I’m sorry. I just don’t see it.
Mike Allen has a piece in Time arguing that Republicans are thanking their lucky stars and Democrats are shaking in their boots because of the cudgel Ned Lamont’s victory in Connecticut has given them for November.
The piece runs down each of the key GOP players — Mehlman, Cheney, Snow — each bellowing out RNC talking points claiming that Lieberman’s defeat means the Democratic party is beholden to the hard-left and ostrich-like isolationists.
Lieberman, as Mike explains, is now slated to become the martyr to isolationism whom Republicans will laud at every turn. “On television and in speeches in coming days,” writes Allen, “party officials and strategists plan to talk about their respect for Lieberman as a distinguished public servant and argue that Lamont’s victory represents the end of the long tradition of strong-on-national-defense Democratic leaders in the mold of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and John F. Kennedy.”
This is sad.
Not because I think any of this is true or that it will resonate with the public. Not even because I’m surprised at how easily many of my press colleagues pen stories like this recounting GOP press offensives without questioning whether it really seems likely to succeed.
What’s really sad is that the nexus of national press and political operative bigwigs really needs to get over itself a bit here. Because once they do, they may actually be able to get over Joe Lieberman.
Joe Lieberman is not a world-historical figure.
He’s not fighting some long twilight struggle.
He thinks he’s both. But he’s not.
I really don’t think the Missouri senate race is going to turn on Jim Talent challenging Claire McCaskill on whether she’ll endorse Ned Lamont and abandon Joe Lieberman. I don’t think most voters around the country really know or care that much about Joe Lieberman. And to the extent that they know who he is, outside of the committed partisans on both sides, they don’t realize or think or imagine (as the Russert/Kristol/Matalin/Broder axis does) that he’s this symbolically resonant figure on whom the fate of the nation may alas rest.
The heart of the matter here is that everyone knows Joe in DC. They like him. They think he’s a nice guy, which he is. His staff likes him, which also makes him seem like a nice guy. He’s schmoozed the city for two decades.
But really he’s just a pol who ignored his constituents, went into serious denial about a major foreign policy disaster, was more lockstep with the president’s non-policy than many Republicans, and got bounced by his constituents.
That’s politics. And that’s accountability. And, really? It’s not that big a deal.
Many Americans are not comfortable with the idea of just pulling out of Iraq. But the war is really unpopular. I think most Americans realize that the president thinks his Iraq policy is a rousing success and most Democrats don’t. They get that. They see it. They understand it. If Republicans think the Martyrdom of Joe is going to be their killer issue, let them have at it. They’re trying to knock the Dems off their stride but they’re showing their desperation. The whole thing is, in both the most serious and frivolous senses of the word, a joke.
Late Update: TPM Reader DS responds …
It’s really pretty clear.
If the Democrats, in an anti-incumbent, disenchanted voter year, use the Lieberman/Lamont race to show people that their votes really matter, they can hope to achieve high, anti-incumbent turnout in November.
The Republicans, of course, want to nip that notion in the bud. They want, no, they need to make this a referendum on bloggers, the far-left, poor Joe Lieberman, soft-on-terror liberals.
What the Republicans truly want to avoid is another “kick-em-out” 1994 sentiment. Should that type of thinking take hold, we get both houses of Congress, and they will do anything in their power to prevent that, even if it means martyring Say It Ain’t So Joe.