right to dissent from government policy by equating it with disloyalty and intellectual dishonesty. His silly attempt to argue some contradiction in confirming Petraeus, thereby demeaning the Senate's proper exercise of its powers, is just another example of this disgraceful tactic.

The Derailing of the Straight Talk Express

Great new site devoted to the ever accelerating political oscillations of John McCain: The Real McCain.

Lieberman's Ongoing Betrayal of New Orleans

Lieberman is in New Orleans today, chairing hearings on the failure of the federal government to respond effectively to the catastrophes of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Eric Lolis Elie, columnist for The Times Picayune in New Orleans, speaks for many in New Orleans in his column today entitled "Lieberman Is Giving Up In Our Fight." Elie notes Lieberman's recent statement that he would drop his efforts to compel White House disclosure regarding the response to Hurricane Katrina, and ends his column with the following prayer for New Orleans:
Lieberman will be in town today at the state Supreme Court building, attending a field hearing of his committee.

Let's hope that in our determination to rebuild, he finds the courage he's apparently lost since his re-election.
I suspect Mr. Elie understands that there is little prospect that Lieberman will find courage in this matter or any other in which the political interests of Bush are implicated. Bush and Rove are responsible for putting Lieberman back in the Senate, and their narrow political interests will take precedence over the lives of our troops in Iraq and the suffering of the dispossessed in New Orleans.

The Word on Lieberman

Lieberman's appearance on Faux News Sunday has certainly received a lot of attention, and deservedly so. He's in Zell Miller territory now.

What really struck me, however, is something that tparty commented on at My Left Nutmeg. After insisting last summer that the Iraq war issue was not sufficiently important to base one's vote on, after insisting that the focus of Lamont's campaign on Iraq meant his was just a "one issue" campaign, after insisting that anyone voting against Joe because of his stance on Iraq was guilty of supporting a "purge" of the Democratic party, now Joe tells us that he may very well vote republican in 2008 because of the significance of the Iraq war issue.

What a hypocrite. What a shameless, unabashed, unrepentant hypocrite. It looks like Joe has purged himself from the Democratic party. Good riddance.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Hagel Hammers Lieberman - Again

Does Lieberman never tire of getting slapped around by Chuck Hagel on national television?

Here's another Hagel v. Lieberman rematch. It's a little like watching Chuck Norris kick-box Woody Allen.

Lieberman argues that a Senate resolution opposing Bush's troop build-up in Iraq would be pointless because it is non-binding, and that any Senator who opposes the build-up should reject the resolution in favor of cutting-off funding of the war. Hagel and others have a different view, arguing that a resolution is a meaningful rebuke of the president's policy and a means of perhaps mediating this dispute between two of our branches of government short of a damaging showdown over funding. It would be "irresponsible", Hagel suggests, to proceed directly to the more confrontational approach of a funding cut-off without first attempting to bring the administration to reason by a passing a resolution with significant republican support opposing the escalation.

Lieberman was not always opposed to the concept of non-binding Senate resolutions.

"It would be strange,'' said Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, if lawmakers could freely pass resolutions stating their views on almost every kind of behavior but not on conduct ''that has ... stirred broad and deep emotions among the American people.''

But of course that was 1998. Clinton's dalliance was, according to Lieberman, a real national crisis. Lieberman favored a non-binding resolution, or even censure of Clinton, even though such measures were feckless by Lieberman's own reasoning today.

As I've noted before, the gears grinding behind Joe's political machinations are always pathetically obvious. He loves the war, and therefore characterizes non-binding Senate resolutions opposing an escalation of the war as pointless. He condemned Clinton's behavior, and therefore found non-binding Senate resolutions meaningful and appropriate.

If you are looking for coherent reasoning and a consistent application of political principle, Joe Lieberman is the last place you are likely to find it.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Another Great Letter to the Editor

This is from this morning's Stamford Advocate.

To the editor:

Regarding the editorial on why Sen. Joseph Lieberman does not bother to have meetings with his constituents (The Advocate, Jan. 23), the answer is simple: Lieberman speaks only to Bush and Bush speaks only to God.

Caryl Vejar

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

He Lied (Part Six of the Lieberman Project)

The narrative is simple and concise. Lieberman’s Iraq policy during the campaign advocated increased embedding as a means of withdrawing troops, and stated that increased embedding should be achieved by redeploying troops already in Iraq, not sending more troops to the region. Less than one month after the election Lieberman had contradicted each of these positions, calling for more troops in the region and arguing that such troops were needed in order to expand the embedding strategy.

These are specific repudiations by Lieberman of the central tenets of his military policy in Iraq; a complete about-face by a politician within literally days of the election on an issue so significant that it dominated the elections as no issue has since the Watergate/Nixon pardon issue in the 1974 mid-terms. In sum, immediately after the election Lieberman proceeded to urge precisely what he had told Connecticut voters he opposed – sending more troops to Iraq – and thereby misled the voters on the single issue that was most important to the greatest number of voters in Connecticut.

And he appears to have done so with impunity. By early January, after formally calling on Bush to send more troops to the region, Lieberman was confident enough that his u-turn had escaped notice that he told the Stamford Advocate: "I didn't change my position, and I'm grateful I was able to win the election with broad 'tri-partisan' support. There should not be any shock about the position I'm taking now." The mind reels at the effrontery of Lieberman’s claim.

The simplicity and concision of this narrative, traits generally conducive to mass media dissemination, may have actually worked against more widespread reporting of Lieberman’s deceit. It is so simple, concise and completely irreconcilable with the dominant Lieberman narrative that the media would have to revise the prevailing narrative, which states that Lieberman is a uniquely civilized, principled and gracious figure in contemporary politics. And, as any astute observer of the media would agree, the narrative, once established, acquires both a certain critical mass and momentum in political reporting in the corporate media, moving forward regardless of the authenticity of the narrative, developing a lateral moraine of facts and information consistent with the narrative and leaving behind anything contradictory or inconsistent. And so John McCain can retain a reputation of a maverick and straight-talker even as he becomes an increasingly doctrinaire conservative in his efforts to nail down the GOP nomination for president, with predictable adverse consequences for “straight talk” as a result of McCain’s serial repudiations of prior positions. Similarly, Lieberman appears to be retaining his “eagle scout” reputation even as evidence of vengeful, petty, coarse and deceitful behavior has mounted.

To date, the story of Lieberman’s deception of Connecticut voters on the Iraq issue has proved no match for the prevailing Lieberman narrative, one which Lieberman has assiduously nurtured for thirty years. He has much invested in it; indeed it is his principal political asset. An effective politician will leverage his popular narrative, as Nixon did his reputation for staunch anti-communism. Almost any other politician would have been crucified by the right wing for bending toward Red China, but the man who nailed Alger Hiss and waved his finger in Khrushchev’s face in the Kitchen debate had the anti-communist capital to deflect a charge of being “soft on communism.” In the same way, Lieberman exploited his popular image to engage in very aggressive campaign tactics that would have branded any other politician as thuggish.

Just as only Nixon could go to China, perhaps only Lieberman could call his opponent a liar during a statewide televised debate and retain a reputation for civility. Perhaps only Lieberman could accost his opponent after a debate, calling him a “goddamn sonofabitch” in tones audible to others on the stage, and yet still retain a reputation for graciousness. Perhaps only Lieberman could spread nearly $400,000 in cash around urban areas in Connecticut in a period of days before the August democratic primary and still retain a reputation as a clean, ethical politician. And perhaps only Lieberman could tell his constituents that increased embedding would expedite withdrawal and would not require more troops in Iraq, and then say exactly the opposite almost immediately after the election and still retain a reputation for honesty and forthrightness.

