Saturday, July 08, 2006

Exclusive: Wyden Won't Commit to CT Dem Primary Winner

It's been a tremendous session of Congress for Ron Wyden. There is a palpable sense that, whether for personal political gain or not, Oregon's senior Senator has sought to nationalize his profile and fight through the GOP noise machine to foment broader dialogue on solid, progressive issues. The Fair Flat Tax continues to intrigue people who recognize a broken system when they see one, his No vote on cloture against Alito was ultimately futile but a strong statement of principle (after having backed Roberts), he voted for not one but BOTH Iraq withdrawal amendments, and has placed a hold on telecomm legislation until net neutrality can be assured for the internet. More and more, Wyden's name is emerging outside of the state as a staunch advocate with strong courage and principle. So Carla and I are big, big fans.

Which makes this story all the more disappointing to report. As many readers know, it's been a big week for Joe Lieberman, who declared himself superior to the Democratic Party and announced he would likely not abide the results of the Connecticut primary--should he come out on the short end of it. (In other news, Germany has petitioned FIFA to play in the World Cup final, on the grounds that German citizens haven't been afforded the chance to see them play France, and how can they shortchange all those Germans who paid good money to see them in the finals?)

In the aftermath of Lieberman's decision, several prominent Democrats have examined their loyalties, evaluated the integrity of the process, and made clear statements backing the winner of the primary, whether Lieberman OR Lamont. According to Kos, that group includes Howard Dean, Russ Feingold, Al Gore, John Kerry, Bob Menendez, Barack Obama and Tom Vilsack. Most prominently was Hillary Clinton, who did a tremendous job in defining the issues and explaining her choice:
"I've known Joe Lieberman for more than thirty years. I have been pleased to support him in his campaign for re-election, and hope that he is our party's nominee," the former first lady said in a statement issued by aides.

"But I want to be clear that I will support the nominee chosen by Connecticut Democrats in their primary," the New York Democrat added. "I believe in the Democratic Party, and I believe we must honor the decisions made by Democratic primary voters."
Senator Wyden is the Western Vice Chair of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, which means he holds a leadership position over the electoral process of the party. It's important to hear his view of the situation, we thought. Here it is, from Wyden spokesman Geoff Stuckart:
As Vice Chair, Sen. Wyden supports Sen. Lieberman in the primary. He expects him to win, and he’s not speculating beyond that.
Compare the two statements. OK, sure Hillary has no particular love lost for Holy Joe, who led the charge against her husband's moral failing. But she's absolutely right. There is NO other logical and appropriate way to view this process. The primary is valid, it is binding, and it demands the loyalty of party leadership to it.

Senator Wyden's equivocation, while less blatantly self-serving and arrogant, is essentially born of the same motivation as Lieberman's...he's covering his own ass. If he tells Lieberman he won't support his independent bid, and Joe returns to Congress in 2007, relations between them might best be termed icy. So he's hedging his bets, pretending it's too soon to speculate on anything right now. But that's a dodge, Senator. The issue is not what happens during the process, it's respecting the process itself. I don't care if 3 people show up to the polls in August, if they vote for Lamont--or Tiny Tim, for that matter--their will should be done.

We're not leaving Wyden's camp over this; to us it's the political equivalent of an 0-for-4 night after a 20 game hitting streak. But Ron, you whiffed on all four of those at-bats. Find your coach and practice your swing, and we'll see you tomorrow.

Update, 1AM--
Man, Wyden's equivocation isn't even his--he's simply playing the DSCC tape created by Chuck Schumer. Does this quote from him sound familiar?
Schumer, on the other hand, finds himself in a tighter spot due to his institutional stake in the matter. (He told Meet the Press, somewhat awkwardly, that he was "not going to speculate on what happens after the primary, because we believe Joe Lieberman is going to win.")

Update, 3PM 7/10--
Lieberman's not even a Democrat anymore! He's formed a new party, "Connecticut for Lieberman," so that his name will appear higher on the ballot than as an individual. This has led one wag at Daily Kos to point out the utter absurdity required to identify him, should he lose the primary and win the general: Sen. Joe Lieberman (CT-Lieberman). Stupid, but yet apropos--for it's painfully clear who Joe is representing.