Aug. 29, 2006 | 1:16 p.m. ET

Bush's moral compass out of whack

Last week’s announcement by Advanced Cell Technologies that it had perfected a method of generating embryonic stem cell lines without destroying embryos put the stem cell research debate back in the headlines.

The hope was that the new non-destructive technique - already used to check for genetic abnormalities in embryos created for in vitro fertilization - would satisfy those who oppose the research on moral grounds.

That’s unlikely. Even before the breakthrough was announced, opponents were lining up fresh objections.

President Bush has made his position clear on a number of occasions: he believes even a fertilized human egg is an individual human life and that sacrificing human lives, even to save the lives of others, crosses a moral boundary off-limits to decent societies.

For the sake of discussion, let’s assume Mr. Bush is correct about the blastocysts being people. Further, let’s do him the courtesy of taking his position - no lives sacrificed to save lives - seriously. That’s his belief and he’s entitled to it. Here’s what logically follows:

No more wars, certainly not wars that kill civilians. That means no Afghanistan, no Iraq. Not even to save American lives - remember, that would cross Mr. Bush’s moral line.

Terrorism is out in any case, but so is responding in a way that leads to the death of innocent non-combatants. So, no Israeli bombing of Lebanon.

The death penalty has to go. No human enterprise is carried through without error; inevitably, wrongly convicted prisoners will be killed.

Unless Mr. Bush is willing to give on these points or own up to his contradictions, his particular moral objection to the destruction of unconscious cell clusters carries no weight.

He won’t. So there we have it: major medical advances are being resisted on moral grounds by a president whose own moral compass - by his own definition - is out of whack.

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Aug. 22, 2006 | 6:27 p.m. ET

Stay the course or face "disaster"

The president has shifted from defense to offense on the Iraq war. At his press conference Monday he attacked leaders of the “Democrat” party for wanting to leave Iraq “before the mission is complete. “He said he’s staying in Iraq as long as he’s president.

“You know, it’s an interesting debate we’re having in America about how we ought to handle Iraq,” Bush said.  “There’s a lot of people—good, decent people, saying, withdraw now. They’re absolutely wrong. It would be a huge mistake for this country. If you think problems are tough now, imagine what it would be like if the United States leaves before this government has a chance to defend herself, govern herself, and listen to the—and answer to the will of the people.”

The President’s message is brutal: Either stay the course with me or face “disaster” in Iraq.

”What matters is that in this campaign that we clarify the different point of view,” he said.  “And there are a lot of people in the Democrat Party who believe that the best course of action is to leave Iraq before the job is done, period. And they’re wrong.”

Strong stuff. This election will pivot on this yes or no question. If you want to stay in Iraq, vote Republican. If you want to get the U.S. out of Iraq, vote Democratic or “Democrat” as the president puts it.

President Bush won reelection because Americans believed that he had clear convictions. He’s showing us that again. We know precisely where he stands. Conditions have changed from a Sunni insurgency against a U.S.-Shia coalition. Today we face not just the Sunni insurgency but the Shia militia. The casualties in Iraq have reached 110 killed per day. But the Bush policy remains the same: military support for a democratic government in Iraq.

The latest polls show that Iraq is the most important issue to voters in the upcoming fall elections. The president believes that more Americans will support him and his party if he can portray the “Democrat” party as supporting an exit from Iraq “before the mission is complete,” a phrase the president used repeatedly.

It worked in 2004, but two years later, the president is making a big gamble here. Instead of playing defense on the Iraq war, he’s shifted to offense. He’s employing the successful military gambit of attacking from a defensive position. It worked for Henry V at Agincourt. It worked for Ronald Reagan in his debate with President Carter. “There you go again,” Reagan said when Carter rapped him on his opposition to Medicare in the early 1960s. Maybe the tactic will work for George W. Bush.

It’s a question many Americans will have to weigh when they enter the voting booth in November.

