If the Powell Doctrine can be distilled as never enter a battle without force so decisive you know you can easily win it, the Clinton Doctrine can be distilled as never enter a battle in any serious way until it's so late that your contribution is meaningless.
Want an example? How about the Battle of Connecticut, in which we were treated on Monday to the following brave statement from the most famous face of the Democratic Party. Here is President Clinton from the International Aids Conference in Toronto, on ABC News, responding to Lieberman blaming his loss on liberals in the Party purging those with strong national security credentials:
"Well, if I were Joe and I was running as an independent, that's what I'd say, too. But that's not quite right. That is, there were almost no Democrats who agreed with his position, which was, 'I want to attack Iraq whether or not they have weapons of mass destruction.' His position is the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld position, which was, 'Does it matter if they have weapons? None of this matters. ... This is a big, important priority, and 9/11 gives us the way of attacking and deposing Saddam.'"
Clinton also disputed Lieberman"s claim that a vote for Lamont was a vote against the country's security.
So that's the best Bill Clinton can do -- stating the painfully obvious: that voting for Ned Lamont is not a vote for terrorists? How about demanding that Joe Lieberman withdraws from the race in favor of the duly elected Democratic nominee?
Oh, sure, Bill might get around to it. Probably when the dynamics of the race are set in place enough for his words and actions to have zero consequence.
I said above that this race is the "Battle of Connecticut," but that's not quite right. More accurately, this race should be called the "War Against the Democratic Party," given the way Lieberman is running it: by campaigning full bore against the Democratic Party, and by parroting right-wing talking points that even many Republicans would be ashamed to utter. The only way he can win now is by destroying -- or at least giving significant aid and comfort to Republican efforts to destroy -- the Democratic Party.
Joe has internalized the foreign policy M.O. of his recent political mentor, George W. Bush. Just as Bush's war on terror came down to, "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists," Joe's campaign comes down to, either you are with Joe or you are with the terrorists. That's the way he has decided to run this race. Sadly for Bill, Joe has left no wiggle room for him to triangulate in. That was Joe's choice. And now it's time for Bill to make his.
Now, as I recall, the Democratic Party was pretty loyal to Bill Clinton in his hour of need. Had it not been, it's not likely he would have finished his second term. And the most he can now do for his Party is throw out meaningless truisms like, as the ABC reporter put it, "A vote for Lamont was not, as Lieberman had implied, a vote against the country's security." That's a profile in something, but it ain't courage.
When Clinton campaigned for Lieberman during the primary, he somehow failed to mention the fact that he considered Lieberman's position on Iraq identical with the "Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld position." Instead, he smarmily explained:
"We Democrats have a bad habit. We're prone to think. And when people are thinking, they sometimes disagree."
Well, it's time for Clinton do a bit of thinking of his own. His pal Joe has made the decision to run his campaign by attacking the Democratic Party and using Rovian slurs of the worst kind. That's why he's getting such strong Republican support and why Bush himself refuses to even endorse the Republican candidate in the race.
As much as Bill doesn't like it, there's no third way here. Clinton's party needs his support now, not in a month, after all of Joe's sleazy smears have taken their toll.
Joe Lieberman has already destroyed his own legacy. The question is, how many others does he bring down with him?
It's time to abandon the Clinton Doctrine and fight when it counts.