Another inconvenient truth

August 10, 2006

Anti-war anger didn't defeat Joe Lieberman in Connecticut's Democratic primary Tuesday. The three-term senator's support for President Bush's invasion of Iraq was merely the organizing tool, a rallying cry used skillfully on behalf of his little-known challenger, Ned Lamont.

Like most veteran politicians toppled after a long career, Mr. Lieberman essentially defeated himself. He made himself vulnerable by straying too far from the home folks. In the six years since he made a splash on the national stage as Al Gore's vice presidential running mate, Mr. Lieberman has seemed to buy into his self-crafted image as an independent sage above the fray, losing touch with the party rank and file who mostly want to know what he's done for them lately.

That "inconvenient truth," to use Mr. Gore's phrase, does not diminish the sheer power of anti-war frustration to raise money, rally supporters and provide grist for political bloggers who have long had Senator Lieberman in their sites. Potential presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, who boasts a hawkish record herself, wasted no time in aligning herself with Mr. Lamont - even though her husband, the former president, campaigned for Mr. Lieberman.

The Connecticut senator vowed to wage a rematch against Mr. Lamont by running in the November general election as an independent. So, it's too soon to bid Mr. Lieberman farewell. But eclipsed by this campaign have been some valuable Lieberman contributions - often in tandem with Republicans - such as creation of the independent commission to investigate the events of 9/11 and a drive to win limits on pollutants that contribute to global warming.

Such bipartisan cooperation is critical to success in the Senate. But woe to the senator who forgets how he got there.

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