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Aug. 18, 2006 | 12:20 p.m. ET

The Republican's Connecticut conundrum
(Chris Matthews, "Hardball" host)

Video: Connecticut conundrum

You see the situation.  If Schlesinger can’t break out of single digits, he will leave this race to Lamont and Lieberman.   Is this what the Republicans of Connecticut want?   When it looked like Lieberman was going to be the Democratic nominee, it may have made sense for the Republicans to avoid offering the strongest possible challenge.  Now that it looks like Lamont and Lieberman will split the Democratic vote, why is the Republican party not fully exploiting this unexpected chance to win this seat? 

The Republicans have a big decision to make.  With the battle for control of the US Senate expected to be close, do they or do they not want to make a real effort to win a seat in Connecticut?  White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said the president would not be endorsing anyone in this race.  When I talked to Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, even he would not endorse the Republican senate candidate.

Connecticut will soon begin printing ballots.  If Republicans want a Republican to win Joe Lieberman’s seat, they can do something about it before then.  If they prefer Lieberman to win, or, short of that, simply make a lot of noise against the Democrats, they need do nothing.        

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Aug. 16, 2006 | 12:12 p.m. ET

Political casualties of war

Just weeks before the fall elections, the political war over Iraq is getting bloodier.  Sen. Joe Lieberman is the first pro-Iraq casualty.  Hillary Clinton is showing she does not intend becoming another.  Having voted "Yea" on the resolution okaying the US attack, invasion and occupation of Iraq, the New York senator is out there blasting President Bush on the war. 

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves focusing on what Democrats will do to protect themselves in 2008.

Let’s talk about this year. When voters go to the polls in November for the midterm elections, how many Bush-supporting, war-rallying politicians will they say goodbye to?

Polls continue to show the war in Iraq as the most important issue for voters; they want the fighting to stop, and they want American troops to come home.

And I doubt they want America committing an act of war against yet another Arab country.

This week on Hardball I interviewed the New Yorker’s famed investigative reporter, Seymour Hersh, who says the Bush administration is making plans for an attack on Iran. 

Video: Political casualties of war

Here’s my question: Will Democrats prove to Americans they’ve learned their lesson? Or will they roll over, as they did in 2002, if the Bush administration goes for another Arabian war.

The job of Congress is make big decisions like whether to wage war. Let’s not have another congressional blank cheque authorizing the president to decide whether to go to war.

I don’t think the country is looking forward to more cries from Democrats and the stray Republican over whether we should have gone with allies, should have sent more troops, didn’t do enough planning. 

Aug. 14, 2006 | 2:40 p.m. ET

Using the foiled British terror post as a political bludgeon may already be starting to backfire. People aren’t as gullible as they used to be. Even the mainstream media, after a day or two when they reflexively snapped into 9/11 mode, have begun peeking out of their foxholes.

The view isn’t pretty. It’s one thing for Vice President Cheney to claim that a free and fair U.S. election would embolden “Al Qaeda types”; it’s another when we discover he knew all along a major terror bust was on the way.

It’s a demonstration of petty egoism for Joe Lieberman to threaten a spoiler’s role in the upcoming Connecticut general election; sour grapes for him to continue attacking the primary victor, Ned Lamont; but to join Cheney in tying Lamont to a terror threat, that’s just ugly and, let’s be frank, a little nuts.

It’s one thing to claim that the British surveillance of the suspects vindicates the Bush Administration’s warrantless wiretapping; but that view changes as we hear stories of the Brits arguing with their American counterparts about the importance of due process.

It’s one thing for President Bush to assure us we’re safer than we used to be; but those assurances ring hollow when we learn that, even while the British plot was unfolding, the administration was pulling $6 million out of the effort to combat explosives on planes.

There are many lessons to be learned from the recent events in Britain. That the Bush Administration, the Republicans in Congress, neo-con pundits and even Joe Lieberman have been proven right all along isn’t one of them.

Aug. 10, 2006 | 5:02 p.m. ET

British airliner terror plot: a Pakistani connection

The British have taken over 20 persons into custody in connection with the plot to bomb nine airliners over the Atlantic while en route to cities in the United States.

Is this an al-Qaeda operation? Building nine explosive devices that can evade detection by airport security, then detonating them simultaneously on nine airliners is not the work of an "al-Qaeda wannabe." While there is no concrete evidence, most analysts believe that the sophistication of this plan and the level of training and support required points to al-Qaeda.

