Tuesday, August 15, 2006

George hearts John, Bill disses Joe, Katherine trashes Katherine

What's next, hell freezing over? First the Red Sox win the World Series, and now George Will is praising John Kerry.

The mind reels. In his latest column, the veteran conservative columnist opines that the '04 Democratic candidate was actually correct during the last campaign when he insisted that effective law enforcement should be a key facet of the war against terrorism -- and that he has been proven correct by the British-Pakistani police work that uncovered the latest airplane plot.

As many of you may recall, Kerry was ridiculed by the Bush campaign for having what it called "a pre-9/11 mindset," and for generally being a girly man because he was insisting that military clout was not the only potential tool in the box. As Kerry himself contended early in 2004 (in a line approvingly quoted by Will), the war on terror is "primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation that requires cooperation around the world.''

An excerpt from Will's column: "The London plot against civil aviation confirmed a theme of an illuminating new book, Lawrence Wright's The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. The theme is that better law enforcement, which probably could have prevented 9/11, is central to combating terrorism. F-16s are not useful tools against terrorism that issues from places such as Hamburg (where Mohamed Atta lived before dying in the North Tower of the World Trade Center) and High Wycombe, England. Cooperation between Pakistani and British law enforcement (the British draw upon useful experience combating IRA terrorism) has validated John Kerry's belief..."

Then he proceeds to fillet the Bush administration for continuing to assail Democratic "weakness" on the terror war and for continuing to assail Kerry's law-enforcement argument in particular, even in the wake of the British arrests. He views the administration's attitude as "delusional."

I await the vice president's charge that George Will is aiding and abetting the "al Qaeda types."


Amid all the words I have expended on the Joe Lieberman situation, none have addressed the fundamental horserace equation: Will he actually win this autumn as an independent, beating the official Connecticut Democratic candidate?

Here's the Yes argument: He keeps his primary voters, picks up the independent swing voters who either respect his seniority or respect his stubborness on the war, and picks up Republican voters who don't like the underwhelming GOP candidate (Alan Schlesinger, a guy with a documented history of gambling problems). Result: Lieberman gets more votes than Democrat Ned Lamont.

Here's another version of the Yes argument, from Quinnipiac pollster Peter Brown, who has been closely tracking the Connecticut race: "Lamont, despite all the sound and fury, only won the group most likely to go his way -- Democratic primary voters -- by 4 percentage points, or 10,000 votes. It is important to remember that more than 20,000 independents switched their registration to Democratic in the weeks before the primary in order to vote in it. The betting is that the vast majority of them were anti-war folks backing Lamont. Therefore, the most likely independents for Ned are already included in the primary Lamont vote. The remaining independent pool is more likely to like Lieberman than might ordinarily be the case."

But the No argument has some merit. I certainly think it has some merit: Lamont wins a strong majority of the Democratic voters, as well as a pivotal share of independent voters -- most of whom (if the polls are accurate) are now seriously opposed to the Iraq war that Lieberman has long defended.

Paul Janensch, an associate journalism professor at Quinnipiac University, emailed me about this scenario the other day: "Lieberman and Schesinger...split the 'stay the course' vote, while Lamont draws independent and moderate Republican voters unhappy with the Bush administration, and wins." That's an interesting point about GOP voters. Why assume that they'll overwhelmingly back Lieberman or their own guy? Connecticut Republicans, like their counterparts elsewhere in the northeast, are not known for being lockstep neoconservatives.

Also, it's worth noting the closing passage in Robert Novak's column yesterday. The conservative pundit says that loyal Bush Republicans (there are still a few in Connecticut) might not necessarily be inspired to abandon Schlesinger for Lieberman, because Lieberman, while still inclined to defend Bush on the war, has nevertheless felt compelled to acknowledge various Bush mistakes in execution (in the hopes of at least drawing some Democrats). Conceivably, that kind of positioning -- coupled with his 90 percent Democratic voting record -- could limit his appeal to GOP voters.


And it appears that Lieberman can forget the idea of his old pal Bill Clinton bailing him out. Clinton stumped for his fellow Yalie during the primary, but this morning he severed the bond. On ABC, Clinton basically cast Joe into the enemy camp, contending that "almost no Democrats...agreed with his position, which was 'I want to attack Iraq whether or not they have weapons of mass destruction.' And his position was the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld position."

So let's review: During the primary, Lieberman needed Clinton to validate his standing as a Democrat. What does he do now, with the ex-president defining him as a Bush toady?
(Of course, one can also ask the question: If Clinton thinks that Lieberman's Iraq stance is the Bush stance, why did he go up there to campaign for him in the first place?)


Speaking of Lieberman, I was repeatedly amused while in Connecticut to hear politicos describe his losing primary campaign as "the second worst in America" this year.

I'd always ask, who has the worst-run campaign? And the answer always came back: Katherine Harris.

The same Katherine Harris who helped buoy George W. Bush at the finish line in Florida six years ago. She's currently running for the Senate in Florida...and, after three campaign managers and 25 departed staffers, she finds herself trailing her Democratic opponent by a whopping 35 points. Federal investigators are probing her relationship with a defense contractor who has pleaded guilty to bribing a congressman. Oh, and one other thing: Harris' current travel aide and personal assistant is an ex-jailbird who's currently on probation for having stolen money from an ex-employer.

This is why nonpartisan Washington analyst Stu Rothenberg rates the Harris campaign as "an utter, unabashed disaster" that "hasn't gotten off the ground and isn't likely to, this century."

If you want the total personal dish about the Harris meltdown, this piece is delicious.


I erred yesterday on this blog, when I quoted 9/11 Commission co-chairman Tom Kean as telling Newsweek that Dick Cheney was wrong to paint Connecticut's Lamont voters as aiders and abetters of terrorism. An alert reader points out today that Cheney was actually rebuked by former Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge. Right quote, wrong Tom. I have corrected that reference in yesterday's post.