“It’s absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on November 2nd, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we’ll get hit again, that we’ll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States.”
“If we just pick up like Ned Lamont wants us to do, get out by a date certain, it will be taken as a tremendous victory by the same people who wanted to blow up these planes in this plot hatched in England. It will strengthen them, and they will strike again.”
The Lamont/Lieberman primary turned out 43% of eligible voters, one of the clearest signs of life in US Democracy in decades.
In part, that energy was produced by a hard-hitting campaign that engaged the issues — the War, Bush foreign policy, support for subsidies to Big Energy.
And in large part, it was a single debate that brought that conversation to Connecticut voters. It was a debate that allowed a respectful and useful contrast between the two.
Closer to home, Martha Rainville remains determined to bypass debates in the run-up to her own primary. She is content to treat her opponents as non-existent. In this she’s been aided and abetted by the mainstream media, who’ve consistently pretended that Rainville is already the Republican nominee, when in fact she is not. She faces a State Senator in the primary, but those watching WCAX’s coverage of the race can be excused for forgetting that fact.
Welch, for his part, not only proposed debates — his “Conversations on the Green” — but organized them, and ran them when Rainville demurred.
Yes, it was in Rainville’s momentary strategic interest to refuse debates. But strategy is, and has always been, beside the point when it comes to public democratic exchange: candidates should be encouraged, or pressured finally, to make their views know, and to allow voters to see them side by side with their opponents on the ballot.
Anything less involves a tacit attempt to dampen the energy of a primary, or a general election. Anything less is encouraging voters to remain unaware, uninvolved.
Rainville knew there were risks in refusing to debate. But she took them. Why? Because her campaign has been based from the beginning on obscuring rather than illuminating her positions.
Too harsh? When asked by PRI’s The World whether she was trying to have it both ways on the Iraq War, Rainville replied, “I think if we’re smart, we’re all at one point supporters, and we’re all critics, because we need to think for ourselves, and we need to cut through to the truth.”
That’s her stance on the major issue of our time, the major issue thus far in the twenty-first century. And that, my friends, is the sort of response that cripples a candidate in a debate, for all the world to see.
The workings of a snarky insider political blog are deep and mysterious.
Email comes in each day from anonymous correspondents; the phone provides a constant counterpoint, people pitching stories, people trying desperately to spike stories. And of course, all of the real technical work is handled by software beyond mortal comprehension. Subtle, arcane programs like, uh, Photoshop.
But all of this we can handle. It’s animation that has us stymied.
VDB is looking to move ahead with two short animation projects, and frankly, VDB doesn’t have the faintest freaking clue about how to move ahead with them. We seem in fact, as near as we can tell, to be moving behind with them.
And so we are currently seeking a computer animator, to determine the difference.
Unfortunately, there won’t be any money involved. Like our staff photographers, the successful applicant will instead receive an obscure but humorous nickname. Still, it is an opportunity to work with one of the most dynamic and fastest growing snarky-insider operations on the Vermont blogospheric scene.
So there’s that. Which, as Bill Murray notes in Caddyshack, is nice.
Click contact above and email, if interested. And even if you’re not interested, go ahead and email in any event. Because email is the food of the Gods, and VDB is always hungry, day or night.
All we can say is this: it sure feels like we kicked a Republican’s ass last night.
Lieberman’s desperately illogical gibberish on Iraq — somehow opposing both “open-ended committment” and “a timetable for withdrawal” — did not survive the spotlight of actual scrutiny.
Like Bush, he lost popularity each and every day he was forced to defend the indefensible.
The Democratic nominee from Connecticut is now someone who supports neither Bush foreign policy in the Middle East, nor the idea that a feeding tube should have been snaked down the throat of Terri Schiavo.
Republican pundits will spin this a thousand ways, but the truth is that the Iraq war is unpopular for excellent reasons. As of this morning, a full 60% of Americans oppose it, and nearly that many insist on bringing troops home by the end of the year.
Lieberman was wrong in voting to authorize this war, and dead wrong in defending it long after its essentially whimsical nature had been made clear. Democrats in Connecticut found the courage to say so.
Which is to say, politically speaking, that as of today Democrats are not merely on the right side of this issue. We own it.