What is the connection to Pakistan?

Most, if not all, of the suspects are British subjects of Pakistani origin. It is believed that several of the suspects had recently traveled to Pakistan most likely for training, and money to support the operation was wired to some of the suspects from Pakistan.

That said, Pakistan has been a strong ally of the United States in the war on terrorism. It appears that the detection and unraveling of the plot was due to arrests made in Pakistan. Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf firmly supported American efforts to remove the Taliban from power in neighboring Afghanistan in 2001.

Musharraf has paid a price for his continued support of the United States, in the form of three known al-Qaeda efforts to assassinate him. Ironically, it was Musharraf’s intelligence service that originally created the Taliban, and there is still strong support for the Taliban and al-Qaeda in the Pakistani military and intelligence services. This bond has often been cited for the failure (or unwillingness) of Pakistani forces to capture or kill senior al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives known to be resident along the porous border with Afghanistan.

So is there a connection between this plot and Pakistan? There are areas of Pakistan that are virtually under the control of local tribes, in fact they are officially "tribally administered areas," including Waziristan and the Northwest Frontier Province on the border with Afghanistan. The central government rarely ventures into these areas. We believe that there are al-Qaeda and Taliban training camps in these areas - it is here we suspect that some of the July 7, 2005 London subway bombers were trained, where "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh received some of his training, and likely where some of these current plotters were trained.

When Musharraf has ordered the Pakistani army into these areas to hunt down Taliban or al-Qaeda fighters or camps, they have encountered fierce opposition. Musharraf has also refused to allow American forces operating opposite these areas in Afghanistan to enter Pakistani territory to hunt down suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban members.

Until the Pakistani army is ordered to take out these camps and either arrest of kill the remaining Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters, or Musharraf allows American forces to enter Pakistani territory to do it for him, I suspect there will be more plots like the one made public today.

Aug. 9, 2006 | 2:15 p.m. ET

Lieberman's refusal to give up

As most have heard by now, it was six years ago when Al Gore tapped Joe Lieberman to be his vice presidential running mate. But with Lieberman’s decision now to run as an independent after losing to Ned Lamont last night—which some believe could complicate Democratic efforts to pick up GOP-held House seats in Connecticut—another storyline from six years ago is about to resurface: his refusal to give up his Senate seat, which likely would have forced Democrats to lose the seat and control of the Senate had Gore won.

The context: In 2000, not only was Lieberman running for vice president, but he was also up for Senate re-election. Some Democrats publicly urged Lieberman to give up his seat—thus allowing Connecticut party leaders to replace him with Richard Blumenthal, the popular Democratic state attorney general—to avoid the possibility that the state’s GOP governor would appoint a Republican to replace Lieberman if Gore had won. Yet Lieberman refused, and Democrats and other commentators pounced on his decision. “It would be an irony if Al Gore wins the presidency and we lose the Senate by one vote,” said former Democratic Sen. Bill Bradley, per the Los Angeles Times. A New York Times editorial lambasted Lieberman for his “selfish behavior.” And the Hartford Courant said the same thing: “He wants to be vice president, but he wants to hedge his bet in case the Gore-Lieberman ticket loses. That’s scarcely a profile in courage.”

Of course, Lieberman wasn’t the first vice presidential candidate to simultaneously run for the Senate; Texas’ Lyndon Johnson did it in 1960 (although with a Democratic governor in Austin). And Lieberman argued that giving up his Senate seat, and allowing party leaders to pick a possible replacement, would produce chaos and would be un-democratic. On Election Day, George W. Bush won the presidency, but Democrats picked up four Senate seats, bringing the chamber to a 50-50 tie (with Dick Cheney holding the tiebreaking vote). Yet if Gore had won, as the New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg recently wrote, Republicans still would have held control of the Senate by a 51-49 margin, since a Republican would have likely replaced Lieberman.

Aug. 9, 2006 | 10: 20 a.m.

Is Lieberman too good for Connecticut?

I was awoken this morning by a local talk jock in New Haven who had me on a few minutes later to talk about last night’s primary results.

