Thursday, November 02, 2006

JI Editorial On Loserman

Joe, it's not just the Times

Journal Inquirer

There aren't many endorsements that change political horse races.

Mostly, endorsements are sideshows, though they do get candidates guaranteed newsprint and quotes to use for commercials.

But, really, is anyone going to vote for Sen. Joe Lieberman, who was not already prepared to vote for him, because Mayor Mike Bloomberg of New York endorsed him?

Or for Ned Lamont because Wesley Clark endorsed him?

Exceptions would be Bill Clinton, who really helped Lieberman on the eve of the Democratic primary, and Sen. Barack Obama, whose endorsement by e-mail may help Lamont slightly in the general election.

But do you know anyone, besides the candidates and their staffs, who cares whom the Hartford Courant or The New York Times endorsed?

It's just hard to believe that there are many voters waiting for a newspaper to tell them what to do.

But Joe Lieberman seems to care a lot about whom the Times endorses.

He seemed personally hurt by the Times picking Lamont.

His No. 1 flack wrote a long diatribe on the subject.

And Joe resorted to what has sometimes been his ultimate defense in this campaign: No one understands me.

If we did, you see, we would appreciate him sufficiently.

Lieberman's exact words about the Times editorial board were:

"I don't believe that they've ever really understood my position on Iraq."
It's not every man who can out-condescend The New York Times.

Why not just say, "They have their views and I have mine"?

And, anyhow, who does understand Sen. Lieberman's position on Iraq?

Maybe professor Irwin Corey.

To the rest of us, Lieberman's position on Iraq has long been incomprehensible gibberish.

What did Sen. Lieberman say in the beginning?

He was with President Bush in concept but was not convinced of a threat.

What did he say next?

There is a threat, after all.

And Sept. 11 is linked to Saddam and Iraq.

What has he said all along?

A) We must succeed in Iraq.

B) It would be a disaster to withdraw U.S. troops.

What has he said most recently?

Keep the troops there but get them out as soon as is possible.


This is not a position at all, but a series of contradictory stances. The senator's "position" is a pudding without a theme.

If you want more detail, look up a long piece in the same New York Times, which appeared Oct. 24. It is an exhaustive examination of Lieberman's many and constantly changing positions on Iraq. (The piece was amended the next day.)

But the key thing is that the senator's position was never moving toward anything - any goal, mission, or even intellectual coherence.

What in the world does it mean to say the troops must stay but they should come out as soon as possible?

When is that?

What is the standard of judgment?

And how do we succeed there? Define success.

Let us ask the senator this simple question:

For what purpose should the troops now stay?

What is their mission?

Is it to subdue the civil war and organize a new nation, or nations?

If so, we need twice as many troops.

We don't have them unless we institute a draft.

This seems unlikely, but calling for more troops in Iraq is an intellectually honest and respectable position. It is, roughly, Sen. John McCain's position.

If the only reason to stay is that there will be chaos if we go, well, we have chaos now. And as long as we have bases in the region, and are "over the perimeter," we are not truly gone.

If the senator's position is, actually, underneath the rhetoric of national strength and not losing a war, that we should give the Iraqis a push and then go - which is the true position of most of Washington now - then how is he different than Lamont other than that Lamont wants to go sooner and insists we admit we made a mistake in Iraq?

In that case, Lieberman would not be able to cast Lamont as naïve and soft on terror.

In that case, there would be every reason to vote for Lamont, the honest dove.

It's not just the Times that fails to understand Joe Lieberman's position on the war. Nobody understands it. Because it is contradictory and illogical on its face.

And why is that?

Because Joe Lieberman does not want to choose.

The choices in Iraq are three:

- Keep doing what we are doing.

- Get out - in an orderly way but a quick one.

- Send more troops and temporarily colonize the nation to save it.

Joe refuses to make any of those choices, and then he whines that those pointy-headed eggheads at The New York Times don't appreciate the position he never took.

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