Far from a handicap or weakness that will hobble the Party in November, this passion to bring an end to the insanity in Iraq — the insanity at Guantanamo, and in unacknowledged prisons around the globe — allows Democrats to project a moral clarity Americans have ceased to associate with us.
That’s the thing that Rush and Sean Hannity and all the rest found so unsettling yesterday in the run-up to the results: the idea that their party has banked so completely and irreversibly on a failed policy that becomes less popular, and less morally powerful, each minute of each and every day.
Lieberman smugly refused to acknowledge any of these realities. And so this morning, he finds himself plotting ways to appeal to Republican voters, ways to accept overt and covert help from the State GOP, institutionalizing a flirtation that has been on display for the last several years.
Two final points, and then VDB has done with Big Joe for a while. But they are points that must be made.
1) Joe now says that the primary was only the first half of the Big Game. To wit: “As I see it, in this campaign, we’ve just finished the first half and the Lamont team is ahead — but in the second half, our team, Team Connecticut, is going to surge forward to victory in November.”
This would be an excellent analogy, if football teams like the Chicago Bears — after losing the first half — typically switched uniforms, returned to the stadium claiming now to be the Oakland Athletics, and began warming up pitchers in the bull-pen.
2) The Lamont race has been a proxy war between both the old media and the new, and the old-school Democratic consultants and the net-roots theorists who are actively seeking to displace them.
Look at the election day coverage yesterday. It was dominated, during the fat part of the voting period, by wall-to-wall coverage of a very shaky claim by the Lieberman camp — that Lamont’s internet crazies had crashed his rather feeble web pages.
Clearly, that coverage had the capacity to sway last-minute voters. Yet almost all media outlets, but particularly those on the Right, worked it throughout the afternoon, not even publishing Lamont denials until evening.
Why? Because the netroots are an upsetting phenomenon. They effectively re-apportion power, bypassing a series of credentialing systems that have been in place since time out of mind.
That last-minute meme — web crazies go too far, should be punished — was the media’s message, as well as Big Joe’s. And like Big Joe, like any zombie worth its salt, that message will not die, but rise again.
What follows is Tuesday’s all-day diary of the Connecticut primary. It is not a pretty picture.
But it has a fine ending: VDB calls the election for Ned Lamont at 10:55 pm, following on the heels of Raw Story. We estimate Lamont will win with just 51% of the vote, when all are counted.
And tomorrow, we will jump up and down, jubilantly. But now we are tired, and will go home.
*** Primary Day Diary, with Frenzied Updates ***
Tuesday, 10:24 am: Too Calm Before the Storm
Currently midway between Syracuse and Burlington, blogging from the undeniably gorgeous public library in Saratoga Springs. In fact the entire town is like Upstate New York’s version of old-money Louisville: leafy, bricky, languorous in its basic approach to life, and dead-serious in its approach to the Arts.
Clearly the horse racing business still pays well.
And the morning has not been wasted, on the closely watched Lamont/Lieberman/ass-kicking front: took in a long, varied hour of CT primary coverage on Democracy Now! while shooting up the Northway toward Crown Point.
A few interesting bits:
* Overnight polls show the race tightening, with Lieberman claiming potent Joementum, Lamont driving home the argument that CT voters want to “change course.” Media folk from the NY Times to Fox News are claiming it’s suddenly neck-and-neck. Amazing how eagerly and how often news outlets let themselves bite at this last-minute cookie.
Why? Because it satisfies both high and low impulses simultaneously: playing up the horse race provides the impression of balance, even as it allows the outlet to shamelessly pump up its own audience.
Bottom line: Lamont is still seriously leading among likely voters, with Lieberman still moaning that he is not George W. Bush. Advantage Lamont.
* A former CT State Comptroller and unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate pointed out that the Republican candidate — a “cipher,” for reasons having to do with compulsive casino gambling and the forging of a coupon for a free shrimp dinner — is only drawing about 8% in the polls.
But should Lamont win today, setting up the awkward menage a trois, the Republican brass may well bump the shrimp forger for a higher profile candidate. Advantage Lamont. (Of course, if the large pool of Foxwood Casino regulars comes out in force in November, clearly that’s advantage shrimp forger.)
Updates to follow in desperate sequence below, following 6-8 hours of radio silence, beginning now.