He had watched "Hardball" until 2 a.m. and somehow tracked me down in my hotel room. The person he could not track down was the state’s lame duck senator, Joseph Lieberman—a fact for which he blasted Lieberman once we were on air.  He told me that Joe had time for "GMA" and "Today," but not for the hometown media.  He said this is what’s been wrong with Lieberman for years—he’s a national senator playing to his friends in Washington and New York, but too self-important for the people who made him a senator.

Aug. 9, 2006 | 8:45 a.m.

More analysis from last night

Video: Joe's Day of Judgment Video: The Fight of Lieberman's Life

Aug. 8, 2006 | 11:54 p.m. ET

What do these results mean?

Video: Lieberman loses

Aug. 8, 2006 | 11:39 pm. ET

Lieberman loses
(Brooke Brower, "Hardball" producer)

Connecticut Democrats spoke loud and clear Tuesday when they handed a primary defeat to Senator Joe Lieberman. Lieberman heard them and said he’s going to keep running anyway. Primary winner Ned Lamont seized on anti-war and anti-incumbent feelings that are being felt all across the country. With just more than 12 weeks left until Election Day, Lieberman’s loss proves that nothing is for certain in Decision 2006.

Aug. 8, 2006 | 10:04 p.m. ET

Clock running out on Lieberman?
(Mike Barnicle, MSNBC political analyst)

Ned Lamont, wearing a blue shirt open at the collar, dark slacks and brown loafers, sat eating a tuna sandwich at the Temple Grill in downtown New Haven. It was three o’clock in the afternoon of a day when he would find himself leading Joe Lieberman by seven points in the race to see who would be the Democrat nominee for the United States Senate; Lieberman’s job for the last 18 years.

Lamont has an easy confidence about him. He wears his wealth well and shows no signs of the kind of trauma that accompanies people in politics who have spent their lives and made their living in a narrow world defined by wins and losses.

Lamont is riding the anger over the way the war in Iraq has been mismanaged by the Bush administration. But there’s another element to the food fight that has erupted in the Lamont-Lieberman tilt across the past few weeks: the feeling among more than a few - ordinary folks as well as elected officials - that Lieberman, a kind and generous fellow, has been big-leaguing his home state voters since the curtain went up for him on the national stage exactly six years ago when he was tapped to run for Vice President by Al Gore. It’s never good when a United States Senator - any one of them - begins to think that Des Moines is more important than Danbury.

So as 10 PM arrived and 69% of the vote has been counted, Lamont is holding on to a four point lead - 52% to 48% - in a race he never expected to win until it became clear that the combination of smugness, seniority and the isolation that can come with sitting in the senate in a company town - Washington D.C. - far removed from the places where real people live and worry about war and their children’s future. As the night lingers, the votes will continue to be counted but the feel of this warm August night is that in Connecticut the clock is running out on Joe Lieberman.

Aug. 8, 2006 | 8:27 p.m. ET

The incumbency issue

While many view today’s primary between Joe Lieberman and Ned Lamont as a referendum on support for the Iraq war—and with good reason—it’s important to keep in mind that it also could be a referendum on the power of incumbency this election season. As we mentioned in NBC’s First Read this morning, incumbent members of Congress rarely lose their primary contests: In 1998, just one went down in a primary; in 2000, three did; in 2002 (after redistricting), the number jumped to nine; and in 2004, it was two. And the number is even smaller for incumbent U.S. senators: Since 1982, only three of them have lost their primary, and one of those victims included the person appointed to fill Bob Dole’s ® Senate term in 1996.

But if Lieberman loses to Lamont—and if fellow vulnerable incumbents Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D) and Rep. Joe Schwarz (R) also go down today—that could send a shiver down the spines of all House and Senate incumbents up for re-election this year. According to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, just 55 percent support their lawmaker, the lowest such finding in that poll since 1994, when Republicans took control of Congress. In an earlierNBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, only 38 percent said their representative deserves to be re-election; 48 percent said they want to give a new person a chance.

And keep this in mind: Back in May, more than a dozen state lawmakers in Pennsylvania—including the top two GOP leaders in the state Senate—lost their primary races, due in part to anger over giving themselves pay raises. Could something similar happen today?

