With the five-year anniversary of September 11 and a vital 2006 election season fast approaching, the American public witnessed the first tangible rejection of George Bush’s policy. Just days after Ned Lamont’s improbable one-year ascension from political nobody to the Democratic nominee in the upcoming Connecticut senate race, mainstream political pundits and the White House Ministry of Truth were already at work spinning his victory as the latest example of the Democratic Party’s weakness on national security.
Despite his opponent’s overwhelming support in the primary from the DLC and many prominent Democrats including Bill Clinton, Russ Feingold and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Lamont’s stances on progressive issues proved to be much closer to Connecticut voters. Unlike Joe Lieberman, Lamont is against the PATRIOT Act and supports gay marriage and universal health care.
In his concession speech the night of the primary, Lieberman vowed to run as an independent and accused Lamont of “partisan polarizing instead of talking about how we can solve people’s problems.” The spin quickly emerged that Lamont’s position on the war in was in vogue for angry progressive voters who successfully unseated the three-term incumbent.
On Aug. 9, the day after the primary, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow told reporters that Connecticut voters were given a chance to answer the question, “Do you take the war on terror seriously?” He charged liberal voters with ignoring the difficulties and demands of the war on terror, insinuating that this same ignorance was the cause of 9/11. According to Snow, Osama bin Laden concluded “Americans were weak and wouldn’t stay the course and that led to September 11th.”
The next day, prominent conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks absurdly claimed that “[p]olarized primary voters shouldn’t be allowed to define the choices in American politics.” According to exit polls, Lamont captured almost two-thirds of his liberal base, but he also received support from over a third of both moderate and conservative voters. What Brooks doesn’t take into account is the polarization created by the shamefully effective “vote for us or the terrorists will attack again” rhetoric perfected by Republicans.
Even Lieberman relied on this tactic at his first public appearance after the primary, where he argued that a timeline for leaving would only embolden the terrorists. Latching onto the fear surrounding the recently discovered British terrorism scheme, Lieberman predicted that withdrawal from would be seen as “a tremendous victory by the same people who wanted to blow up these planes in this plot hatched in . It will strengthen them and they will strike again.”
The three-term incumbent is no political slouch; Lieberman has seen how well this strategy of fear has worked over the past five years and he is clutching at straws, hoping the same polarization he decried in the primary will work in the general election. A poll of 790 likely Connecticut voters released Aug. 22 showed that it just might. With a 3.5% margin of error, the two candidates are in a statistical dead heat: 44% for Lieberman, 42% for Lamont, with 11% undecided.
On Aug. 12, a story in the United Press International reported that and British officials argued over the timing of the British airline terrorism arrests. British authorities planned to keep watching the suspects for another week, but pressure from American officials led to their arrests the day after the Connecticut primary despite the fact that no tickets had been purchased and some suspects didn’t even have passports.
In his radio address the same day, President Bush lamented that “unfortunately, some have suggested recently that the terrorist threat is being used for partisan political advantage.” I’m not sure if the “unfortunate” thing he’s referring to is that the public has discovered his favorite strategy and some actually have the temerity to say it, or the fact that he can lie so blatantly after his despicable tactics in the 2004 election that continue to this day.