Jewish World Review July 25, 2006/ 29 Tamuz, 5766

Wesley Pruden

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Consumer Reports

Paying the price for moderation | STONINGTON, Conn. — "Ned Lamont" sounds like he might be a character in a funny book, with an unlikely white-bread name (think "Britt Reid" as the Green Hornet or "Clark Kent" as Superman), but there's nothing funny about his campaign for the U.S. Senate. He's making Joe Lieberman miserable.

The latest Quinnipiac Poll shows him leading Mr. Lieberman among likely Democratic voters by 51 percent to 47 percent. That's within the margin of error, but dramatically different from only a month ago, when Mr. Lieberman could take his ease with a 15-point lead.

The three-term senator has picked up an "endorsement" from Bill Clinton, who professed undying admiration for Mr. Lieberman ("a good senator, with the right position on most key Democratic issues") at least until Aug. 8, when Connecticut Democrats will choose between Messrs. Lieberman and Lamont. He came to Connecticut yesterday to campaign for him. But not necessarily by conviction; he'll help only until someone better comes along. Bubba "respects the primary process," a spokesman says, "and will support the candidate who wins the Democratic primary and work to help that candidate win."

Loyalty is a street that only runs in one direction where Bonnie and Clod abide, of course, but what is new is that so many Democrats, feeding a preternatural hatred of George W., are so eager to throw overboard a loyal Democrat, a one-time vice presidential candidate of their party, simply because he has shown loyalty of his own to the commander in chief on an issue of war and peace. The senator has been called "warmonger," "traitor," "scum," "weasel" and "liar." Those are just the insults polite enough for a Connecticut parlor.

"There's nothing that man could do to regain my respect after taking that kiss from George W. Bush," says a man fondling a cantaloupe at the Stop and Shop, a supermarket in nearby East Lyme. "Lieberman could cure cancer and I would still vote for Lamont."

Such heartfelt passion seems a waste spent on mere politics, but the contempt a traveler through Connecticut hears aimed by the "Nedheads" is much like the vitriol in a particularly angry divorce. In a Fourth of July parade in the town of Willimantic, the Nedheads typically heckled the senator without mercy, marching under enormous papier-mache sendups of the senator's embrace of President Bush after the State of the Union address. That was in January, but for the Nedheads January was only yesterday.

Much of the rage is fed by Internet bloggers of the angry leftmost fringe, who vie to see how purple they can make their incoherent blogger prose. The source of the purplest passages is the Web site "Daily Kos," the mother lode of bile and rage against anything that smacks of American self-interest. Markos Moulitsas, the conductor of Daily Kos, has raised so much money for Democratic candidates that when Mr. Moulitsas held a rally of the "netroots" earlier this summer in a rundown hotel in Las Vegas nearly everybody in the party leadership showed up to get in line for some of the swag. But many Democrats are merely intimidated, not respectful, like a diner forced to listen to the blabbermouth lingering over his beer at the end of the bar, and the Lieberman race is regarded as a test of actual netroot strength.

Many Nedheads insist that the anger at the senator is not just about the war, he just doesn't represent Connecticut. Some are still angry that the senator publicly scolded Bubba for his public womanizing in the run-up to the impeachment (which he voted against). Others are still smarting because he lost a debate to Dick Cheney six years ago. Still, he voted against the Bush tax cuts, against the marriage amendment, against confirming Samuel Alito, against oil drilling in the Arctic wildlife refuge — all issues dear to Republican hearts.

But it's the war in Iraq that drives the hatred of George W. and anyone who says anything nice about him. The Nedheads are driven to further distraction by the knowledge that defeating the senator in the primary won't necessarily kill his career graveyard dead. He has taken steps to assure running as an independent in November, where the odds would lengthen considerably on Ned Lamont's challenge. The fat lady, who has to sing before it's all over, might well sleep through August.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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