Our response to the New York Times endorsement

We fully expected that the New York Times, given its strong anti-war stance and clear partisan agenda, would repeat their misguided primary endorsement of Ned Lamont for the general election.  But we never imagined the Times of all papers would produce such an intellectually dishonest and shoddy editorial as they published Sunday.

To correct the worst mischaracterizations and false claims in the Times endorsement, and show the editors how badly they missed mark, we sent the Times the following response this morning:
October 30, 2006

Editorial Page Editor
The New York Times
229 West 43rd Street
New York, NY 10036

To the Editor:

Had the New York Times taken an honest measure of the two U.S. Senate candidates in Connecticut, there is no question it would have followed the lead of the Hartford Courant and the New Haven Register in endorsing Joe Lieberman over Ned Lamont.

Lieberman’s record of accomplishment, his unfailing leadership on many of the very issues the Times promotes, his personal integrity and even the way he has conducted himself since the August primary – which the Times purportedly weighed in making its endorsement – should have made him the hands-down choice.

Instead, the Times’ ill-informed and tendentious endorsement of Ned Lamont reads as if the editors had outsourced the editorial writing to the same crew of blindingly angry bloggers who have teamed with the Lamont Campaign to twist Joe Lieberman’s record beyond all recognition.

What resulted -– a cant recitation of discredited arguments, along with a willful ignorance of Senator Lieberman’s many accomplishments for the state and the country –- reveals far more about the Times’ knee-jerk biases and lack of rigor than either of the candidates.

The Times most obviously shows its narrow-mindedness by reducing the entire campaign to the war in Iraq, despite the fact that two-thirds of voters in Connecticut consistently say it is not their top concern.  Even worse, the Times shows its disinterest in the truth by regurgitating several of the bloggers’ biggest falsehoods and grossly mischaracterizing Senator Lieberman’s position on Iraq.

The fact is, as the Times itself reported last week, Joe Lieberman has openly and frequently challenged the Bush Administration’s conduct of the war — just not in the shrill and hateful terms that the Times and the blogger extremists confuse with strong leadership.

He had called for Secretary Rumsfeld to be replaced as far back as October of 2003, and he had warned of problems with the Administration’s approach even before the invasion began in a speech at the Council of Foreign Relations.

Senator Lieberman laid this all out plainly in his “Closing Argument” speech the Sunday before the primary.  In that speech, he explicitly attributed the misinformation about his record to the Lamont campaign’s relentlessly misleading attacks – he never once blamed his constituents as your editorial falsely claimed.

Also, if the Times had cared to check the record, they would have found that Senator Lieberman has not attacked his fellow Democrats for questioning the President’s war polices.

The fact is, Senator Lieberman has given three major speeches recently in which he made clear that he valued dissent, and that his objection was to partisans on both sides of the war who have been exploiting the divisions on Iraq for political gain.  He has never questioned anyone’s patriotism, Democrat or Republican, in this campaign.

Here is an excerpt from his “Closing Argument” speech to prove this point.

I not only respect your right to disagree or question the President, I value it.   I was part of the anti-war movement in the late 1960s, so I don’t need to be lectured by Ned Lamont about the place of dissent in our democracy.

My opponent wants you to believe otherwise, to cement his distortion campaign against me.  That’s why they keep repeating and misrepresenting a single comment I made in one speech, in which I said we undermine the President’s credibility at our peril.

I know that statement has been widely misconstrued, so let me address it head on.  I did not suggest that the President or anyone else — including me — should be immune from criticism.  The best proof of that is I myself have challenged the President’s policies on many occasions.  The point I was trying to make was about how we disagree.

My concern was, and remains, that if opponents or supporters of the war go beyond disagreeing to exploiting the war for partisan political purposes, much like Republicans did to Max Cleland on homeland security, we could lose more than an election.  We could put our mission in Iraq, the lives of thousands of American soldiers carrying it out, and our national security at risk.  That is what I care about.

Most importantly, Joe Lieberman has said on several occasions during the campaign that a “stay the course” strategy was a recipe for more failure in Iraq, and five weeks ago he outlined a substantive 10-point plan for a new approach.  So to suggest that he is blithely refusing to acknowledge facts on the ground is just patently false.

It is just as false to claim, as your editorial does, that “Mr. Lamont is close to the Senate Democrats (minus Mr. Lieberman) who demanded a timetable for withdrawal without being too firm on what that ought to entail.”

The fact is, Mr. Lamont has frequently endorsed a rigid, arbitrary deadline — not a timeline — that would have all troops out by July 1, 2007, regardless of the consequences.  This naïve and deadly policy was rejected by most Senate Democrats – only 12 out of 44 supported the Lamont position.

Mr. Lamont’s position is so indefensible that even he has trouble defending it, which is why he vacillates back and forth between the contradictory positions of supporting a deadline and saying we should leave the decision to the generals. And the Times had the temerity to say Ned Lamont is the candidate with the most courage to tell the public difficult truths.

