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What the Hell Is Barbara Boxer Thinking?

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What the hell is Barbara Boxer thinking?

From the run up to Shock and Awe to last month's flurry of thrust-and-parry resolutions on Iraq, the junior senator from California has been one of the most consistent and vocal critics of the war. She voted no on the war in 2002 and co-sponsored the latest Kerry bill calling for our troops to be withdrawn by July 2007. And she was one of only six Democrats to stand against the ambush vote orchestrated by Mitch McConnell and Bill Frist.

So what is she doing heading up to Connecticut to stump for pro-war Joe Lieberman and against his anti-war challenger Ned Lamont?

After all, Tailgunner Joe isn't just one of the staunchest supporters of the war, he's repeatedly and steadfastly spoken out against those who oppose it.

"Retreat and defeat," he said in speaking against the Kerry and Levin withdrawal plans on the floor of the Senate, "would be terrible for the safety and security of the American people." Indeed he was one of only six Democrats to vote against the withdrawal-lite Levin amendment.

Back in December, he responded to Jack Murtha's original call for troop withdrawal by warning that "in matters of war we undermine presidential credibility at our nation's peril" (to which Murtha replied, "Undermining his credibility? What has he said that would give him credibility?").

Lieberman has also said that if voters choose Lamont over him in the August 8th Democratic primary because of his stance on the war it will show that "my party is headed down the road that will not lead us to victory."

What polls is Lieberman reading? Certainly not the ones showing that 60 percent of the voters in his state are against the war -- and that Iraq is the number-one issue motivating Democratic voters in 2006.

When it comes to the war, Lieberman wants it both ways: he's asked that voters "respect" his hawkish stand on the war but then repeatedly accuses those opposing the war of putting their fellow Americans in jeopardy (hey, isn't that Tony Snow's talking point?).

So, again, I ask: what the hell is Barbara Boxer thinking?

Look, I understand the you-scratch-my-primary-run-and-I'll-scratch-yours ethos of sticking up for your fellow Senator -- what Jane Hamsher called "the incumbency protection racket". And this isn't a progressive purity test, accompanied by the expectation of lockstep liberalism. This isn't about Lieberman's GOP-friendly positions on tax cuts, affirmative action, the bankruptcy bill, the energy bill, the privatization of some parts of Social Security, and the right to question the president.

At its core, the Lieberman-Lamont contest is about the war on Iraq. So how can Boxer strap on her Senate buddy blinders and jettison her deeply held beliefs on the defining issue of our time?

Compare Boxer's head-in-the-sands-of-Iraq stance with that of Jack Murtha. I recently called and asked him about Lieberman and whether he would ever campaign for him.

"How could I possibly support him?" Murtha told me. "I'd never campaign for him unless he changed his position on the war."

Period. End of discussion.

Barbara Boxer has said of Iraq: "It is unacceptable for me to see us continue a policy that is bringing so much pain to so many -- our forces, [2,538] dead, their families, journalists and their families, and thousands of Iraqis and others. It is not acceptable to me to see our government paralyzed over a failed policy and unable to change it." I agree it is not acceptable. Just as it is not acceptable for someone who finds our failed policy in Iraq unacceptable to be so accepting of one of the key supporters of that failed policy.

We need more Murtha Democrats, those unwilling to sacrifice their principles on the altar of Congressional comity, and fewer like Boxer, who has chosen to put the needs of her fellow member in the World's Most Exclusive Club above the interests of the country.

There is still time for Boxer to rethink her misguided decision to shill for Lieberman and reclaim her principles. If she needs a little nudge in the right direction, she can always call Jack Murtha.