Aug. 8, 2006 | 5:45 p.m. ET

Woes in Waterbury

Here’s an indication of the international interest in this race: on Sunday I met correspondent Matt Wells from BBC radio at Sen. Lieberman’s speech in East Haven.

And this afternoon at about 2:30 p.m. as I was waiting at St. Margaret’s Church in a rundown section of Waterbury to find out why Lieberman had cancelled a scheduled event there, a man with an Australian accent approached me and asked what I’d heard about Lieberman’s schedule. He was Matthew Tinning, a congressional liaison officer with the Embassy of Australia.

We swapped intelligence and speculation on what the three-term incumbent will do if he loses today’s primary.

Until this moment I hadn’t thought about the potential effect of Ned Lamont on U.S.-Australian relations.

Was it a bad portent that Lieberman was scrubbing an event in Waterbury, a city which should be bastion of strength for him?

I talked to a veteran Democratic operative in Waterbury, who said he was neutral in the Lamont-Lieberman fracas and who asked that I not identify him by name. He said the low turnout in Waterbury as of mid-afternoon was not good for Lieberman.

We noted in our story last week Lieberman’s affinity for older folks and theirs for him. Our Waterbury source said, “Some of the senior citizen buildings (in Waterbury) are not voting too well at all.”

He noted later that traditionally Waterbury has about 1,000 absentee ballots, many of them cast by elderly people. His sources tell him today they will have less than 400. Another troubling sign for Lieberman—even though the Waterbury absentee votes are breaking heavily for Lieberman, there aren’t enough to provide much comfort.

Keep in mind that Waterbury is the city where the Lieberman campaign brought Bill Clinton to whip up enthusiasm two weeks ago.

If he fails to do well here—and that’s an “if” since the polls are still open—then it looks bleak for him.

But one place in Waterbury where I found very good turnout was at Our Lady of Loretto Church on Bunker Hill Ave. As of 4 p.m. more than 600 of the 1,200 registered Democrats had voted and one official told me they will reach at least 50 percent turnout.

State Rep. Jeffrey Berger from Waterbury, a Lieberman supporter and a man locked in his own primary race, was appealing to voters in the parking lot outside Our Lady of Loretto and told me voters there were pro-Lieberman.

Here’s what I picked up in the town of Southington earlier this afternoon: Democratic state senate candidate Dave Zoni told me as he stood outside the voting place at the De Paolo Middle School: “It’s going to be a close one. I support Joe Lieberman, but I have to say at the end of the day I am going to support the Democratic candidate.”

And what if Lieberman loses tonight and launches an independent bid? “He’s’ entitled to do that, of course,” Zoni relied. “He’s done a lot of good things for Connecticut, but I will be supporting the Democratic candidate.”

A few minutes earlier I spoke to Linda Haley at the Water A. Derynoski School in Southington. She said she voted for Lamont. “It’s time for a change in this state,” she said. “I have to wonder why Al Gore didn’t come and campaign for Lieberman.” I asked her whether that was a factor in her vote against Lieberman. “Yes,” she said.

She seemed sour not only on this incumbent but on all incumbents. “They’re all in office too long.”

Aug. 8, 2006 | 4:22 p.m.

Lamont denies involvement

The Connecticut Democratic Senate primary was marred by allegations of sabotage when Sen. Joe Lieberman’s campaign website was knocked offline. I caught challenger Ned Lamont for an interview this afternoon.  He denied that his campaign or anyone he knew had anything to do with Lieberman’s website going down.

Video: Lamont denies involvement

Tunein to "Hardball" at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. ET for the full interview.

Aug. 8, 2006 | 2:24 p.m.

Assessing the damage

I just got off the air with my interview with both Sean Smith, campaign manager for Joe Lieberman, and Liz DuPont-Diehl, spokesperson for the Lamont campaign.  Sean said that he was calling upon Lamont to urge anyone involved to take responsibility for what the Lieberman people believe to be a sabatoge of their website and email system.  Liz said that the Lamont campaign was ready to do so immediately and she did just that, publicly condemning anyone who hacked into the Lieberman computer system. Video: Sabotage?