Here is the true testament to how robust the dominant Lieberman narrative is, how completely impervious to contradiction: Lieberman repudiated his campaign positions on Iraq so definitively, with such alacrity, that there was an “in your face” quality about it, and yet the mass media is still perfectly oblivious to the story. Lieberman could have very easily been more patient and cirumspect, waiting until after his return from Iraq in December and then proclaiming that “changes on the ground” in Iraq had forced him to reconsider his opposition to increased troop levels. But for some reason he did not. He admitted to reconsidering his position just five days after the election on Meet The Press, argued in favor of more troops in Iraq to a skeptical Gen. Abizaid just eight days after the election, and less than one month after the election issued a complete repudiation of Point Six of his “ten point plan” while appearing on Face The Nation. He would not leave for Iraq until eleven days after his appearance on Face The Nation.

I will proceed from the safe assumption that Joe Lieberman is not a careless man. One can fault Lieberman for not taking better care to hide the political calculation in his actions, but there is calculation nonetheless; little is left to chance. And so it is implausible that Lieberman could have inadvertently, though haste and carelessness, left himself defenseless against the charge that he deceived Connecticut voters. And yet his decision to begin advocating increased troop levels in Iraq on Nov. 15, 2006 even in the face of Abizaid’s opposition deprived Lieberman of any credible argument that changed conditions in Iraq had forced him to drastically revise the opposition to increased troop levels contained in his ten point plan. Similarly, there was no need for Lieberman to flatly reverse his long-held belief that increased embedding would permit a drawdown of troop levels. He could have attributed his decision to support increased troop levels to any number of factors present in Iraq, and yet in the weeks following the election he repeatedly insisted that more troops were needed in Iraq in order to facilitate greater embedding of U.S. soldiers in Iraqi military units. It is inconceivable that Lieberman could have done so without realizing that he was contradicting the argument in his ten point plan that increased embedding should be achieved by redeploying troops already in Iraq, not sending more.

Yes, there was an unmistakable “in your face” quality to the glee with which Lieberman embraced the contradictions and inconsistencies inherent in his call for sending more troops to Iraq. It was as if Lieberman were saying to the effete and presumptuous dilettante and the uncouth cyber-rabble who had dared to challenge him, “I beat you, you are nothing, and I’ll do as I please and rub your face in it.” It doesn’t fit well with the Gracious Joe Lieberman narrative, but from a certain perspective you can almost understand Lieberman’s need to be such a sore winner. His pathetic performance in the 2004 presidential primaries had embarrassed him, the criticism of his performance during the 2000 campaign as Al Gore’s running mate had angered him, and his unwavering support of Bush’s Iraq policy had largely isolated him in his own party, but he was still Joe Lieberman, holder of one of the safest seats in the Senate. At the beginning of 2006 he had every reason to believe that he would be returned to the Senate with more than 60% of the vote, as he had in 1994 and 2000. There was no question that his support for an unpopular war would cost him some votes, but the republicans were in such absolute disarray in Connecticut that Lieberman could again expect to win overwhelmingly. And yet within a vertiginous six months he was battling for his political life, beset by some political neophyte with more money than sense and his foul-mouthed, radical internet hordes. The indignity, the utter humiliation of his primary defeat, was shattering. The general election victory must have been correspondingly sweet, and so one could forgive Lieberman a spasm of triumphalism, even if tinged with a touch of arrogance.

What cannot be countenanced, however, is the cruel hoax Lieberman played on the voters in Connecticut. Whether one had voted for Lieberman in reliance on his assurances that he supported withdrawal and opposed escalation, or whether one had seen through the charade, Lieberman had looked you in the eye and said “we will embed more Americans in Iraqi units, by redeploying troops already in Iraq rather than sending more troops, and because embedding is a force multiplier it will permit us to bring troops home.” And then he turned around in a matter of weeks after the election and advocated the opposite.

The corporate media can’t see past the narrative, and no one is offering them a counter-narrative on Lieberman. Unfortunately, the left wing in this country is really only catching on to the whole game of constructing “frames” and narratives. The right wing has been doing it for years and with great success. Consider, if you will, that the right wing was able to create a popular narrative around Al Gore that labeled him as untrustworthy, self-aggrandizing and deceitful all on the basis of something he never said: “I invented the internet.” On the other end of the spectrum, Lieberman’s egregious deception in Connecticut, on the greatest issue of our time, in the most closely watched race in the country, has been completely ignored by the mass media, primarily because there has been an absence of any serious attempt on the left to offer the media a counter-narrative on Lieberman.

Even the left wing blogosphere has tended to unintentionally diminish the magnitude of Lieberman’s deception. Virtually every criticism of Lieberman’s hurried post-election embrace of escalation has focused on statements made by Lieberman during the campaign that were merely precatory – “no one wants to bring the troops home more than I do”, and his mid-summer prediction that the U.S. could start withdrawing troops from Iraq by the end of 2006 - statements that indict Lieberman as a poor prognosticator and a run-of-the mill political trimmer, not a liar. But it was Lieberman’s own formal statement of Iraq policy – the ten point plan he ballyhooed at the debates as a plan to bring the troops home – that is the most damning evidence that Lieberman intended to deceive the voters of Connecticut on the most significant issue this country has faced since Vietnam and the most significant issue of Lieberman’s career.

His ten point plan cannot be reconciled with his post-election support for sending more troops to Iraq, and the chasm between his pre-election policy and his post-election actions cannot be bridged. Most remarkably, it was Lieberman himself who burned these bridges, who appeared to consciously foreclose any argument that his support during the campaign for withdrawing troops, and his opposition to sending more to Iraq, was anything other than a shameful deception of his constituents.

Lieberman: If You Don't Agree With Me, You Are A Traitor

Lieberman's latest disgrace - his insinuation that Senate colleagues who oppose the Bush/Lieberman escalation of the war are treasonous - gets the Greenwald treatment.

We should be careful here in Connecticut to remember that Joe Lieberman is not just the shame of our state, he's a national disgrace. This man who purports to be an avatar of civility and decency in politics casually labels anyone who disagrees with him a traitor (as he did at the Petraeus hearings), a defeatist (as he did Sunday before last, earning a well-deserved bitchslapping from Chuck Hagel) or a liar (as he called Ned Lamont during their last debate).

For all his reputation in punditland as a good and decent man, the record shows that Lieberman is a vicious punk and gutter political thug.

The Stamford Advocate Suffers Buyer's Remorse

The Stamford Advocate is frustrated with Lieberman.
The frustration regards U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman's refusal to enter into a
true dialogue with constituents about the country's involvement in the war and
his position on it. A Stamford native, Sen. Lieberman is the leading Democratic
proponent of increased military support to Iraq. Yet he has not convened a
single meeting to talk with constituents at home in Connecticut about his
position. This is uncharacteristic of a senator who has been known for his
respect for individual rights and our system of government.
With all due respect to the Stamford Advocate, an earnest and competent community newspaper, this is a load of crap. Calling on Lieberman to hold town meetings and pretend to be listening is just plain silly - not a serious suggestion. The Advocate says Lieberman should follow Chris Shays' lead and have a dialoque with his constituents regarding the Iraq catastrophe. For Shays to do it is one thing - his position on Bush's Folly has evolved in response to the very valid concerns of his constituents, and therefore there is some reason to believe that he'd actually be listening. But Lieberman has, in effect, just told his constituents to go screw themselves. He lied during the campaign when he claimed to oppose a troop build-up in Iraq. How likely is it that he'll return to the scene of the crime to face the inevitable accusations of deceit from outraged voters? Not very. And even if he were to follow the Advocate's advice and hold a series of town meetings, how could anyone trust that he would be sincere in his solicitation of our views? After all, the man is a demonstrated liar and neoconman of the first order.

This is all very disingenuous of the Advocate. They endorsed this travesty of an elected representative. And they knew exactly what they were getting when they urged his re-election.

Here's some advice for the Advocate: stop begging Lieberman to come home and break bread; start telling him to get his head out of his ass, and the troops out of Iraq.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Mr. Baker Did a Bad Thing

The much anticipated Iraq Study Group report was released on December 6, 2006. In his petulance and omnipotence, he wished it into the cornfield, muttering "Mr. Baker did a bad thing." And then Mr. Baker disappeared, and it was thought that he too had been wished into the cornfield, from which no one had ever returned. The adults in Washington, D.C. agreed that it was a good thing Mr. Baker and his report had been disappeared. They concentrated their minds as much as possible on opaque, happy thoughts, lest they too be wished into the cornfield. He didn't like unhappy thoughts. It was a good life, after all, and things could not be better or happier in Iraq. The cornfield awaits anyone who would say, or think, otherwise.

