Joe Lieberman fights for his political life

Senior Jewish politician denies allegations that he is too supportive of Bush.

By NATHAN GUTTMAN
August 8, 2006 01:36
3 minute read.
Joe Lieberman fights for his political life

Joe Lieberman 298.88. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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With polls showing a double-digit lead for his opponent, US Senator Joseph Lieberman will face the most difficult challenge in his political life on Tuesday. The senior Jewish politician in the US, still hoping he can close the gap and win the Democratic Party primaries in Connecticut, has launched a last-minute appeal, trying to fend off allegations that he is too supportive of US President George W. Bush and that he does not represent the true views of the Democratic Party. "The fact is I have openly and clearly disagreed with and criticized the president," Lieberman said during a campaign stop in East Haven, Connecticut on Sunday, declaring that he is a "proud and loyal Democrat." Yet political analysts, following the Connecticut race closely, doubt if the three-term senator can convince liberal democrats to support him, after being tagged by his opponent, Ned Lamont, as a pro-Bush, pro-war conservative who does not belong in the Democratic Party. Lieberman was the first Jewish-American to be on a presidential ticket as a candidate for vice president with Al Gore in the 2000 elections. In 2004, he tried to win the party's nomination for president, but dropped out of the race after receiving only little support in the first rounds of primaries. An Orthodox Jew, Lieberman speaks out frequently about his religious beliefs and about the values in which he believes. Lieberman is known for his conservative views both on issues of national security, most notably with his outspoken support for the war in Iraq, and on domestic issues. For the past two years, Lieberman has been targeted by the liberal wing of the party for his continuous support of the Iraq war, while the public opinion and the mainstream of the party were becoming increasingly displeased with the reasoning that led to the war and with the conduct of the administration during the war and its aftermath. The criticism did not deter Lieberman, who continued to insist that toppling Saddam Hussein was a worthy cause and that leaving Iraq immediately would have devastating consequences. Lieberman did, however, voice his reservations over the way the Bush administration was running the post-war situation in Iraq. During the campaign, Lieberman's detractors made use of a photo from the 2005 State of the Union address, in which Bush is seen kissing Lieberman on his cheek while entering Congress. Stickers and pins with the photo of the kiss became the symbol of this primary race, demonstrating the claim that Lieberman has become too friendly with the Republican president. Lamont, who is expected to win Tuesday's primaries, is a millionaire who made his fortune from cable TV and is a fairly unknown figure for the Connecticut voters. Lamont made Lieberman's support for the Iraq war a significant issue in his campaign and managed within less than six months to turn a safe Lieberman lead into a 10 to 13 point advantage for himself. Lamont's campaign, based on humorous TV ads, argued that the Iraq war was a major source for most of the US's foreign policy problems and that Lieberman was bitterly mistaken in backing the war. Lieberman tried to fight back by showcasing the support he received from leading Democratic politicians. Former president Bill Clinton showed up in Connecticut to campaign for Lieberman, as did Senator Hillary Clinton and minority leader Harry Reid. Even though all polls show Lieberman heading towards a defeat in the primary race, the senator has no plans to quit. Lieberman has already indicated that if he loses the race he intends to run as an independent candidate on the November ballot. Political analysts believe that running independently could prove to be a successful bet. In a three-headed race, Lieberman could attract moderates from both the Democratic and Republican parties and to emerge victorious even without his party's support. The Jewish community in Connecticut, according to local reports, is also split over Lieberman's candidacy. Many are showing active support, citing Lieberman's strong views on Israel and his religious values, yet others support Lamont due to his anti-war approach and his liberal views.

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