The big question is whether the damage done to the Lieberman campaign by the shutdown of its command and control operation will prove decisive in tonight’s results.  In other words, will the votes lost to the shutdown in its communication system exceed the margin of any Lamont victory?  Of course, if Lieberman prevails tonight, there will be little complaint about efforts to deny him a victory.

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Aug. 8, 2006 | 12:50 p.m. ET

'Dirty politics'

On my way from Hartford to Southington on I-84, I get a call shortly before noon from Marion Steinfels, the spokeswoman for the Lieberman campaign.

“Are you aware of the attack on our website?” she asks me. The Lieberman site was knocked out of service in a “denial of service” attack yesterday afternoon and evening. “They’ve knocked us down again,” she says.

“It’s a coordinated effort to stop us from communicating with our voters. We’ve demanded that our opponent’s supporters stop this. It is dirty politics.”

Who is behind this attack is not clear.

Lieberman camp has asked Democratic state chair Nancy DiNardo to intervene and appeal to the Lamont team to do what it can to stop the attack.

As we’ve said in the past, we have nothing to do with that” attack, says Lamont spokeswoman Liz DuPont-Diehl when I call her after getting off the phone with Steinfels. “The Lamont campaign would never tolerate or condone any interference with the Lieberman campaign.” For good measure she asks me to note the disruption of a Lamont rally in Greenwich last week, which she pins on Lieberman supporters.

Video: Sabotage?

Given what Lieberman workers Chad Ricketts and Andrew Woods told me in Hartford this morning about Lieberman yard signs being defaced—and I saw defaced ones myself as I drove around --, there do seem to be some mischief- makers or vandals on the loose and this battle has gotten ugly. Both sides claim to be victims of dirty tricks. A bad omen for the man who wins this primary tonight and must try to unify this Connecticut Democratic Party.

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Aug. 8, 2006 | 12:30 p.m. ET

Overheard at lunch...
(Erika Tarantal, WVIT reporter)

Lunch time in West Hartford, CT seems to be filled with election talk. Workers at a local take-out spot say the big question is: will Lieberman be able to save his seat in the Senate? That's the big buzz as people wait in line at the check-out. With still a large number of unaffiliated voters in the state, we did run into folks not planning to head to the polls today, but they seem to think most registered voters will make their picks. Although polls don't seem packed so far, the Secretary of State told us earlier to expect the rush to come between 4:30 and 7:30 tonight. As for who people are voting for today, those who would tell us seemed split down the middle between Lamont and Lieberman.

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Aug. 8, 2006 | 12:13 p.m. ET

Poll talk with Lieberman

Tuesday is judgment day for Joe Lieberman in Connecticut and I ran into the man himself while reporting at the polls in New Haven. I asked him if he thought he should represent the people or his own conscience in the Senate. Click below to hear what he said and tune in to Hardball tonight to hear much more:

Video: Lieberman: 'We're gonna win tonight'

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Aug. 8, 2006 | 9:40 a.m. ET

Light turnout

I’m reporting from Voting District 7 in a black middle-class neighborhood on the north side of Hartford. Turnout is very light so far. There are 1,900 registered Democrats in voting district seven and by 9:30, only 132 had cast ballots.

Politics is full of funny coincidences. As I begin chatting with voters and poll workers, suddenly I hear a voice saying, “Hey, I know you!”

It’s Hasan Solomon, a field organizer for the Machinists Union. I haven’t seen Solomon since a cold day in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, two days before the Iowa caucuses in January of 2004.

Based in Washington, Solomon has been up here in Connecticut organizing support for Ned Lamont since last Tuesday.

He helped put together the big Lamont rally at the Pratt & Whitney plant in Middletown last week. The Machinists have 4,000 active and retired members in the state. “We’ve been making phone calls, we made sure each one got a letter from the local lodge president, from the state council, and from the international union.”

“Joe’s got to go!” he says to voters as they stroll up to the voting place at this elementary school. He hands each one a palm card featuring a photo of Lamont alongside Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

“We’re upset with Joe Lieberman’s trade votes, CAFTA and NAFTA before that,” Solomon tells me, explaining that the Machinists and the American Federation of Teachers are the only unions to endorse Lamont. “There’s been a big loss of manufacturing jobs in Connecticut and we don’t feel Lieberman has done anything to stop it.”