Embedding requires (a) more troops, (b) fewer troops, (c) the same number of troops, (d) uh, just send the damn troops (Part Five, Lieberman Project)

Lieberman appeared on Face The Nation on December 3, 2006, less than one month after the election.

LIEBERMAN: The Rumsfeld memo itself is in many ways surprising. He raises
possibilities of doing things such as redeploying our troops which he has always
said that he was against. I must say, Bob, that the one thing he doesn’t raise
as a possibility is to increase the number of our troops there even though
there’s very broad criticism of Rumsfeld for having had too few American troops
in Iraq after Saddam Hussein was overthrown. That may well be a critical part of
the problems that we’ve been having lately. Incidentally, finally he makes a few
suggestions such as embedding more Americans in Iraqi security forces which most
people now think is a good idea and having more Americans on the border with
Iran and Syria to stop the terrorists from coming in. You know, our military has
been asking for that for years. They didn’t get it. Both of those require more
personnel on the ground in Iraq.

With this statement Lieberman had categorically repudiated his argument in Point Six of his ten point plan that embedding would require fewer personnel on the ground in Iraq. While stopping short on Face The Nation of formally calling for more troops, his continued support for increased embedding, coupled with his newfound conviction that embedding would require more troops, leads ineluctably to the conclusion that Lieberman had decided by early December that more U.S. troops were required in Iraq, weeks before he would leave for Iraq, weeks before he would consult with military commanders regarding troop levels, and weeks before the Bush administration would even present a plan Lieberman could evaluate to determine whether a troop increase was part of a "strategy for success." It has also led to a reasonable suspicion that Lieberman had known this when he delivered his major speech at the East Hampton VFW, and when he waved his plan during the debates as the plan that would bring the troops home.

On the cool, clear morning of November 7th, as Connecticut voters made their way to the polling places, Lieberman's ten point plan was still the definitive statement of his Iraq policy. It advocated a reduction of U.S. troop levels in Iraq through a strategy of embedding U.S. troops in Iraqi military units. It argued, as Lieberman had argued in his WSJ op-ed in November 2005, that embedding was a means of leveraging our forces in Iraq (embedding "makes each unit more effective and acts as a multiplier of our forces" the op-ed had stated). "This will allow more Americans to come home because embedded troops need less outside support," the ten point plan had explained. And, finally, should anyone have wondered whether this strategy to increase the number of U.S. troops embedded in Iraqi units would require more U.S. troops in Iraq, the ten point plan contended "[t]his should be done by redeploying existing troops, not adding new troops to the region."

And so it appears that the circumstances that had changed and caused Lieberman to reverse his opposition to more troops in Iraq were not to be found on the ground in Iraq (where the situation remained desperate, but in the estimation of Gen. Abizaid marginally better than in August), or in the opinion of American military commanders (Abizaid's dissent on the question of troop increases would soon be publicly joined by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Gen. Casey). It appears that Lieberman's shift from "bring 'em home" to "ship 'em out" resulted from a fundamental reappraisal by Lieberman of the logistical requirements of an embedding strategy. The same strategy Lieberman had promoted as best hope for withdrawal of U.S. troops on November 7th had become a strategy that demanded an increase in U.S. forces in Iraq. By early January 2007 Lieberman had come to believe that this increase, which he had suggested to the skeptical Gen. Abizaid on November 15, 2005 would be a "short term increase in our forces [in Iraq]", would have to be substantial and sustained, as Lieberman's friend and ally John McCain would argue in his joint appearance with Lieberman at the American Enterprise Institute.

The evolution in Lieberman's position on increased troop levels in Iraq was traceable not only to strategic imperatives, but moral imperatives as well. In an op-ed that appeared in the Washington Post on December 29, 2006 ("Why We Need More Troops In Iraq") Lieberman said that "failure in Iraq would be a strategic and moral catastrophe for the United States and its allies." He argued vehemently that America had a "responsibility to do what is strategically and morally right for our nation over the long term -- not what appears easier in the short term." And after allowing that "daily scenes of death and destruction in Iraq are heartbreaking and infuriating," he concluded:

"But there is no better strategic and moral alternative for America than
standing with the moderate Iraqis until the country is stable and they can take
over their security. Rather than engaging in hand-wringing, carping or calls for
withdrawal, we must summon the vision, will and courage to take the difficult
and decisive steps needed for success and, yes, victory in Iraq. That will
greatly advance the cause of moderation and freedom throughout the Middle East
and protect our security at home."

It had again fallen to Joe Lieberman to limn for his countrymen the moral implications of a crisis confronting the nation. And, if one can judge by the number of times Lieberman invoked morality in his op-ed, the magnitude of the moral failure should America flinch from its obligation to send more troops to Iraq would be fully 30% as grave as the crisis Lieberman had taken to the floor of the Senate to inveigh against in September 1998, when the nation's moral foundation was threatened by presidential knob polishing in the oval office.

Circumstances have changed (perhaps not in Iraq, but certainly in Connecticut and Washington, D.C.) (Part Four of the Lieberman Project)

Exit polls in Connecticut confirmed that Lieberman’s strategy of supporting withdrawal from Iraq but opposing timelines and deadlines was a smashing success. As expected, Lieberman outpolled Lamont by huge margins among those voters who opposed withdrawal, but in Connecticut these hardliners constituted only a third of the electorate. The other two-thirds of the electorate in Connecticut divided evenly between “withdraw some troops” and “withdraw all.” Lamont beat Lieberman by better than two to one among the “withdraw all” voters. Amazingly, however, exit polls indicated that Lieberman had actually edged Lamont among those who favored withdrawing some troops from Iraq by 47% to 45%. Lieberman even managed to garner 29% of the votes from those who favored complete withdrawal, an option Lieberman had consistently criticized as tantamount to supporting defeat. The exit polls confirmed that a narrow majority of those voting for Lieberman favored some measure of withdrawal.

Lieberman’s support in Point Six of his “ten point plan” for reducing U.S. troop levels in Iraq by means of the embedding strategy, and his opposition to sending any more troops to Iraq, had been sufficient to assure these voters that Lieberman would help find a way out of Iraq in an orderly manner. Lieberman had referred to this plan frequently while campaigning, and had made multiple references to it during the televised debates as a plan that would “bring our troops home.”

It was rather odd, therefore, that Tim Russert even posed the question to Lieberman on November 12, 2006, just five days after the election, when Lieberman followed John McCain as a guest on Meet The Press. Russert asked “do you share Senator McCain’s view that we should send in more American troops and either quote/unquote, “win the war” or withdraw?” Lieberman evaded the question completely, launching into an explanation of why he had changed positions so often on the subject of firing Rumsfeld. Russert persisted: “But should we send more troops in?”

It was indeed a strange question to ask a candidate who had proposed an Iraq plan that rejected sending more troops to Iraq unless one understood the peculiar rules of Meet The Press. McCain had just finished pushing his proposal for escalation of troop levels, and as everyone knew McCain and Lieberman were both mavericks and centrists (and of course good personal friends). A question to Lieberman regarding McCain’s proposal was therefore obligatory, even though Lieberman had rejected troop escalations throughout his campaign. And therefore Lieberman’s answer was as odd as Russert’s question:

“I think we have to be open to that, as, as a way to succeed, to achieve a free and independent Iraq, which would be an extraordinary accomplishment. But it’s got to be tied to a, to a new strategy, and it may be that it should be tied to commitments from the Iraqi government to, to disarm those militias and to bring more Sunnis into a national unity government. But, but I wouldn’t send more troops just for the sake of sending more troops. But I would if it’s tied to a success strategy.”

