Anti-war Democrat fighting a losing battle


Diamond Member
Jul 11, 2004

Toby Harnden
Last Updated: 1:26am GMT 31/10/2006

Liberal members of the Democratic Party hailed him as the bright new hope for the American Left after internet activists created the momentum that helped him to slay Senator Joe Lieberman, one of his party's big beasts.

But Ned Lamont has failed to make the transition from plucky underdog to official Democratic nominee. Despite pouring millions from his personal fortune into his campaign to become Connecticut's next senator, he is trailing Mr Lieberman by up to 17 points in opinion polls.

Standing in a half-empty village library, Mr Lamont, a fibre optics entrepreneur, is far from the assured candidate of the summer. Now, even voters in liberal New England are beginning to question whether his strident demands for troops to be brought home from Iraq will make America or the Middle East safer.

advertisement"This is a war of ideas," he told supporters in a library in Hamden. "If we stay true to who we are, we win that war."

He acknowledged that "we probably need some troops in order to complete the mission in Afghanistan" but advocated "tough love" in Iraq by leaving the Baghdad government to "take control of their own destiny". In an indication of increasing desperation, he made the unusual claim that Iraq war veterans were being treated worse than those who returned from Vietnam. "We have not shown that same level of respect for the troops coming home now from the troops that came home from Vietnam, frankly."

He cited Gen Sir Richard Dannatt, the Chief of the General Staff, to buttress his case. "The top general from Britain said just last week we're exacerbating the insurgency, British troops are coming home within a year and that's going to put pressure on the Maliki government to make the political compromises that are our best hope for Iraq." In fact, Sir Richard made no commitment to pull troops out within a timeframe.

With his sloping shoulders, a tie that droops down to his navel and a speaking style that comes close to a whine, Mr Lamont is not a politician who inspires confidence. The primary was confined to Democrat voters, but in next week's mid-term elections independents and Republicans, who overwhelmingly back Mr Lieberman, will also go to the polls.

In contrast, the pro-war Mr Lieberman, the Democrats' vice-presidential candidate in 2000, is enjoying a new lease of political life. Having been written off by his foes on the Left when he was defeated by Mr Lamont in August's primary, he now finds himself the potential kingmaker in the Senate. In a case of supreme political irony, it could be his vote that gives the Democrats a majority.

Now an independent, he has promised to caucus with the Democrats but has not ruled out crossing the floor to the Republican side if he is penalised for failing to concede to Mr Lamont. Now that the polls show that he should win, he is every Democratic senator's friend once again.

"I'm a devoted Democrat but independent-minded and I've always worked across party lines to get things done," Mr Lieberman told The Daily Telegraph. "I don't feel I have any obligation to follow party orthodoxy." He remains a strong supporter of the Iraq war, the issue that was his downfall in the primary, but has broadened the debate to what he has achieved for his home state in 18 years in Washington. "During the primary, I let Lamont define me rather than defining myself."

When asked what a defeat for him would mean for the Democrats, Mr Lamont sounded like he was resigned to losing.

It'll be taken as a strong affirmation of George Bush's policies that, even in Connecticut, Joe Lieberman and George Bush won a majority of the vote."

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