The Lieberman Effect
Despite later allegations that I somehow spent my time in Connecticut on a private lear jet with Ned Lamont sipping champagne and plotting the chess moves of the Vast Left Wing Conspiracy, virtually every time I’ve ever seen Ned I was part of a large pack of bloggers, journalists and supporters who followed him around to events. Of all the journalists in that group — and over time they grew to be legion (four from the NYT alone) — nobody was smarter or made more of an attempt to really get inside the story of the race than Ken Caine of GQ.
His portrait of the Connecticut Senate race in the issue of GQ released today is absolutely devastating for Lieberman, and privately Joe’s team are really worried about it so run don’t walk to read the whole thing. I had to chuckle reading it through myself because at the time Ken arrived in Connecticut, he privately expressed to me that he actually liked Lieberman and thought he was a "nice guy." Of course my head exploded and I undiplomatically rejoindered that nobody who tells rape victims to take a "short ride" could be considered a "nice guy." What happened to Ken and his perspective over the course of the campaign is a microcosm of what happened to Connecticut voters as more and more of the "real Joe" began to reveal itself.
By the time political hack Richard Goodstein showed up and started race baiting at Joe’s events, Ken’s perspective on Joe and the tactics he was willing to employ in order to win had shifted quite a bit. Bob Adams shot the above YouTube, Ken is the guy at 2:10 into the video asking Goodstein what his tactics at Ted’s cafe had been about the day before (for those who have forgotten about Goodstein’s heckling of Ned at Lieberman’s behest, or the way he tried to claim that Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton were not members of the party of Bill Clinton, you can refresh your memories here and here.) The impressions Ken gleaned over the course of the campaign were not kind to Joe, to say the least.
But I thought that this particular observation really cut to the heart of the chase, and expressed well what many who followed the campaign were thinking if not always writing:
The most fascinating thing in politics is the intersection between a grave policy question and an individual leader’s personality. In my opinion, there’s a major psychodrama playing out in Joe’s head about Iraq. He aborts every sentence that implies a concession that he made a mistake. It’s like his conscience starts to get just a bit ahead of his pride, and then the hubris races to catch up and tackles the concession midsentence. After a month of interviews, I’m convinced many voters generally liked Joe and that he could have taken the wind out of Ned’s sails by simply saying he miscalculated in his optimism on the outcome of the war and asked for voters’ forbearance. That he refuses to pay them that respect infuriates people. He may just lose his career over the simple human inability to concede a possible mistake. Interesting.
The psychodrama of this particular race has been fascinating, and the only time I have to say I was really worried was when the rumor was spreading that Lieberman would cancel his "Bus to Nowhere" tour and shoot a commercial that was a mea culpa for the war. Of course that never happened; not surprisingly, Joe didn’t have it in him for whatever reason. But if you want a great bird’s eye view of what being on the ground in Connecticut felt like, read Ken’s article. It’s beautifully written, insightful, and it’s making Dan Gerstein’s head explode.
What more can you ask?
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