Update, 7:11 pm:
It took a strong stomach to make it from Saratoga Springs to Burlington, believe us — the only Lieberman coverage available was a nightmare double-header: Rush followed by Sean Hannity.
And yet, VDB sucked it up and listened, for nearly three solid hours, because you’re worth it.
The Right-wing talking points were absolutely consistent and unchanging all day, from one show to another, to the Fox News inserts: Joe is a man of conscience in the Roosevelt/JFK tradition, with proper respect for the President in time of war, and Democrats are deliberately shooting themselves in the foot by ousting a so-called Security Democrat.
The idea, of course, is that a Lamont win equals raising a white flag in the war on terror, and demonstrates that liberals are “weak and pathetic in the War on Terror,” in Hannity-speak.
Worth asking, though: if a Lamont win would absolutely seal the Democrats’ permanent minority status, wouldn’t Rush and Sean just, like, shut the hell up until it was a done deal?
Why the desperate pleas to support good old Joe? Why the air of mild panic in repelling Lamont’s charge?
And as we were driving through Paradox — a gorgeous little lakeside town deep in the Adirondacks — Lieberman’s own position suddenly revealed itself in all its contradictory glory. Again and again in his debate with Lamont, Joe insisted that he did not support an “open-ended commitment in Iraq” — but he mocked Lamont for supporting a “timetable for withdrawal.”
Is it possible, working within the confines of the English language, to support neither an open-ended commitment, nor a timetable for withdrawal? Isn’t it one or the other, by definition?
Exit polls due to drop in 37 minutes. Luck be a lady tonight, as Old Blue Eyes would say.
Update #2, 7:39 pm:
Sometimes a really simple maneuver is so simple and basic that it just escapes your notice. But check the reasoning here:
VDB has argued for quite a while that Lieberman’s position on Iraq has been guided as much by his desire to partner politically with John McCain as by anything else. Joe dreams of an “out of the box” VP pick, or failing that, serving in a “unity” cabinet as SecDef.
Of course, both of those would be difficult if not impossible for hard-liners in the GOP to swallow.
Unless . . . Joe was somehow not a Democrat, very technically speaking, by 2008. Makes you wonder.
Especially since there’s not a damn thing else to do until the exit polls drop.
Update #3, 8:26 pm:
Results! Sure, it’s only one percent of precincts reporting, but it’s going down like a cold Fosters on a hot August afternoon. Pipe these digits:
Joseph I. Lieberman votes: 761 (42.1%)
Ned Lamont votes: 1,048 (57.9%)
Pretty much right in line with last week’s polling. Of course these could be results from Lamont’s bowling team. More soon.
Update #4, 8:39 pm:
Lamont betters his percentage to 60%, with 3% of precincts reporting. Connecticut has electronic voting machines, so totals should aggregate pretty quickly from this point out. But so far lights look green across much of the board, in spite of the Lieberman camp’s last minute gnashing of teeth about a crashed website.
Update #5 — Running Stats:
Too much trouble to time, and stamp update, so numbers just strung in reverse chronological order below:
* RAW STORY CALLS ELECTION FOR LAMONT, 10:39pm
Now just about 52% for Lamont, with 84% of precincts counted. So much for last-minute Joementum.
Essentially unchanged with 80% counted — Ned up, with 51% and a little loose change.
Ned with 51.6%, and that’s 72% of the votes counted. Getting a little nail-bitey in the command bunker. Where’s that Glen Livet . . .
With 50% of the vote counted, it’s Lamont at 52.1%, and Big Joe sucking wind at 47.9%. Results holding fairly firm, and more or less where the polling was yesterday — about 6% margin for Lamont.
Ned at 53.6 with 38% in — the dreaded Joementum perhaps? (Just messing with you — still looks good, although several websites are maintaining that urban numbers will come in after suburban, supposedly leading to Lieberman tally jumps in the later hours.)
Very slight movement: with 25% precincts reporting, Ned now at 55%
Essentially unchanged at 17% precincts counted — Ned with 56.3%, and MyDD reporting that Lieberman has lost his home district.
Essentially unchanged at 11% of precincts reported, still about 56.4%
Ned now has 56.6% with 6 % counted.
And as might become obvious, you return now to the top of the post, for the final good news. Like Pulp Fiction, but more confusing and digital.
