On NBC's Meet the Press, New York Times reporter Anne E. Kornblut claimed that the Connecticut Democratic primary in August between Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman and challenger Ned Lamont will be "a test of if taking a principled stand can work in a Democratic primary" -- suggesting that Lamont is not "principled" in his criticism of the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq war. Kornblut later simply repeated a GOP smear against Democratic war critics, claiming that some Democratic senators "have made the calculation that it would be more dangerous to take ... the cut-and-run position."
On the June 25 broadcast of NBC's Meet the Press, New York Times reporter Anne E. Kornblut, in discussing the potential effect of Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman's (D-CT) support of the Bush administration's Iraq policy on his bid for re-election to the Senate, claimed that the Connecticut Democratic primary in August will be "a test of if taking a principled stand can work in a Democratic primary" -- suggesting that Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont, Lieberman's challenger in the primary, is not "principled" in his criticism of the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq war. Kornblut was responding to host Tim Russert, who uncritically read a quote from Lieberman suggesting that the senator might be the victim of "a kind of crusade or jihad [in the Democratic Party] ... to have everyone toe the line." Neither Kornblut nor Russert mentioned that Lieberman has been sharply critical of those who dissent from his views on the Iraq war.
Kornblut later simply repeated a GOP smear against Democratic war critics, claiming that Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Barack Obama (D-IL), and Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) "have made the calculation that it would be more dangerous to take ... the cut-and-run position."
From the June 25 broadcast of Meet the Press:
TIM RUSSERT (host): So many elections turn on intensity, intensity, intensity, and Joe Lieberman, Connecticut, gave an interview to [Washington Post columnist] David Broder, and this is from David's column last Sunday. Let me read it. "I ... made a judgment," says Lieberman, "I would not invoke partisan politics on this war. ... I know I'm taking a position that is not popular within the party, but that is a challenge for the party -- whether it will accept diversity of opinion or is on a kind of crusade or jihad of its own to have everybody toe the line. No successful political party has ever done that." August 8th, a primary in Connecticut, a tough holiday season, intense voters turn out. How difficult is this challenge for Lieberman?
KORNBLUT: Well, it's not only a challenge for Lieberman, but it's really a test of if taking a principled stand can work in a Democratic primary. Lieberman, as I said earlier, has been further out there than some of the other Democrats who initially voted for the war. But at the same time, his unwillingness to move at all is really what's on the ballot here, and it's actually -- I think it will forecast something for Hillary Clinton moving into 2008.
RUSSERT: What happens to Senator Clinton, Senator Barack Obama, Senator Chuck Schumer, others who have been supporting Lieberman? He loses a Democratic primary, potentially, and then runs as an independent. That puts them in a tough position.
KORNBLUT: A very tough position. I think, though, that they have made the calculation that it would be more dangerous to take, take the cut-and-run position. They are bracing incredibly for the Karl Rove cut-and-run accusation.
Kornblut and Russert simply accepted Lieberman's claim of a dearth of "diversity of opinion" in the Democratic Party, and his claim that he is the victim of "a kind of crusade or jihad of its own to have everybody toe the line." Either Kornblut or Russert could have noted that it was Lieberman, in December 2005, who attacked dissenters, saying: "It's time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be the commander in chief for three more critical years and that in matters of war we undermine presidential credibility at our nation's peril." Panelist and Los Angeles Times columnist Ron Brownstein indicated as much in responding to Kornblut:
BROWNSTEIN: Well you know, he -- what Lieberman said to David is right in the broad sense, that, that no party can be about purity. Democrats are not in power in the House, the Senate, or the White House. This should be a time they should be focusing on addition, not subtraction. But having said that, Lieberman may not be the best test case of his own proposition. I mean, he seems to have gone out of his way through this process to provoke the Democratic base. He -- you know, the entire idea of a primary had really wound down in Connecticut until he went out last fall and said the Democrats undermine -- that -- he criticized Democrats for criticizing President Bush.
The other day, MoveOn.org, the powerful online liberal group, was holding a 24-hour online primary to decide whether to enter the Democratic race, whether to join in against Lieberman. And Lieberman, on that evening, went -- was in Washington receiving an award from the Committee on the Present Danger, which is a conservative foreign policy group. Last week, he was the first speaker on the Republican time against the John Kerry amendment. So in the broad sense he's right, but he has provided a kind of a special case by seeming to revel in kind of putting a stick in the eye of his -- of his Democratic base.
Finally, Kornblut's suggestion that Clinton, Obama, and Schumer have broken with other Democrats is not true. While they did not support an amendment offered by Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) calling for the withdrawal of all troops by the summer of 2007, which received 13 "yes" votes, all three senators voted in support of Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Jack Reed's (D-RI) nonbinding amendment calling for "the beginning of a phased redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of the year," which the Republican National Committee smeared as "The Levin-Reed 'Cut And Jog' Plan." The amendment was defeated 60-39. Lieberman, however, voted against both amendments.