Campaign Confidential

Lamont's Hometown Paper Backs Lieberman

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The Greenwich Time has [endorsed] (,0,2082552.story?coll=green-editorial-headlines) the embattled senator over challenger Ned Lamont.

Here’s the full text:

U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman’s support for the Iraq war has earned him the anger of many in the Democratic Party and the first legitimate challenge to his Senate seat since he took possession of it 18 years ago.

But his stance on Iraq is indicative of what may be his greatest strength: Mr. Lieberman is willing to break with his party or what is popular on matters of principle. And while we have not always agreed with Mr. Lieberman’s position on the war, we still believe he deserves to be nominated for a fourth term in the Senate.

A two-party system needs people willing to cross party lines when they think it right. The system works best when politics takes a back seat to governing, unlike today when it appears to own the wheel. Particularly in this bitterly divided era, the Senate needs more people open to “the other side.” That goes for the House of Representatives, the White House and the Supreme Court, which is supposed to be above politics but surely is not. And it goes for both parties.

In another era, Mr. Lieberman might have been praised for his open-mindedness and willingness to risk politics for principle. Today, he is more often considered a sell-out. That is something the country needs to change, not Mr. Lieberman.

Besides, Mr. Lieberman’s record, while moderate, is solidly Democratic and strong on issues from gay rights and women’s rights to the environment and transportation.

On the other hand, for too long he has been able to take his job security for granted, a point made clear by Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont, whose campaign to wrest the Democratic Senate nomination away from Mr. Lieberman has gained startlingly swift support. Riding a wave of constituents who think the senator has lost sight of them, Mr. Lamont has challenged the incumbent on topics ranging from the role of government in private lives to education spending to Washington’s lobbyist culture.

Clearly, however, this race is about the war above all else. Although he has criticized the Bush administration’s planning and conduct of the war, Mr. Lieberman has been one of the president’s most valuable allies in the effort, a position that often has put him at odds with Connecticut voters and some of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate. Mr. Lamont, who supports imposing a deadline for troop withdrawal, has made the war the linchpin of his campaign, and it has resonated with the voters.

Many Democrats stop right there. But the differences between the two men do not. Mr. Lamont has campaigned hard to show he is not a one-topic candidate and he has clashed with Mr. Lieberman over Terri Schiavo, No Child Left Behind, school vouchers, approaches to free trade and government support for faith-based initiatives.

Of course, the most glaring disparity between the two is experience. Mr. Lieberman has tons. Mr. Lamont – a former Greenwich selectman and finance board member – very little. While the challenger has tapped into the strong surge in this country to rid Congress of the old guard, the weight Mr. Lieberman carries in the Senate is a clear asset to the state. He showed that recently when he helped win $50 million to decrease congestion on Interstate 95. Mr. Lieberman also played a significant role in saving the Naval Submarine Base in Groton from the gallows.

But his loyalty has been questioned elsewhere. Something that genuinely could hurt Mr. Lieberman on Tuesday is many Democrats’ perception that he is willing to place himself over party. At a time when Democrats are looking to retake control of one or both houses of Congress, Mr. Lieberman’s intention of running as an independent should he lose the primary could put party ownership of his seat at risk. It is similar to his insistence in 2000 on running for re-election to the Senate at the same time he vied for the vice presidency, a move that greatly endangered the seat. Mr. Lieberman counters that the party chose him at its nominating convention, and that it’s Mr. Lamont who endangers the position by bucking that choice with his primary run.

Though green, Mr. Lamont has made an attractive candidate. His abilities as a businessman are without question. And as a member of Greenwich government, he was well-liked and respected, and he served the town well. But Greenwich Town Hall is not the United States Senate.

Mr. Lieberman’s record argues for his election on Tuesday. He has fought for Connecticut, and though he can anger people, he doesn’t change positions with political winds. Perhaps most important, he is genuinely bipartisan at a time when a bitterly divided country needs it most.

Mr. Lieberman should take this challenge and the strong emotion he’s roused in this state as a serious wake-up call. He no longer can assume the seat is his as long as he wants it. But he’s earned the right to return to work and deserves to represent his party in the November election.

For an endorsement, this sure does read as a cogent summary of all the reasons Joe is having problems. It’s a bad sign when even those writing in your favor are so aggressively … tepid.

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