Tomorrow is the first of two Days of Reckoning, of course, and it will have its own sting of humiliation for Big Joe. But it’s difficult to see how it can come as anything other than a relief, after the week Lieberman has had in the run-up to Primary day.
His rallies have been what you’d call sparsely attended, with staffers making up about 75% of the folks framed in any press photo. The Washington Post has just such a shot on the front page today: Many young kids in immaculate white Lieberman shirts, holding identical Lieberman signs, all of them holding their breath in a vain effort to look wider, denser somehow.
But you know you’ve hit bottom, as an apologist for Bush policy, when even the NY Post slips you the shiv between the ribs.
After trying valiantly to frame Joe’s troubles as the logical consequence of firm principles (”Joe Sticks to his Guns in 11th-Hour Plea”), the Post gave it up, and let columnist Andrea Peyser run a brutal piece called “Stranded Senator a Dead Man Running.”
Peyser reports on an event in East Hartford, attended by two people.
Not two hundred, mind.
Two. As in more than one, less than three.
The first three grafs read like a eulogy, except not quite as light-hearted.
“Even the rain was a no-show. Senator Joe Lieberman stood in the parking lot of Mickey’s Oceanic Grill chatting with exactly two people — a supporter and a stranger wearing a dirty tan raincoat with food speckling the left corner of his mouth.
“Senator Joe greeted Trench Coat Man warmly. Until the guy leaned in and asked him weirdly, ‘What color are your eyes?’ Joe laughed — then rapidly got the hell away.
“It’s been like that on the campaign trail as Lieberman, after 18 years in the Senate, struggles to stay alive going into tomorrow’s primary — or just not to be ignored.”
Brutal, in a word. And this from the City’s Right-leaning rag.
The NY Post also floats the rumor that Lieberman may exit the race after a loss tomorrow, but don’t you believe it, not for a nanosecond. Lieberman, more than most Senators, has a very, very large ego. He was also, don’t forget, Vice President-elect for about 20 minutes.
Which is to say that Joe has issues, issues that make rejection by the voters impossible for him to accept. Losing the nomination of his own party, to a political unknown, will feel like somebody stabbed him in the heart with a long serving fork, yanked it out, and then replaced it with a burning highway flare.
Big Joe will be mad, in all the various senses of the word. His eyes will be red, at that point.
But there’s no helping it: the man insists that defying the strong and consistent will of the voters, rather than disqualifying him for his office, makes him all the more suited for it. So tomorrow he will be disabused of that idea.
And in spite of stumbling into Burlington tired and foot-sore from a journey of thousands of literal miles, VDB will bring you the late-breaking results, down to the tiniest, goriest detail.
Why? Because we simply won’t be able to help ourselves. That’s why.
A three-member appeals court panel has ruled that — although polls are forecasting likely defeat, and the candidate now desperately wants to flee the voters — Joe Lieberman must in fact remain on the ballot in his home state.
But who can tell these days? So many Bush supporters and enablers are being systematically purged by voters, even VDB can’t monitor the score card properly. Voters in Spain, in Italy, in England, and — any day now — in Texas and Connecticut.
We thought the slogan “I am not George W. Bush!” was an omen of defeat. But cancelling your GOTV operation, when you’re an 18-year incumbent? That’s pharmaceutical-strength fear.
Clearly, Big Joe has decided to look past the primary, toward the independent run he has threatened all along. The poor deluded sanctimonious fool. Lamont all but reversed Lieberman’s 15-point edge in two months among Democrats, and once he’s officially a giant-killer, and the national money begins to flow, Lieberman will find himself experiencing a horrific case of deja vu: his standing among Republicans and Independents dropping, day by day, as they confront the spectacle of a recently arrogant Senator now deep in terminal flop sweat.
If you oppose the war in Iraq — the misleading premises, the botched execution, the criminally stubborn refusal to recalibrate the deployment — then rest assured: majorities here, there and everywhere have now come around to your way of thinking. The architects of the War — and the opportunistic lickspittles crouching at the feet of the architects — are now getting the Word.
Really, winning the Daysie for Best Vermont Blog is a fairy-tale come true in its own right. But when you add in the $250,000 award — it’s like, pinch us. Pinch us wicked hard.