Lieberman was very careful in his response to say that any increase would have to be part of “a way to succeed” and “tied to a success strategy,” as if someone might have inferred that he would support committing more troops to a strategy of failure. His own “ten point plan” had been presented to Connecticut as a plan for success – “This 10-point plan is designed to succeed in Iraq and bring our troops home with honor” – and it had advocated fewer troops, not more troops. Lieberman obviously believed there were many paths to success in Iraq, which made it so frustrating that the U.S. wasn’t on any of them, and hadn’t appeared capable of even finding success in Iraq on a map, much less following a path there.

On Tuesday, Nov. 15th (three days after Lieberman’s MTP appearance and eight days after the election) Gen. Abizaid appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee. There were rumors that the administration might be considering sending more troops to Iraq, and rumors that the military, including Abizaid, opposed a troop increase. Abizaid must have known this issue would come up before the Committee, and his statements left little doubt where he stood on the issue.

LINSEY GRAHAM: Do we need more American troops at the moment to quell the violence?

ABIZAID: No, I do not believe that more American troops right now is the solution to the problem.

Sen. Bill Nelson revisited the issue with Abizaid, and he pressed hard on the issue of whether Anbar province required more troops.

BILL NELSON: So give us -- you have stated to Senator Graham that you don't need a change in the troops right now. But the commentary coming out of Anbar by General Zilmer and General Neller would indicate otherwise.

ABIZAID: I understand that. I've come talked it over with those commanders out there. I think our main effort is where it's been designated, which is in the Baghdad area. That's where it needs to stay to be. I think that we have made progress in Baghdad. We're going to continue to make progress in Baghdad, and that we do need more troops. And the more troops we need are Iraqis.

If there was any doubt about Abizaid’s position on increasing U.S. troop levels in Iraq, his exchange with McCain seemed to resolve the matter. McCain bore in with a mix of incredulity, skepticism and even disdain for any suggestion that more U.S. troops were not needed in Iraq(NB: I've attached a video of McCain's question of Abizaid at the end of this post) .

MCCAIN: Did you note that General Zinni, who opposed the invasion, now thinks that we should have more troops? Did you notice that General Batiste, who was opposed to the conduct of this conflict also says that they may need tens of
thousands of additional troops?

I don't understand, General. When you have a part of Iraq that's not under our control -- as Al Anbar Province is, which has been -- I don't know how many American lives have been sacrificed in Al Anbar Province, but we still have enough and we will rely on the ability to train the Iraqi military, when the Iraqi army hasn't sent the requested number of battalions into Baghdad.

ABIZAID: Senator McCain, I met with every divisional commander, General Casey, the core commander, General Dempsey. We all talked together. And I said, in your professional opinion, if we were to bring in more American troops now, does it add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq? And they all said no. And the reason is, because we want the Iraqis to do more. It's easy for the Iraqis to rely upon to us do this work. I believe that more American forces prevent the Iraqis from doing more, from taking more responsibility for their own future.

By the time questioning of Abizaid reached Lieberman, the General had taken quite a pummeling. The democrats were not satisfied with his unwillingness to advocate any withdrawal, but the sharpest questioning came from Graham and McCain, each of whom were very critical of his insistence that U.S. troop levels in Iraq not be increased. And so Abizaid must have welcomed Lieberman’s turn at questioning, because Abizaid had been consistently arguing throughout the hearing the very policy Lieberman had proposed in Point Six of his “ten point plan”: increase the number of U.S. troops embedded in Iraqi units, draw the incremental “embeds” by redploying troops already in Iraq rather than sending more, and begin to drawdown troop levels as the embedding strategy succeeded in strengthening the ability of the Iraqi forces to take the lead in defending the Iraqi government and maintaining order in Iraq.

Lieberman began his questioning by eliciting from Abizaid his opinion that the “phased redeployment” proposals of many democrats, which contemplated beginning within four to six months a gradual drawdown of U.S. troops according to a timetable or deadline, would leave Iraq in chaos. Abizaid and Lieberman were in total accord on this issue, and Lieberman’s questioning of Abizaid perfectly consistent with his position during the campaign that the U.S. should draw down troop levels but only as permitted by the progress of the embedding strategy, and not pursuant to a timetable.

LIEBERMAN: General, I want to ask you, you've said that the military transition teams, the American embedded with the Iraqi security forces, are probably having a very significant, positive affect on those forces and that our forces embedded with the Iraqis should be -- I believe you said in your initial testimony -- significantly increased.

How can we do that without increasing the overall number of American troops in Iraq? In other words, I fear that the only other way to do it is to pull our troops out of other danger areas, like Anbar Province, and then they'll fall into more chaos.

Lieberman’s apparent concern that Anbar and other trouble spots might deteriorate if troops in Iraq were redeployed to increase embedding did not appear to reflect Lieberman’s own position, which unequivocally posited the additional U.S. troops embedded in Iraqi units should come from the redeployment of U.S. troops already in Iraq. Abizaid must have assumed that Lieberman was a tossing him a softball in the form of an opportunity to confirm that increased embedding through redeployment – the Lieberman/Abizaid approach – would not adversely affect the situation in Anbar. Certainly Abizaid’s very direct and brief response suggests that he didn’t perceive the question to be hostile.

ABIZAID: I can't say for sure that we can do it without having to increase our overall troop levels. But I believe that there is a way to make the transition teams more robust from within the existing force structure inside Iraq.

Lieberman’s reaction to Abizaid’s reiteration of his opposition to increased troop levels must have surprised the General. More than any other Senator, Lieberman had emphasized the significance of the embedding strategy. McCain and Graham viewed embedding as advisable but a mere adjunct to the necessity of increasing troop levels. Democratic Senators favoring “phased redeployment” also appeared to support the embedding stategy, but like their hawkish counterparts viewed it as ancillary to their primary objective (in the case of the Democrats, reducing troop levels on the basis of a timeline, regardless of the pace or success of the embedding strategy). For Lieberman, embedding was the key to his withdrawal policy. Embedded U.S. troops require less logistical support, Lieberman had argued in Point Six of his plan, and therefore permitted a reduction of U.S. forces in Iraq. And, best of all, according to Lieberman’s plan, was that incremental embedding could be achieved from the existing U.S. force structure in Iraq, as Abizaid had just confirmed numerous times in his testimony. But Lieberman’s response to Abizaid’s seeming support was a halting, syntactically mangled plea for Abizaid to seek the authority for more troops in Iraq – the very option Lieberman’s ten point plan had rejected during the campaign.

LIEBERMAN: I hope that you will take a look at and not hesitate, most directly as the commander in chief, to give you authority to send more troops in if you really feel that the embedding -- and I do feel strongly that the embedding is working best to enable the Iraqi security forces to take over. And it may be that a short-term increase in our forces there, embedded with them, will be the best way for us to more quickly get to a point where we can actually draw down our forces.

There is of course a difference between advocating that one seek authority for a particular act and advocating the act itself, and Lieberman’s parting remarks to Abizaid cannot fairly be said to represent a call more troops in Iraq. But it was a clear shift in Lieberman’s views regarding the means by which the U.S. would find troops for increased embedding. Lieberman’s conviction that the embedding strategy could be implemented by the redeployment of U.S. troops already in Iraq appeared to have weakened, if not collapsed.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Lieberman: Living Symbol of Endless War

John McCain appeared this morning on Meet The Press. He was extremely subdued; almost catatonic. He looked like a man who had just received bad news about his biopsy results. He looked like a man who had championed a cynical policy in Iraq conceived exclusively to pander to the radical militarist wing of his party, and with no expectation that his escalation proposal would ever be implemented. He looked like a man fully aware that his insane policy would soon be tested and revealed in all its abject futility, and that events on the ground in Baghdad would confirm his policy as a complete and irredeemable failure even before the first presidential primaries in 2008.
He did not count on the madman in the White House. He did not understand that Bush and his neocon jesters are deep in the throes of a Masada complex. He simply never expected that anyone would take his ridiculous plan for escalation seriously, and so when Iraq continued to go to hell as the presidential primaries approached John McCain would be able to say "see, if only you would've listened to me and sent more troops...". But instead the disaster in Iraq will be associated with McCain and his failed policy.

