McCain's New Strategy: Do Unto the American People What Lieberman Did Unto Connecticut

06/16/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Channeling his surname's first 3 letters, Joe Lieberman lied his way to another Senate term in 2006. Political newcomer Ned Lamont ran against Lieberman in the Democratic primary on the issue of Iraq: Lieberman approved an open-ended commitment to Bush's war, for which he received the Bush buss, whereas Lamont favored a set timetable for withdrawal.

As Lamont surged in the polls to a double-digit lead within a couple of weeks of the primary vote, Lieberman pretended to track back. He ran ads stating that he, too, wanted an end to the war, and that he differed only on how best to do it.

That message brought him back to within a few percent of Lamont and propelled his race as an "Independent Democrat." After kissing Lieberman earlier in the year, Bush followed with flowers and chocolates in the form of withdrawing support from the Republican candidate. That enabled Lieberman to get Republican voters, independents plus those Democrats who had faithfully voted for "Joe-mentum" for several terms.

That Lieberman's entire kabuki dance was charade become immediately clear when the Democrats first tried to bring this Bush/Cheney/McCain/Lieberman disaster called the Iraq War to an end. Joe Lieberman did not hesitate -- he remained true to his suitor, and made it clear that he would do nothing to set any limits on Bush. He did not even take the opportunity to broker a compromise that would at least have partially fulfilled his representations to the people of Connecticut.

John McCain has replaced Bush as Lieberman's significant other, and we have all witnessed Lieberman whispering sweet-nothings into McCain's ear when Mr. Experience could not on three successive occasions get straight just whom the troops he aspires to lead are actually fighting.

McCain's new $3 million ad buy leads with him asserting that, because he himself experienced war, he hates it. Interestingly, Senators Hagel and Kerry, who both fought in Vietnam, and then experienced the aftermath -- where we accomplished precisely the opposite of what we claimed to be fighting for (see, e.g., "Vietnam & Iraq: From Quagmire to Quicksand", February 25, 2007)--have recognized the futility of Bush's Iraq War. McCain, however, suffered the Vietnam War locked up in a North Vietnamese prison, far removed from its destructive effects on our foreign policy and corrosive impact on our domestic politics.

The key message McCain will try to convey is that he, too, wants to end the Iraq War, as committed to it as, well, Joe Lieberman was during his 2006 Senate re-election campaign. If elected, McCain will do to the country what Richard Nixon did in 1968 who squeaked into office on his 'secret plan' to end the war in Vietnam, and then pursued it for another 30,000 dead and many more injured, for his political vanity. As Mallek has noted in his book, Nixon & Kissinger, the protagonists spoke bluntly to each other of keeping the war going so they did not lose the 1972 elections.

That is, McCain will do unto the American people what Joe Lieberman did unto Connecticut.

Don't let him get away with it.