Of course, it’s been a long time since we checked out the actual rules governing the use of the prize money, but the minute we saw Cathy Resmer’s early post on the contest outcome, we had a vision, a vision that came upon us unaware: A network of convalescent homes modeled after the Veteran’s Administration (VA) hospitals — but these facilities would be reserved exclusively for bloggers, those who’ve managed to survive the internet combat of the last decade.
And the vision doesn’t end there. Not by a long shot.
There would also be social clubs in every city and town, dark, sleepy places where aging bloggers could go to kick back with others like themselves, people who would really understand the cyber-hell they’ve been through.
They’d be known as BFW Clubs, for Bloggers of the Flame Wars.
Someday you’ll be able to take your kid down to the BFW, and sit the little guy or girl up at the bar and swap stories with other old bloggers, stories about how you took down Sean Hannity or Rich Tarrant with a hail-Mary post back in ‘06, and saved your entire ideological company, just when all hope seemed lost. You’ll rip open pull-tabs and shell peanuts and drink warm draft beer, and feel like a man/woman again.
More soon, after we scope out the full stipulations of the Daysie Awards. But rest assured, we thank you all from the bottom of our jaded, political heart.
Update, August 3, 3:01 pm:
Okay, a bit of a reality check here, people. A small flood of email has come in, pointing out that apparently we’ve mixed the Daysies up somehow with the MacArthur “Genius” Grants, which come with something like a quarter of a million dollars, etc. No one seems quite sure how much goes along with a Daysie, but it’s safe to assume that it’s substantially less.
But that doesn’t mean the Vision dies — we just scale it back.
One BFW, then, a really, really nice one, located somewhere in Burlington, maybe in one of those high-buck apartments high in the air over Church Street. The kind with the crazy sharpened wires sticking up from the window sills, to keep the pigeons from squatting. One place in this crazy world where bloggers could go to lick their wounds.
More as details come in. And thanks again, so very, very much, all who voted. Really. And to Cathy at Seven Days for nurturing the blogosphere here long before anyone else could pronounce the word. You’re aces, Cathy.
Late Update, August 3, 4:22 pm:
Okay, so apparently there’s not one freaking red cent that comes along with this award.
Seriously, I just got off the phone with Cathy, and she hauled Pamela and Paula — the editors of Seven Days – into a long, brutal conference call, with everybody accusing everybody and swearing a blue streak and threatening lawsuits. But the long and short of it is they claim they never “offered or implied” any monetary award, and I claim that I could totally use the money.
But I extracted one hard-won concession: there won’t be any prize money next year either. If VDB can’t found a string of convalescent social homes for bloggers with Carpal Tunnel and severe eye-strain and acute paranoid psychosis, we’ll be damned if anyone else will either.
Which is to say, we’re really not worthy.
Latest Update, August 3, 5:46 pm:
If this is your first visit to the site, and you’ve managed to wade down three layers of irony to this point, you’re our kind of reader. A few things to point out, by way of an abbreviated tour:
* On the sidebar, you’ll find long, in-depth interviews with candidates active in this cycle. The Donovan and Shepard interviews should be particularly interesting as the primaries approach; the Welch interview is a must-read for those still uncertain about exactly why Vermont should put a Democrat in Bernie’s reliably-progressive Congressional seat.
You’ll also find some favorites from VDB’s ‘06 coverage, filed under “Greatest Hits.” Among the high moments: Barack Obama ragging on Bernie’s choice in suits, and Bernie ragging in turn on Howard Dean’s choice in pants — and Rich Tarrant selecting “Taking Care of Business” as his campaign theme, a song from the ’80s in which a very rich man mocks his workers for being, in a word, poor.
* The brilliant cartoons that mark the site are the work of Marc Nadel, a savage political caricaturist and a wonderful next-door neighbor. Marc is currently working on a Bernie/Tarrant tableaux, timed to coincide with the last heated days of the ‘06 Senate race. Danziger has also been good enough to allow us to run his own surgical political cartoons occasionally, and we do so, with great relish. Enjoy.
* Finally you’ll also note the sharp, signature design work of Burlington’s finest web designer, Ines, and the photographic skills of Kathy FitzGerald, Anita Long, and the inimitable Yusef on these pages. Many thanks to them for their (regrettably) unpaid contributions.