McCain said two things (at least two, by my count) that reveal him as a shameless and spineless shill for war: he claimed that he knew all along that Bush’s policy for the last year in Iraq was fated for failure, and he argued that Joe Lieberman’s re-election in Connecticut demonstrates that the polls showing overwhelming opposition to escalation of the war are wrong. He did not explain why he did not tell the American people at the time that he foresaw failure for Bush’s policy. And he did not acknowledge that Lieberman was re-elected in Connecticut only after lying to the voters by purporting to support withdrawal and oppose escalation.

Bad day for McCain. But a red-letter day for our own Joe Lieberman, who has finally become (presumably to his everlasting satisfaction) the very embodiment of undying support for an immoral war and a catastrophic strategic blunder.

Joe Lieberman - the living, breathing symbol of endless war. He must be proud.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Sixth Point (Part Three of the Lieberman Project)

Lieberman appeared at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in East Hampton on September 25, 2006 to deliver a speech billed by his campaign as his first major speech on the Iraq war since the Democratic primary in August. Following his primary defeat Lieberman had avoided the subject of the war as much as possible, apparently believing that addressing the Iraq issue promised little in the way of additional support from indepedents and republicans and posed the risk of further erosion in his support among Democrats.

Throughout the first half of September the polls in Connecticut appeared to confirm the wisdom of Lieberman's stategy. Polls by Survey USA and Public Opinions Strategies (a republican polling outfit) gave Lieberman 13 and 16 point leads, respectively. However, in the week before Lieberman’s VFW address polls from Rasmussen and American Research Group each gave Lieberman a two point lead – essentially a dead heat.

Lieberman might have been able to maintain radio silence on Iraq indefinitely had circumstances in Iraq been different, but a steadily rising tide of sectarian violence in Iraq throughout late summer virtually demanded a policy statement from Lieberman, now the most prominent defender of Bush’s Iraq policy.

Lieberman presented a “ten point plan” for Iraq in his address at the VFW. The policies offered in the plan bore a distinct resemblance to those Lieberman had advocated in the WSJ op-ed eleven months before, even though conditions in Iraq had changed profoundly for the worse. Many of Lieberman’s new proposals would have been derisively consigned by his pro-war allies on the right to the “Kumbaya” category - an international “crisis conference” among the U.S. , European and “Arab” countries; a “National Compact” among Shias, Sunnis and Kurds ensuring that “the political, social, and religious rights of all are protected by law”; and at home the convening of a “bipartisan Iraq working group” in the next Congress. Whatever the merits of Lieberman's call for conferences, compacts and bipartisanship in Congress, these ideas were unlikely to hold any significant appeal to Democratic voters looking for signs of Lieberman's moderation of his pro-war positions.

There were two elements of Lieberman’s ten point plan, however, that were genuinely substantive and designed to appeal to vacillating democrats in Connecticut.

Point One urged the firing of defense secretary Rumsfeld. While hardly new for Lieberman, who first called for Rumsfeld’s ouster in 2003, it represented the most recent and definitive statement from Lieberman after three years of issuing alternately critical and supportive statements on Rumsfeld.

The second element of the ten point plan that was arguably new was Point Six, which called for continuing the strategy (instituted more than a year before) of embedding U.S. troops in Iraqi military units as a means of both facilitating the training and effectiveness of the Iraqis and permitting a drawdown of U.S. troop levels in Iraq. The WSJ op-ed in November 2005 had also urged increased embedding and touted it as a means of reducing troop levels in Iraq. Point Six went a step further, however, and stated that increased embedding “should be done by redeploying existing troops, not adding new troops to the region.”

Lieberman’s VFW address received scant attention in Connecticut and, other than Lieberman’s latest call for Rumsfeld’s firing, made barely a ripple in the national press. The rejection of increased troop levels in Iraq went almost completely unnoticed. At the time, John McCain was the only politician of national stature discussing troop increases, and it would be another two months before the republican’s shattering mid-term losses and the unveiling of the Iraq Study Group report would cause the Bush administration to initiate a national debate on a policy of escalation, and from this perspective the lack of attention to Lieberman’s new stance should not have been surprising. From another perspective, however, Lieberman’s coming out against McCain's proposal should have been of some interest to a national media with a penchant for stories of policy divisions between putative political allies. For his part, Lieberman seemed content to let his opposition to increased troop levels fly under the political radar.

In light of both the absence in late September of any pressing national debate on increased troop levels and Lieberman’s reversal of his opposition to increased troop levels in Iraq almost immediately after the election, his decision to stake out a position against troop increases is curious and raises a host of questions:

Did the narrowing lead reflected in the polls of the Connecticut race released in the third week of September suggest to Lieberman the need to further appeal to the anti-war wing of the Democratic party?

Did Lieberman believe that the accelerating chaos in Iraq presented the potential for increasing anti-war sentiment in October, requiring a pre-emptive fortifying of his flank on the Iraq issue?

Did Lieberman see a chance to hedge his exposure to rising anti-war sentiment in October by conceding a policy option that he didn’t believe would be in play after the election anyway? Might he have reasoned that (a) an overwhelming democratic victory in the mid-terms would take the option off the table, and (b) retention of either or both houses of Congress by the republicans would give the Bush administration a free hand to pursue escalation without need of Lieberman’s support?

Attempts to reverse engineer Lieberman’s decision to pre-emptively reject increased troop levels in Iraq quickly approach quadratic equation levels of complexity – there are simply too many political variables. What is clear, however, is that a combination of circumstances that would have been exceedingly difficult to foresee in late September (i.e., a democratic landslide that gave the democrats tenuous control of the senate, making the newly independent Lieberman the fulcrum of power, and the Bush administration’s counterintuitive decision to escalate the war in response to an overwhelming electoral rebuke of its Iraq policies) gave Lieberman both the ability to repudiate his pre-election opposition to additional troops without fear of political retribution from his own party, and the opportunity to seize center stage in the debate over Iraq policy.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that a politician, particularly one whose career had been built on triangulating between left and right, would find it difficult to resist the political opportunities presented by Bush’s decision to go "double or nothing" in Iraq: the opportunity to further distance himself from the party he felt had spurned him, to advance the prospects of a centrist, bipartisan alliance with McCain, and to exploit to maximum advantage his position as the “swing vote” in the Senate. What is surprising, however, is that a politician as skilled as Lieberman would, within mere days of the election, move so quickly to reject his own campaign counsel on the issue of troop levels in Iraq, eschewing even the most basic and time honored political rituals that traditionally have attended any jettisoning of campaign promises, long held positions or other political commitments in favor of naked political calculation; rituals that have evolved over generations of the American political class and are performed not with any expectation that they will obscure the pure expediency of the act, or fool anyone of even passing percipience, but to allow the political media and one's core political supporters to credibly maintain that you wouldn't sell your soul for a modest bump in the polls.

