Thursday, July 20, 2006

Joe, Gil, Ralph, John, and The Massager

Let's do some quick hits:

When I heard the other day that a Washington-based Democratic strategist named Tom Lindenfeld was heading up to Connecticut to work for Senator Joe Lieberman's primary campaign, I knew it meant that Joe was in big trouble. And that Joe knows it as well.

Theoretically, an incumbent Democratic senator should have no need to hire a grassroots turnout specialist at the eleventh hour; theoretically, a senior figure like Lieberman should be no more concerned about his primary challenger than a picnicker is concerned about the fly who's buzzing his hamburger. Clearly, however, Lieberman's internal polling indicates that the average grassroots Connecticut Democrat is actually poised to strip away his party designation on Aug. 8, and award the '06 Senate nomination to his antiwar challenger, Ned Lamont. Hence the apparent need to rush Lindenfeld into the breach, in the hope that he can gin up a ground game in a mere 19 days.

And now we have outside confirmation of Lieberman's mounting woes. The latest Quinnipiac University poll now reports that the heretofore little-known Lamont, who trailed Lieberman by 15 points in June, today leads Lieberman by four points. That's a stunning finding. It's also further evidence that your average Connecticut Democrat increasingly views Lieberman as fatally compromised by his longstanding national-security alliance with President Bush; by his refusal to hold Bush accountable for the well-documented string of administration failures in Iraq; and by his insistence that Democratic dissent is not appropriate.

As a barometer of mainstream Democratic opinion, I offer Richard Schneller, age 84, a retired Connecticut legislator who led the state Senate Democrats back in the early '80s, when I was covering politics in that state. He emailed me the other day: "I just think that Joe is way off base in his support of the war in Iraq, and his support of Bush. I don't consider myself a liberal Democrat, whatever that is, but I'm voting for Ned Lamont because I want to send a message to Joe Lieberman that the war in Iraq, and many things that the Bush administration is doing as a result of invading Iraq, are very detrimental to the future health and well being of the United States."

It's not the liberal bloggers who Lieberman should be worried about on Aug. 8. It's folks like Dick Schneller.


Speaking of Iraq, here's another defeatist, hate-America, cut-and-run complaint about the current conditions on the ground in Baghdad:

"The condition there is worse than I expected....I have to be perfectly candid: Baghdad is a serious problem.....It’s not safe to go anywhere outside of the Green Zone any part of the day....All of the information we receive sometimes from the Pentagon and the State Department isn’t always true....I don’t want to predict what will happen if things don’t get better....What I think we need to do more is withdraw more Americans."

Must be Michael Moore taking a quick tour, right? Or maybe a "liberal" journalist who is too chicken to leave the hotel room? Or maybe a weak-kneed Democratic senator who has succumbed to anti-Bush hysteria?

No, those remarks (here and here) were uttered this week by Republican congressman Gil Gutknecht of Minnesota. A member of the Newt Gingrich class of 1994. His 2004 rating from the American Conservative Union is 94 percent, his ACLU rating is zero percent, and the liberal Americans for Democratic Action rate him at five percent. And he's far from alone these days on the Republican side.

What does it say about Joe Lieberman when even a conservative back-bencher like Gil Gutknecht seems more willing than he is to question the Bush administration on Iraq?


This is my last word on Ralph Reed, unless or until he resurrects his dashed political dreams. I only note today that, according to conservative journalist Rich Lowry, the ex-religious right leader and aspiring president has decided to blame his disastrous loss in Georgia not on his own shortcomings (well-documented corruption) but on those who exposed and reported on his corruption.

From Lowry today: "Reed's connection to the (Jack) Abramoff stuff had broken back in the summer of 2004, so it couldn't have been predicted that it would be such a huge deal even now. But it was. The Reed camp blames John McCain for playing payback for his 2000 primary defeat with a campaign of leaks, and the press, of course, was happy to pile on."

Blaming the press is the usual yawn. That aside, it's noteworthy that he blames McCain. It was McCain's panel, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, which exposed Reed's unsavory relations with now-convicted felon Jack Abramoff, most recently in a report released in June. It so happens that McCain had the facts on his side, but let's just say that McCain is surely shedding no tears today, knowing that his panel's report helped fuel Reed's defeat in the lieutenant governor's race.

McCain's 2000 presidential fortunes crashed in the 2000 South Carolina primary, after conservative voters got wind of artfully circulated "rumors" that McCain was nuts due to his years as a POW; that he was the favored candidate of gay activists; and that he had fathered an illegitimate child (actually, he and his wife had adopted a Bangladeshi girl). McCain has long blamed Reed for those rumors -- Reed was one of Bush's top southern honchos at the time -- so perhaps there is an element of "payback" in what happened in Georgia Tuesday night. But the bottom line is, Reed provided McCain with the factual ammo to blast him asunder.


I don't want to make a big deal out of this, but I'm just asking:

Was there something wierdly inappropriate about The Decider unilaterally deciding this week to become The Massager?

It's captured on video: With war raging in the Middle East, with North Korea testing missiles, and with America's image in the world at low ebb, President Bush walks into a G-8 summit meeting, and decides to lay hands upon the only female world leader at the table. As German Chancellor Angela Merkel confers with a colleague on her right, Bush summarily administers a drive-by shoulder massage. Whereupon the surprised Merkel jerks her arms upward, in the kind of reflexive response last seen when a crazed tennis fan snuck up behind Monica Seles and stuck a blade in her back.

Some Bush defenders insist, naturally, that what he did with this woman isn't as bad as what Bill Clinton used to do with his women. (See first posted comment here). Granted, Clinton's myriad backstage peccadillos are well-established as factual reality. But, again, I'm just asking: Did Bill Clinton ever find it appropriate to exercise a right to preemptively grope a female head of state in a world summit meeting? And, if he had, can you imagine how his critics would have reacted? For those of you who do think that the Merkel massage was a tad cringe-worthy, you might enjoy this expression of disdain.