THE BLOG
10/25/2006 01:05 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A State Haunted by the Ghost of Richard Nixon

Yesterday, the Ned Lamont campaign released this explosive video showing how Senator Joe Lieberman's behavior simultaneously pushing the Iraq War while claiming he's against the Iraq War is the same word-for-word deception as that used by President Richard Nixon during the Vietnam War. This video - and the message behind it - was powerfully echoed in a strong story in the Hartford Courant. The Lieberman campaign responded with its usual infantile temper tantrum. First, they tried to make fun of the opposition to the war, saying those working against Lieberman by trying to change course in Iraq are a "laughingstock". Then Lieberman himself screamed and whined to newspapers that it "is ridiculous" to for people to "say Joe Lieberman is stay the course, stay the course, stay the course."

They threw this temper tantrum just as the New York Times published a major expose on how Lieberman has repeatedly used the very term "stay the course" to describe his own Iraq position. That expose comes as the Lieberman campaign's own website trumpets a newspaper article about Lieberman "unveiling his plans for going forward with the war" and as Lieberman's campaign holds press conferences to have its hand-picked surrogates say they "support Joe Lieberman because he has consistently said we are going to 'stay the course.'"

Obviously, this is a nauseating spectacle - A U.S. Senator is trying to hide his very clear support of a policy that has resulted in the death of thousands of American soldiers, while his staff tries to invoke comedy about the situation during the very month when casualties are approaching an all-time high. But this Nixonian dishonesty is even more deeply rooted than it seems. As today's Daily Cup of Joe uncovers, Lieberman has been more than just a cheerleader for staying the course. He's actually gone out and bragged that he's the original ARCHITECT of stay the course. That's right, in 2003, Lieberman gave a speech - previously unreported - where he said the war was the direct product of legislation he co-authored with Sen. John McCain that supported invasion of Iraq. Lieberman specifically said of the Iraq War: "When it comes to Iraq, President Bush is just enforcing the McCain-Lieberman policy."

As Matt Stoller and others have noted - this is the key issue in the closing weeks of the election. Lieberman realizes Connecticut is strongly against the war, and he is desperately trying to confuse voters. He is simultaneoulsy deriding all plans to change the course as "retreat" while also claiming he's not for stay the course. The first move - deriding all plans to change the course - is the way Lieberman can attack Ned and continue pushing the war as aggressively as he has been pushing it all along. The second move - claiming he's not for stay the course - is a calculated and dishonest attempt to convince voters who are against the war that it is O.K. to vote for Lieberman, because we are supposed to believe that in his heart he really wants to end the war. It's deception in its most raw form - with Lieberman coming right out of Central Casting to play the smarmy, dishonest career politician in a B movie.

I've had a front row seat to this race in the last stretch here, and one thing is very obvious: Joe Lieberman is an extremely angry man. He walked by me in the corridor heading out to the stage for the second debate, and had a look in his eye that can only be described as frightening - that sort of half-crazed but calculating look of a person who knows he is doing something horrible but can't stop himself, and actually sort of enjoys the horribleness of his own actions. He knows somewhere in his human-turned-robot body that invalidating a democratic primary with the specific goal of continuing a misguided war means he is adding his name to some of history's most infamous political icons - yet he has adopted a pathology where he just can't stop.

The same can be said of the soulless automatons who work for him. There is a reason Lieberman's FEC reports show that his spokesman, Dan Gerstein, is being paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $30,000 a month. That's not a regular wage - that's a sell-your-soul premium whereby the recipient knows the only way he will be able to sleep at night doing what he is doing is by downing the reliable sedative known as an exorbitant salary. It's the same reason why people in the advertising industry are paid more if they are willing to run ad campaigns for alcohol or cigarettes - it's because selling one's soul requires more money, whether you are in advertising or whether you are working for Joe Lieberman.

Make no mistake about it - this is going to be a battle all the way until the end. But don't be fooled - this race comes down to a very, very simple choice - a choice Lieberman's desperate "I am not for stay the course" claims are trying to hide. People can vote for Joe Lieberman, and be very sure that they will have a senator who works as hard as he can to keep 140,000 of our troops in Iraq, getting maimed and killed indefinitely. Or people can vote for Ned Lamont, and not only have a senator who is serious about ending this war, but also send a message to the entire political establishment that it is unacceptable when a government ignores the will of its people and imperils our country's security.

Ned put all of this best in his speech yesterday. He said:

"Senator Lieberman has said recently he now 'wants to bring the troops home,' but continues to fail to offer a concrete plan for change and repeat White House talking points against those that do.Thirty five years ago, we heard exactly this kind of rhetoric. We heard the very leaders that pushed us to war in Vietnam tell us that they really did want to bring our troops home. They said that if we just gave them more time, they would come up with a plan to get us out of the war they got us into. It was Richard Nixon, for instance, who told the country in 1969 'I want to end the war' and then pressed forward with Vietnam for another three years, at a cost of 9,000 more American lives. Senator Lieberman saying now, two weeks before an election, he suddenly wants to end the war is as credible as Richard Nixon was almost 40 years ago."

In East Hartford this afternoon, Ned is having a Town Hall meeting with Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), who along with Wes Clark, Chris Dodd and Ted Kennedy, has been one of only a few Democratic icons to show any real guts by helping this campaign and thus putting this country's future over the Establishment's sense of clubbiness, insulation and entitlement. You may recall that the same Richard Nixon who told America he wanted to "end the war" put Kerry on his enemies list because Kerry famously asked: "We are asking Americans to think about that because how do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"

The same could be asked of Joe Lieberman. How can this senator claim he's against the war, yet still be asking men to die in Iraq for a mistake that he helped push and continues to push?

The same could be asked of Joe Lieberman. How can this senator claim he's against the war, yet still be asking men die in Iraq for a mistake that he helped push and continues to push?

That's what it comes down to folks. That's why President Bush and Vice President Cheney have made Lieberman a key pillar of their regular stump speech - because they know they need Lieberman in the Senate to continue helping them push their stay-the-course strategy, and continue viciously attacking those who want change. This is the most important single campaign that's come along since I've been on this planet - I don't say that lightly, and I don't say it because I am working on the race. It's the other way around - I am working on the race BECAUSE it is the most important in my lifetime. And I say that because this campaign's implications go far beyond one senator and one state - it goes to whether we as citizens in a democracy have the ability to stop a war that the vast majority of us want stopped.