Clinton Gives Lieberman A Lesson in Independence

By Dan Balz
Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Just three weeks ago, former president Bill Clinton was in Connecticut campaigning for Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.) in the Democratic primary against Ned Lamont. But in an interview yesterday, Clinton gave Lieberman a vivid lesson in how life is different now that the senator has lost to Lamont and is running as an independent.

The former president slapped Lieberman over the latter's suggestion that he lost because party liberals wanted to purge a politician who shared Clinton's overall philosophy of being progressive on domestic issues while supporting a robust national security policy.

"If I were Joe, and I was running as an independent, that's what I'd say, too," Clinton told ABC's "Good Morning America." "But that's not quite right. That is, there were almost no Democrats who agreed with his position, which was, 'I want to attack Iraq whether or not they have weapons of mass destruction.' "

Lieberman is having better success with the current president than the former one. President Bush will not be backing Republican nominee Alan Schlesinger, who is lagging far behind in the polls, in the Connecticut general election. "We are not making any endorsement in Connecticut," said White House press secretary Tony Snow. "The Republican Party of Connecticut has suggested that we not make an endorsement in that race and so we're not."

When it comes to Iraq, Lieberman may not be as far apart from Clinton and his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), as the former president implied. Both Clintons supported the resolution authorizing the war. Neither has renounced that position, despite the absence of weapons of mass destruction.

Lieberman spokesman Dan Gerstein, in an e-mailed response, said Lieberman's posture was not the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld position, but one signed into law by Clinton himself in 1998 as the Iraq Liberation Act. That measure called for regime change there but not solely because then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein harbored a desire for weapons of mass destruction.

Gerstein noted that Clinton had told an Aspen Institute audience last month that he agreed with Lieberman that it would be a mistake to set a timetable for withdrawal, as Lamont favors, and said Clinton had called efforts to punish Democrats who backed the war "the nuttiest strategy I ever heard in my life."

McKinney Is Anti-Machine

Rep. Cynthia McKinney (Ga.), who also lost a primary to a fellow Democrat this month, is not running as an independent. Like Lieberman, however, she does not seem entirely at peace with the voters' verdict.

In remarks to the National Dialogue and Revival for Social Justice in the Black Church, meeting in Georgia, McKinney warned that African Americans need to stand up against electronic voting machines, which she suggested may be responsible for her loss.

"You won't know who won as long as we have those electronic voting machines, with the problems that have been manifested by them," she said in remarks quoted by the Associated Press.

McKinney, known over six terms in Congress for her confrontational style, said she considers herself a "black political paramedic," and warned that the "black body politic is near comatose."

Former DeKalb County commissioner Hank Johnson won the primary by 59 percent to 41 percent. Like McKinney, he is black.

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