Monday, August 28, 2006

Wyden, Hidin'

There's no doubt Ron Wyden is one of our favorite Senators, and that'd be true whether we were lucky enough to have him represent us or not. The main reason we like him is that he's generally not afraid to step out in front on the important issues, stake his claim and hold his ground. Whether it's voting against cloture for Samuel Alito, being the first serious Democrat to propose a major overhaul of the tax system for REAL fairness, or holding up all telecomm legislature until net neutrality is passed first, once Wyden takes a position he holds no fear being public and resolute about it.

Which (you had to guess this was coming) makes the Senator's feeble response on perhaps the defining issue and race of the 2006 midterms such a head-scratcher. In the wake of last week's revelations that Joe Lieberman (Con-Lie) would hit the hustings with GOP candidates for office and refuses to endorse their Democratic House opponents, here are the questions I asked the Senator's Portland office last week:
Please ask the Senator if he believes that it's acceptable for a Democrat to appear with Republican candidates campaigning against Democratic candidates for the US House, and whether he believes Sen. Lieberman should withdraw from the race, or would benefit the party by doing so.

Will Senator Wyden ACTIVELY support the Democratic candidate for Senate in CT? With money, or campaign support? Furthermore, will the DSCC fulfill its mission statement and ACTIVELY support the Democratic candidate?
Fairly direct, I thought. But leave it to politicians to take the long way home in their spokesman-filtered answer:
Sen. Wyden has now raised millions of dollars for DSCC-supported candidates, including Ned Lamont, whom the DSCC is now actively supporting. When it comes to personal appearances, Ron is, shall we say, a bit more persuasive with Northwest voters than with Connecticut voters. This past week, Ron personally campaigned for Peter DeFazio, Ted Kulongoski, Vicky Walker, Chris Edwards, Paul Evans, Larry Galizio, Betty Komp, Brian Clem, Jeff Merkley, Chuck Lee, David Edwards and Chuck Riley. He will devote countless additional hours to campaigning for Oregon candidates (and, as DSCC Western Vice Chair, for Sen. Maria Cantwell) straight through to election day.
That's all swell, but--how shall I put this--who cares? I didn't ask whether he'd raise money for Brian Clem; I asked about Ned Lamont. There are one and a half answers to my questions here: yes-and-no (I won't support Ned with money personally, but I'll give money to the DSCC and they say Ned will get it); and no (I won't campaign for Lamont). So I tried again:
Wyden has raised money on behalf of the DSCC--but I'm talking about Wyden. He personally has a million dollars cash-on-hand, and in any case his money has more symbolic value to Lamont than monetary value. Is the Senator considering a potential personal contribution to Ned Lamont?

Does Senator Wyden believe it is appropriate for a Democrat to appear with Republican candidates who are campaigning against Democratic Party members seeking to help retake Congress for the Democrats?

Does Senator Wyden believe Senator Lieberman should withdraw?
Does Senator Wyden believe it would be best for the party and/or country to him to do so?
For my trouble, I got the note that Wyden raises all money for other Senate candidates through the DSCC, of which he is Western Vice-Chair--and a little defensiveness about the Senator's bona fides regarding his Democrat-ness. That's totally not the issue to us; we've got plenty of faith in Ron. It's JOE's faithlessness we were asking about, and here's their answer (sort of) on that:
Sen. Wyden has never called for a third-party candidate to drop out of a race (for example, he never called for any of his third-party opponents in the 1996 special election to withdraw, and that was a very tight race…and he’s not calling for Mary Starrett or anyone else to drop out of this Governor’s race). Ultimately, it’s up to the voters of Connecticut to decide; as for Sen. Wyden...he endorsed the Democratic nominee, Ned Lamont.
Note how smoothly Lieberman's supreme act of petulance and entitlement was morphed by Wyden's office into just another third-party run. Ron, did any of those special election opponents already LOSE TO YOU in the primary, then run to the other side for money and endorsements while claiming he was still in your party? Mary Starrett's not at all like Joe Lieberman; the party found her, not vice-versa...and she WON her party's nomination, remember?

Finally, it may be CT's job to decide who will win the election--but it's YOUR job, Senator Wyden, to respect the party and defend it from those who wish to tarnish it and make it less effective. It's YOUR job to act with the authority of your position in party elections leadership, and to hold members--even the most senior--personally accountable for their actions against it. It's YOUR job to energetically dispute the shameful ridiculousness that electing Ned Lamont emboldens al-Qaeda.

And yet you won't, for reasons we simply cannot fathom. Why? Joe got your tongue?