All of this goes to show that if anyone is guilty of not facing reality, it is the Times editors.  You clearly overlooked all the signs that Senator Lieberman was listening and that his views could and did evolve.  Instead, you repackaged the distorted caricature the Lamont campaign has been peddling for several months to serve your own ideological agenda.

The truth is, the only way Joe Lieberman could have won with the Times editors was to compromise his principles and recant his support for the war.   And in much the same way, the only acceptable definition of changing course for the Times was a politically-determined timetable for troop withdrawal -– a path that has been rejected as a threat to our national security interests by many critics of the Bush Administration, including the overwhelming majority of Senate Democrats, and our military leadership.

The most blatant evidence that the fix was in was your assertion that Mr. Lamont is “the far better candidate” to serve in the U.S. Senate.  That is simply incomprehensible – and frankly an insult to your readers’ intelligence.

Have you actually listened to Mr. Lamont on the campaign trail and in the debates?  Once he gets past his rote talking points, all he can offer now, nine months after he started campaigning, is a slew of vague generalities.  In fact, Mr. Lamont had to be prompted by the moderators at the recent debates to be more forthcoming with his views.  And at a NAACP forum Saturday night, he was upbraided several times by a largely friendly audience for failing to answer basic questions.

Did you bother to read Mr. Lamont’s so-called Plan for Change, his best effort to show that he was more than a one-note candidate?  We have seen more detail and depth from local city council candidates.  And of the very limited ideas he does offer, most of them have already been proposed by Senator Lieberman.

Just consider Mr. Lamont’s economic and jobs agenda.  It consists of one paragraph on each of the following three planks: raising the minimum wage (which Lieberman has always supported), fighting for more federal money for the state (which Lieberman has been widely praised for), and adopting more protectionist trade policies (which would be economic poison for a state in which one in five jobs are dependent on trade).

There is no mention of sharpening America’s competitive edge in innovation, or strengthening our education and job training systems to equip workers to fill the jobs of the 21st Century, or promoting the growth of small businesses, which are the leading engine of job growth in Connecticut.  And this is from a candidate who is running exclusively on his experience and record as a small businessman.

Speaking of Mr. Lamont’s business record, have you taken the time to examine that?  He brags about his ability to meet a payroll, but as your own reporters pointed out, Mr. Lamont actually cut 68 percent of his workforce – a fact that Mr. Lamont has effectively conceded.  His excuse?  It was 9/11’s fault.  Yet that somehow does not stop him from blaming Joe Lieberman for all the other job losses over the last five years.

Now, compare Lamont’s slim reed of a resume with Joe Lieberman’s record in the Senate in just the last six years.   Working across party lines in a way the hyper-partisan Mr. Lamont never could, Senator Lieberman has:

  • Helped save the New London Sub Base and the 31,000 jobs that go with it
  • Passed legislation to accelerate the cleanup of Long Island Sound
  • Secured record-breaking amounts of transportation funding
  • Created the Homeland Security Department, which the Bush Administration initially opposed
  • Established the 9/11 Commission over the Bush Administration’s objections
  • Passed the most sweeping reforms of our intelligence system in half a century, based on the 9-11 Commission’s recommendations
  • Conducted a tough, exhaustive investigation of the Bush Administration’s failures in responding to Katrina, which led to the passage of a comprehensive FEMA reform bill
  • Repeatedly blocked the Bush Administration’s efforts to open the Artic Refuge to oil drilling
  • Consistently stood up to the Bush Administration’s efforts to roll back key protections in the Clean Air Act.

It is quite telling that the Times, much like the bloggers who have been trying to purge Joe Lieberman from the Democratic Party, failed to acknowledge any of these accomplishments and stands – or to explain why they were not relevant to your endorsement process.

Nor do your editors acknowledge the fact that Senator Lieberman has opposed the Bush Administration on most every major domestic policy initiative.

Or that Senator Lieberman has been endorsed by groups as diverse as the League of Conservation Voters, the Human Rights Campaign, Planned Parenthood and NARAL, the Chamber of Commerce, the Realtors, and Connecticut’s police, firefighter, and building trades unions.

Or, not least of all, the Times editors did not acknowledge the consequences of losing Senator Lieberman’s seniority for the people of Connecticut and for many of the progressive causes the Times has long championed.

That is probably because you long ago convicted him of not being ideologically pure enough and of not being reflexively hostile enough to his Republican colleagues.  You clearly wanted another finger-pointer in the Senate, and Ned Lamont wins that contest hands down.

Fortunately, it seems a lot of people in Connecticut do care to know what Joe Lieberman has done to help improve their lives.  And we are ready to put Senator Lieberman’s record of experience, independence, and results before them.


Dan Gerstein
Communications Director
Lieberman for Senate Campaign