Foremost among these rituals is the "decent interval" that should elapse between the the most recent statement of a political commitment and its repudiation, an interval that allows for at least the theoretical possibility (if not a plausible argument) that the politician's reversal is a principled and justifiable reaction to exogenous (i.e., non-political) circumstances. This theoretical possibility is sufficient, under consensus Washington rules, to insulate one's self against a charge that otherwise might be levelled for having said one thing and then done another, for having taken one position before the voters and then another incompatible position in governing or legislating. It is this "theoretical possibility" standard that accounts for the unwillingness of the media to label as lies even the most brazen deceptions.
Whether out of pique or a simple lack of regard for the sensibilities of the democratic voters in Connecticut he felt had humiliated him last August, Lieberman had no sooner returned to Washington than he adopted positions on Iraq policy irreconcilable with the policies he had advocated during the campaign. The decent interval was not observed. Lieberman's political solecism, however, went largely unremarked upon in the media, if not unnoticed.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Withdrawal...With Honor (Part Two of the Lieberman Project)

"We are now embedding a core of coalition forces in every Iraqi fighting unit, which makes each unit more effective and acts as a multiplier of our forces. ..Nationwide, American military leaders estimate that about one-third of the approximately 100,000 members of the Iraqi military are able to 'lead the fight' themselves with logistical support from the U.S., and that that number should double by next year. If that happens, American military forces could begin a drawdown in numbers proportional to the increasing self-sufficiency of the Iraqi forces in 2006.” Lieberman, WSJ, 11/29/2005

“The situation in Iraq is a lot better, different than it was a year ago. The Iraqis held three elections. They formed a unity government. They are on the way to building a free and independent Iraq. Their military -- two-thirds of their military is now ready, on their own, to lead the fight with some logistical backing from the U.S. or stand up on their own totally. That's progress…So I am confident that the situation is improving enough on the ground that by the end of this year, we will begin to draw down significant numbers of American troops, and by the end of the next year more than half of the troops who are there now will be home.” Lieberman, debate, 7/7/2006

"There really has been progress made by the Iraqi military. Two-thirds of it could stand on its own or lead the fight with our logistical support." Lieberman, speaking with the Conn. Post editorial board, 7/25/2006

By Lieberman’s own estimation American troops were ready to start coming home. His November 2005 WSJ op-ed had endorsed the view of U.S. military commanders that if two-thirds of the 100,000 Iraqi military were ready to “lead the fight” that the U.S. could begin a drawdown of its troops. By July, as Lieberman’s once massive lead over Lamont continued to erode, Lieberman was asserting that the two-thirds benchmark had been achieved, and that conditions in Iraq were conducive to a reduction of U.S. troop levels by year end.

The problem for Lieberman was that Democratic voters in Connecticut, particularly the party activists most likely to vote in the August Democratic primary, didn’t seem to buy Lieberman’s analysis of conditions in Iraq. Democrats were dismissive of Lieberman’s projection of troop withdrawal by the end of the year, believing such projections to be based on a view of the situation in Iraq that appeared completely untethered from reality, and concluding therefore that the Lieberman’s projected withdrawals were conditional on positive developments in Iraq that were increasingly unlikely to occur. Although eager to embrace projections of troop withdrawals, they simply could not reconcile Lieberman’s assurances of progress in Iraq with daily reports of rising sectarian violence in Iraq, and therefore found his withdrawal projections lacking in credibility. As long as Lieberman persisted in tying his prediction of year-end troop withdrawals to absurdly optimistic assurances of continued progress in Iraq, his implied support for withdrawal by the end of 2006 would be viewed by Connecticut democrats with extreme skepticism.

Although Connecticut polls prior to the July 7, 2006 debate between Lieberman and Lamont still gave Lieberman a double-digit lead, momentum was distinctly on Lamont’s side. The debate did nothing to stem the tide. Within two weeks of the debate polls were showing Lamont with the lead, a lead which grew in late July and early August to more than ten points before contracting in the days immediately before the August 8th primary.

Faced with the very real prospect of losing the Democratic primary Lieberman finally resolved to squarely address the perception among democrats in Connecticut that he would not support withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq unless Iraq had been substantially pacified.

As anyone would have to agree, you don’t get elected to the U.S. Senate three times without being highly attuned to the perceptions of the voters. While it was too late for Lieberman to repudiate his panglossian assessment of the situation in Iraq, he could at least seek to reassure Democrats that he would support phased withdrawal if the Iraqis proved either unable or unwilling to effectively counter rising sectarian violence; that under either circumstance – progress in Iraq or descent into civil war – he would support withdrawal subject only to the qualification that such withdrawal not be tied to a timetable or some “arbitrary” deadline.

On Tuesday, August 2nd, one week prior to the Democratic primary, New York Times reporters Jennifer Medina and Nicholas Confessore traveled to Connecticut to interview the struggling incumbent, meeting with him at campaign stops in Colchester and Killingworth. The day before a dozen leading Democrats in Congress has released a letter sent to Bush urging a “more limited mission” for U.S. troops in Iraq and calling for “phased redeployment” to commence by the end of the year. Lieberman, while expressing continued confidence that progress in Iraq would permit troops withdrawals by the end of the year, emphasized that he had declined to sign letter because it “set too strict a deadline”, according to the Times article. Later that day, perhaps out of concern that his interview with the Times had not achieved his purpose of softening his stance on the question of withdrawal, Lieberman told the Times reporters that his views on the war had been misunderstood.

''There are people I meet who think that I believe we should stay there indefinitely, regardless of what Iraqis are doing -- I don't,'' Lieberman told the Times.

To the extent Lieberman was now arguing that his support for keeping U.S. troops in Iraq was conditional on the Iraqis, the implication was clear: if the Iraqis and their elected government were not doing enough to bring their country back from the precipice of civil war, Lieberman would support a phased withdrawal if the pace of withdrawal were not telegraphed to the enemy in the form of a publicly announced timetable or deadline.

Lieberman no doubt would still maintain that he had not expressed a changed position on the war in his interviews with the Times on August 2nd, that his reservations regarding proposals for withdrawal had always been based on his opposition to timelines and deadlines, and did not represent rejection of withdrawal per se, but rather a belief that withdrawal should proceed on the basis of the continued success of the embedding strategy and the capability of the Iraqi forces to “lead the fight.”

In fairness to Lieberman, his quoted remarks in the Times article differed from his prior statements more in tone and emphasis than substance. However, if as the Times suggested Lieberman’s remarks were notable primarily for being “among his most detailed” he had offered on the subject of the war, the incremental detail (particularly his statements indicating his differences with democratic colleagues in Congress who had signed the Bush letter were limited to the inclusion of a timetable) clearly suggested a marked softening of his opposition to proposals for withdrawal, and invited an inference that he would support withdrawal even in the face of continued deterioration in Iraq if the Iraqis were not holding up their end of the bargain in confronting the forces of sectarian violence. This inference seemed more than justified based on the reporting in the edition of the New York Times that appeared on the newsstands the morning of August 3rd.

“44 Are Killed In Attacks Aimed At Iraqi Security Forces” was the report from the Baghdad bureau of the New York Times.

“Lieberman Backs Troop Withdrawal but Not Timetable of Other Democrats” was the report from Colchester and Killingworth in Connecticut.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

We are making progress...although things have become heartbreakingly bad (Part One of the Lieberman Project)

The third and final debate among the candidates for U.S. Senate was mercifully nearing a conclusion. The debate had been disrupted on multiple occasions by an exceedingly demonstrative audience consisting of vocal Lamont and Lieberman partisans and a small gaggle of Larouchies prone to periodically erupting into song. As the debate proceeded moderator George Stephanopoulos increasingly bore the mildly panicked look of a parent attempting to preside over their six-year old’s birthday party.

In the weeks preceding the third debate the polls, which had been wildly divergent throughout September, showing Lieberman’s lead ranging anywhere from two to seventeen points, had converged around an eight to twelve point lead for Lieberman (polling results that projected the final tally on November 7th fairly accurately). There was palpable concern in the Lamont campaign that their earnest but novice candidate was not succeeding in making the connection in the public’s mind between the burgeoning catastrophe in Iraq and Lieberman’s support for Bush Administration policies.

As the candidates convened on Oct. 23rd at the modest, small town auditorium in New London, U.S. fatalities in Iraq for the month of October had already exceeded the number of fatalities for any full calendar month during the preceding year. By the end of the month the 106 U.S. fatalities in Iraq in October would represent the most devastating monthly toll in American lives since the grievous losses suffered during the annihilative assault on Fallujah in April 2004. Increasing sectarian violence in Iraq and spiraling U.S. fatalities might have been expected to exert a substantial drag on the campaign of an incumbent who had been so vociferous in his support of the Bush Administration’s Iraq policies. Lieberman, however, had been effective (at least during the general election campaign) in parrying the Iraq issue, generally avoiding acknowledgments of the rapidly deteriorating conditions in Iraq and even on occasion taking the offensive on the Iraq issue by assailing “immediate withdrawal,” Lieberman’s preferred mischaracterization of Lamont’s support for phased redeployment.