One final, crucial note. Given that blogs are, by definition, collective efforts, with one political junkie linking to another, and another, and another — and all of those linked addicts forming one semi-potent blogosphere — a single award for Best Vermont Blog is hopelessly misleading.
It’s something like picking out a single brain cell in the head of a really smart person, more or less at random, and handing it a “Best Dendrite” Award.
Things are happening in the Vermont political blogosphere, without a doubt, but as the result of critical mass, rather than any single effort. And so we’d like to bring in a good part of the rest of the brain here, at least visually. It makes VDB’s normally consumptive chest swell with pride, to blog in a company like this one.
A motley but stalwart crew: (standing, left to right) Steve Benen, Eve Benen, last year’s Daysie winner Bill Simmon, Neil Jensen, Christian Avard, John Odum, Charity Tensel; (kneeling, left to right) Haik Bedrosian, Koko, and me.
August 8 VDB is due to return to the Burlington area, give or take a day, due to mechanical failure or a mild case of herring poisoning. This means that we will be traveling by car from the Syracuse area to Vermont just as Connecticut Democrats are swarming to the polls to cast out the Bushophilic Joe Lieberman.
Which is to say we will be off-line for a crucial 6 hours during the Primary of the Summer.
But not to worry: once we finally re-enter Burlington’s atmosphere, we will go immediately to the VDB Control Bunker and monitor events through the night. Sure, after having been away for several weeks — and having just finished a six-hour drive — it might be nice to take a shower, and walk the dog, who may in fact not know us.
But first things first. Lieberman must be Humbled, if only as a way of framing the midterms, and the potency of the Democrats’ newly sort-of unified message on Iraq. And to punish the man for backing Bush on Social Security privatization. Oh, yes.
And we will help in whatever small way we can, haunting the monitor, moving in with a biting quip at this key juncture or that. And when early exit polls are released, you can count on VDB to give it to you straight.
Mark your office calendars as follows: August 8, Conn. Prim., Lieberman (Ass-kicking, Well-Deserved).
Until then, here’s a fresh account of the world of Hurt Joe finds himself in back home. It’s just a brilliant account, but a few things to watch for: 1) How Lieberman uses security to block Lamont counter-protests, in a manner eerily Bush-like; and 2) that Joe has narrowed his message now to the easily digested, “I am not George Bush!”
Granted, VDB is no pro handler, but isn’t it generally a bad thing if your candidate is screaming “I am not George Bush” 6 days ahead of D Day?
A quick update to the breaking Franken/Coleman news we reported on Friday (Coleman´s 81-year-old father caught having public sex in a late-model sedan outside a Minnesota pizza joint — you know, the usual): turns out Franken’s political PAC has logged about half a million in contributions while we were watching the Rainville meltdown in Vermont’s US House race.
Very interesting, indeed.
According to the piece in the StarTribune, this cash can’t be used to fund Franken’s own run. But it can certainly till the ground. From the Trib:
“Some of the notable campaign contributions made by people in the entertainment industry to Al Franken’s political action committee.
Jimmy Smits, actor, $500
Aaron Sorkin, writer, $1,000
Barbra Streisand, entertainer, $500
Larry Hagman, actor, $555
Larry David, writer/actor/director, $5,000
Ronald Bass, screenwriter, $5,000
Nora Ephron, writer/director, $5,000
Christopher Guest, director, $500
Barry Levinson, director/writer/producer, $5,000
David Mandel, movie/TV writer/director, $5,000
Robert Nathan, “Law & Order” executive director, $5,000
Judy McGrath, MTV Networks chairman & CEO, $1,000
Lorne Michaels, writer/producer, $2,000
Harold Ramis, director, $4,700 in-kind contribution (hosted fundraiser
Source: Campaign finance reports”
Bestill VDB’s foolish heart: Lorne Michaels, Barry Levinson, and Harold Ramis, together, backing one longshot bid for Senate? The creators of Saturday Night Live, Diner and Ground Hog Day all back the same comedian, and somehow this isn’t going to be gut-bustingly funny?
Dream on, Norm Coleman. Here’s your future: You become the butt of every late night comic in America, then you lose your seat, then you fall into a spiral of self-loathing, and before long, you’re cruising chicks and downing 40’s with the old man, outside a run-down Caesar’s Pizza in St. Cloud.