However, with all due regard for Lieberman’s artful rhetorical veronicas on the subject of Iraq, his success over the course of three debates in blunting the impact of the Iraq issue was due in no small part to the apparent reluctance of Lamont and the debate panelists to confront the incumbent with specific examples of his prior assessments of conditions in Iraq, assessments that by October 2006 had proved so wildly optimistic and so at variance with other contemporaneous accounts of conditions in Iraq that TIME Baghdad bureau chief Michael Ware had famously suggested after reading a Nov. 29, 2005 op-ed by Lieberman in the Wall Street Journal that “Senator Lieberman is so divorced from reality that he's completely lost the plot or he knows he's spinning a line.” Wasn't an assessment of the candidates prior pronouncements on the issue relevant in judging his current statements?

It wasn’t until the penultimate question of the third and final debate that Lieberman was confronted with one of his many previous errant Iraq assessments. Ted Mann, the political reporter for the New London daily newspaper that co-sponsored the debate, began his question by referring to Lieberman’s Wall Street Journal op-ed. Mann quoted Lieberman’s claim in the op-ed that “progress in Iraq is visible and practical”, and asked “given what the newspapers and television news shows have shown in the year since then I wonder if progress has disappeared anyway and is there anything we can do now to stop it?”

Lamont had been designated by Stephanopoulos as the first to respond to Mann’s question and he seized the opportunity presented by the reference to Lieberman’s op-ed. He began by noting (as he had at various times throughout the campaign) that Lieberman’s op-ed had been instrumental in inspiring him to run, and said he had considered Lieberman’s description of progress in Iraq as a “gross misreading of everything I’d heard was going on in Iraq.” He referred to Lieberman’s rather odd invocation of the presence of cell phones and satellite dishes in Iraq as indices of improvement, recalled that the op-ed had appeared at about the same time Rep. Murtha and various retired Generals had begun speaking out against the war, and contrasted their rejection of Bush Administration policies with what he referred to as Lieberman’s “stay the course” approach. He proceeded from criticism to criticism of the op-ed with a fluidity and assuredness that stood in stark contrast to his usual stiff and hurried delivery. It was unquestionably Lamont’s most impassioned and effective attack on Lieberman’s support for the war.

For the first time in nearly three hours of televised debate Lamont had succeeded in putting Lieberman on the defensive on the Iraq issue (he also may have struck a nerve with Lieberman, who could fairly trace the escalation of his internecine war with the leftwing of his own party to the WSJ op-ed). Lieberman began his response by pleading “what I wrote in the Wall Street Journal article is what I saw” during a visit to Iraq the preceding November. After explaining that he’d been encouraged by Iraqi elections, an Iraqi economy that was “coming alive”, and the purported success of a strategy of embedding U.S. troops in Iraqi military units, Lieberman made an uncharacteristic – and startling - concession of deterioration in conditions in Iraq: "Unfortunately, beginning in February, when the terrorists, al Qaeda in Iraq, blew up the holy Shiite mosque in Samara Iraq, and inflamed sectarian violence. Obviously, since then, particularly in Baghdad and the Sunni triangle, things have gone heartbreakingly bad.”

Lieberman’s admission that things had gone horribly wrong in Iraq since the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samara the previous February was a stunning gaffe. It directly contradicted the assurances he had offered last July during his pre-primary debate with Lamont that things were going swimmingly in Iraq.

A more agile debater might have capitalized on Lieberman's gaffe by deviating from his prepared closing remarks in order to ask Lieberman how he could have proclaimed in July that the situation is Iraq was improving enough to begin withdrawals by year end if, as Lieberman now conceded, conditions in Iraq in July had been "heartbreakingly bad"? He might have asked Lieberman how he could continue to proclaim confidence that the U.S. would prevail in Iraq if a single act of terrorism could unleash sectarian violence so great as to completely overwhelm U.S. efforts to maintain order and stop a slaughter in Baghdad that had attained a horrifying monotony?

A more practiced polemicist might have noted that Baghdad had lapsed into an endless seizure of nihilism and terror in the eleven months since Lieberman’s WSJ op-ed, and yet Lieberman had persisted in advocating the same policies and strategies he had advocated a year before - embedding, “clear and hold”, static troop levels - strategies that since February had gone from merely ineffective to virtually irrelevant amid the chaos on the streets of Baghdad. He might have noted that under such circumstances the steadfastness of support for the war and its conduct claimed by Lieberman as a virtue was more nearly the opposite of virtue: less a commendable consistency than a complete absence of any will or inclination to react, suggesting inurement, or even indifference, to a metastasizing calamity in Baghdad rather than a courageous and principled stand against prevailing political winds.

Of course neither Lamont nor any other debater could have done more within the debate format than simply note Lieberman’s contradiction of himself and perhaps inquire of Lieberman whether anything could cause him to materially modify his Iraq policy if seven months of exploding violence in Iraq had not.

Anything, that is, other than the upcoming election itself.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The War Criminals

McEnroe v. Lieberman

Colin McEnroe has a piece in Salon entitled "Lieberman: A Surge of Buyer's Remorse?" Here's a taste:

Tempers are little frayed here in Connecticut because our junior senator spent last summer fighting for his political survival by insisting, among other things, that the policies he supported would result in troop withdrawals. Lieberman said some American troops would be able to leave Iraq by the end of 2006, and more than half would be out by the end of 2007. According to exit polls on Nov. 7, more than 60 percent of Connecticut voters opposed the war in Iraq and/or favored withdrawal of some or all troops, and nearly four out of 10 of those antiwar voters supported Lieberman. Lieberman had barely digested the food from his victory party before he spun 180 degrees and added his voice to the "surge" chorus.

McEnroe touches on Lieberman's sell out to the White House on Katrina related disclosure, the Hagel Smackdown, and a number of other Lieberman lowlights. It's worth reading, a real treat for hardcore Lieberphobes.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Lieberman's Betrayal of N.O. and Landrieu

Kos picks up the story: "LA-Sen: Lieberman stabs ally Landrieu in the back".

The only thing worse than being Lieberman's enemy is being his ally. Because eventually he WILL slip you the shiv.

UPDATE: CrooksandLiars has it, too. Contact info for Lieberman's office (and Landrieu's, as well) is included.


My Left Nutmeg has linked to LieberWatch. It is indeed a privilege. It is my fervent hope that with the help of My Left Nutmeg and likeminded CT blogs we can get the whole sordid tale of Lieberman’s deceit on the subject of his Iraq policy into a top tier blog, the local press or, ideally, into the national press.

The Lieberman Project

I am still preparing the series of posts that are the principal raison d'etre of this website. I've taken to thinking of it as the "Lieberman Project." The purpose of this project is to establish and document Joe's remarkably rapid progression from opposing an increase in U.S. troops in Iraq (see Point Six of his Ten Point Plan) to advocating such increase.

Various websites and commentators, such as the great ThinkProgress.Org, have noted that Lieberman's recent call for more troops is inconsistent with his belief (as stated in the July 2006 debate with Ned Lamont) that we would be withdrawing troops by the end of 2006 and inconsistent with his oft-professed plaint that no one wants to bring the troops home faster than he does.

However, it seems to have generally escaped notice that during the campaign Joe not only predicted we'd be withdrawing troops, he specifically advocated withdrawals and, more significantly in light of his new Iraq policy, opposed any troop increases. Joe and his supporters have hidden behind arguments to the effect that although he may have made certain projections about potential withdrawals by the end of 2006, he never advocated withdrawals. But this claim is untrue, as Joe's own Ten Point Plan conclusively demonstrates. Joe has also sought to argue that his views justifiably changed in December after his visit to Iraq and his consultations with U.S. military commanders. Again, untrue insofar as Joe was publicly calling for more troops in Iraq even before he left for Baghdad.

A preliminary outline of the Lieberman Project is available at LieberWatch(mac.com) in the sidebar captioned "Lieberman's Bait and Switch."

When the Lieberman Project is fully posted there will be no place left to hide for Lieberman, no argument remaining that he did anything other than shamelessly lie to the voters of Connecticut about the most important issue entrusted to our elected representatives - war and peace.

Backseat Joe

As has been noted here and elsewhere (and noted with particular asperity in New Orleans), restoration of the oversight function at the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (the “HSGA Committee”) got off to a rocky start when the new chairperson, our own Sen. Joseph Lieberman (Independent-CT), quietly rescinded his previous demands that the White House release documents related to its criminally negligent response to the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe.

Now Bush’s Dec. 20, 2006 “signing statement” reserving the right to open our mail without a warrant again thrusts the normally sleepy HSGA Committee into the news. Time for the new chairperson to start flexing those oversight muscles, right?

Not so fast. Despite broad bipartisan opposition on the HSGA Committee to Bush’s signing statement, Lieberman didn’t seem to have much to say. On January 10, 2007, the day following the first meeting of the HSGA Committee in the 110th Congress, Sen. Collins (now the ranking minority member) issued a press release announcing that she had proposed a resolution “reaffirming constitutional protections of sealed mail.” Collins’ press release very clearly rejected Bush’s power grab, stating:

“I want to be perfectly clear: Nothing in the Postal Reform Act, nor the President’s signing statement alters the privacy and civil liberties protections provided to a person who sends or receives sealed mail. Mail sealed against inspection is entitled to the strongest possible protections against physical searches. With only very limited exceptions, the government needs a court-issued warrant before it can search mail.”

The press release announced that the resolution was co-sponsored by Democratic Senators Carper and Akaka, as well as Republican Senator Coleman. Very conspicuous in his absence as a co-sponsor was Chairperson Lieberman.

Whoa, Rubber Stamp Sue is leading the charge on a resolution harshly critical of Bush’s mail-snooping signing statement? The Chairman of the Committee, the self-proclaimed Prince of bi-Partisanship, is not among the democrats co-sponsoring the resolution?

Well, we can wait and see if Chairman Lieberman does anything about the building scandal of DHS maladministration, but I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you. If Lieberman’s free passes for the Bush administration on Katrina document disclosure and Bush’s mail-snooping signing statement are any indication, oversight will be overlooked again on the HSGA Committee under Chairman Lieberman.

UPDATE: Apparently Lieberman was not wholly oblivious to the political implications of his failure to co-sponsor Collins’ resolution. By the time the text of the resolution was printed in the Congressional Record Lieberman had been belatedly added as a co-sponsor. Apparently Backseat Joe is willing to let Collins drive when it comes to protecting our privacy against BushCheney.

Monday, January 15, 2007

"I have never been more sorry about a vote I have cast"

The following is a letter that appeared in last Friday’s Stamford Advocate. Ms. Platt says it all. I’ll say no more.

Published January 12 2007
To the editor:

Many of us watched the president give his speech with heavy hearts. The thought of 20,000 more troops being sent to Iraq when almost all of the intelligence says that it will not be enough, and will only cause us to lose many more of the courageous and honorable men and women in our military, is unacceptable.

A friend of our family is on his third tour of duty in combat zones. Civil war is raging, more troops and civilians are killed every day and the violence continues to escalate. The only thing worse than the facts themselves during the president's speech was that the only senator he mentioned working with to send more troops to Iraq was Joe Lieberman.

I am ashamed of the vote I cast in November. When Mr. Lieberman lost the primary to Ned Lamont, I hoped that he could see that the Democrats of our state were speaking loud and clear. After much consideration and much trepidation, I voted for Joe in November. I have never been more sorry about a vote I have cast. Mr. Lieberman has duped the Democrats of Connecticut. He dropped our party like a hot potato when his own political career was at stake. Now we can see which team he is really on.

Joe: I hope that the president has a few more of those kisses left for his favorite boy. It's going to be lonely for you at the next election.

Jennifer Platt

DHS is a Mess. Remind Me Again Who Chairs the Senate Committee Charged With Overseeing DHS?

The Department of Homeland Security is a financial catastrophe. The accountants can’t make heads or tails out of the place. FireDogLake has more.

This issue is of course related to Lieberman’s betrayal of New Orleans and all Hurricane Katrina victims last week. But it is also very directly related to Iraq, the fraudulent “war on terror” and the Bush Administration’s penchant for loose and liquid dollars and absolute unaccountability. I think we’d all like to know where all that Homeland Security money is going. I think we’re entitled to know. The question is: will Lieberman feel the same way? Will he, as the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, demand answers of the Bush Administration?

Here’s the link to the HSGA Committee’s website: http://hsgac.senate.gov. This site is of course the official website of the Committee and accordingly under Lieberman’s control. It will not announce or reveal Lieberman’s malfeasance, but it would certainly trumpet any actions by the Committee that would constitute vigorous oversight of DHS, wouldn’t it? Let’s see if LIeberman is at all interested in where all those billions went. Let’s see if he’s interested in a DHS that is administered in an orderly fashion or if he’s content with Enron-style accounting at the executive branch department charged with protecting his constituents.

Does anyone care to speculate? To be perfectly candid, I’m concerned Lieberman will feel beholden to Bush and Rove for their help in fixing the Connecticut senate race. I hate to be so cynical, but....

Lieberman Betrays the City of New Orleans and Landrieu, Pt. 2

“Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman blasted the Bush administration last spring for failing to cooperate in the Senate's investigation of Hurricane Katrina. But now that he is in a key position to press the investigation, he is refusing to do so.” The Times-PIcayune, New Orleans, January 13, 2007

Lieberman Betrays the City of New Orleans...And his buddy Sen. Mary Landrieu

Lieberman has just flip-flopped on the issue of White House disclosure regarding Hurricane Katrina documents and records. His outright hostility toward the democratic party, which he believes embarrassed and betrayed him, is becoming pathological. The following is from a Jan. 12th Newsweek article written by Mike Isikoff and Mark Hosenball:

Sen. Joe Lieberman, the only Democrat to endorse President Bush's new plan for Iraq, has quietly backed away from his pre-election demands that the White House turn over potentially embarrassing documents relating to its handling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans. Last year, when he was running for re-election in Connecticut, Lieberman was a vocal critic of the administration's handling of Katrina. He was especially dismayed by its failure to turn over key records that could have shed light on internal White House deliberations about the hurricane, including those involving President Bush.

Asserting that there were "too many important questions that cannot be answered," Lieberman and other committee Democrats complained in a statement last year that the panel "did not receive information or documents showing what actually was going on in the White House."

But now that he chairs the homeland panel-and is in a position to subpoena the records-Lieberman has decided not to pursue the material, according to Leslie Phillips, the senator's chief committee spokeswoman. "The senator now intends to focus his attention on the future security of the American people and other matters and does not expect to revisit the White House's role in Katrina," she told NEWSWEEK.
I've also attached below Lieberman's press release from last March containing the text of his letter to the Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Sen. Collins, in which he demanded that the Committee issue subpoenas to compel White House disclosure. Here are some other statements by Lieberman regarding the White House's failure to provide documents pertinent to the Katrina investigations - statements he made while he was running for re-election:

"Virtually everyone in the White House who had anything of operational significance to do with the preparation for and response to Katrina falls into the category put off limits to us." Lieberman, in a latter to Sen. Collins last March demanding the issuance of subpoenas.

"The problems begin at the White House, where there has been a near total lack of cooperation that has made it impossible, in my opinion, for us to do the thorough investigation we have a responsibility to do." Lieberman, last January. "Only a full understanding of what went wrong and who was responsible will enable us to correct our path for the future." Lieberman, last February.

"Only a full understanding of what went wrong and who was responsible will enable us to correct our path for the future." Lieberman, last February.
Click here to see Lieberman’s letter last year demanding that subpoenas be issued to procure the very documents he now seems to be uninterested in.

Joe Must Have Had His Sense of Irony Surgically Removed

How could Ned ever have associated with republicans?!