Most voters are reluctant to tell me for whom they voted. But I did get Curtis Patterson, a heavy equipment operator, to tell me, “It’s time for change. Ned Lamont is the person with new ideas.”

Andrew Woods, a Lieberman organizer for this district drives by to check on his poll workers including Chad Ricketts, a 16-year old student at Weaver High School, who is working on is first political campaign, passing out Lieberman palm cards to arriving voters.

Of Lamont, Ricketts said, “I think he’s a good guy, but the people working for him – we keep putting Lieberman signs up and they keeping putting the ‘Joe Gotta Go’ stickers on them or tearing them down.”

“It may around 70 percent to 30 percent for Lieberman” in this voting district, Woods predicts. “There is one issue people are upset about, the war. But as we go door to door we say to people, ‘let’s look at the whole record. Joe wasn’t the only Democratic senator who voted for the war; most of them did.’ Once we’re able to get people beyond the war issue, the hostility dissipates.”

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Aug. 8, 2006 | 5:40 a.m. ET

Television ad wars

In this titanic battle between Sen. Joe Lieberman and anti-war candidate Ned Lamont, the television air war continued right into the early morning hours of Election Day as voters were sipping their coffee before going to work.

At 5:40 a.m. on the ABC affiliate in Hartford, a Lieberman ad was running.  The entire ad consisted of excerpts from his speech in East Haven on Sunday night in which he told voters he’s not an “enabler” for President Bush, as the New York Times editorial endorsing his rival Ned Lamont called Lieberman.

“I’m the only Democrat in fact to have run against Bush in a national election,” he says in the ad. “As someone who voted for the war, I feel a heavy personal responsibility to end it as quickly and successfully as possible.”

He even mentions his opponent by name, a relative rarity in a political ad: “I don’t need to be lectured by Ned Lamont or anyone else about the importance of encouraging and respecting dissent.”

It’s a simple ad which hinges entirely on Lieberman’s personality and how voters feel about him at this point.

A few minutes later the same ad runs on the NBC affiliate in Hartford, WVIT. A few minutes after that, Lamont’s “wishing well” ad runs on WVIT, with Lamont saying a child should not have to wish that his mom and dad “won’t be shipped off to war.”

The weather is perfect: low humidity, sunshine, high temperature expected to be 85 degrees. No reason not to have a big turnout.

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Aug. 7, 2006 | 7:17 p.m. ET

What to call Lieberman?

One has never been quite sure what to call Joe Lieberman- Republicat? Demolican? George Bush’s enabler? But, if the polls as of the moment are even remotely accurate, it looks like we’ll soon be calling him the ex-senator from Connecticut?

Of course, it’s conceivable that Lieberman will follow through on his intemperate threat to run as an independent should he lose the Democratic primary to Ned Lamont. But don’t bet on it. If Joe were to somehow have a part in leaving the Senate in Republican hands, his Democratic colleagues would trash his office. He’d be persona non grata in his own state. He’d have to change his name to “Bobby Joe” and move to Alabama.

Lieberman has for some time been an object of suspicion within the Democratic Party, particularly among those actually willing to identify themselves as liberal. Watching his “debate” with Dick Cheney during the 2000 Presidential Race, you got the creepy feeling Joe wished he was Cheney’s running mate instead of Gore’s. You kept waiting for him to cradle Dick’s feet in his lap and begin kneading his toes. When the Florida debacle erupted, Joe seemed a bit too eager to concede, offering his opinion that overseas ballots from voters in the armed services (likely favoring the Republican ticket) should be accepted basically without questions. Didn’t anyone tell Joe that the point of running for office was to win?

Lieberman has been strenuously protesting over the past few days that he’s “not George Bush”. True enough, he’s pro-choice and pro stem cell research among other things. But this race, like so many others, is about Iraq. He can claim that he’d have conducted the war differently than the president, but most Democratic (and many Independent) voters in his state will stand for nothing less than a full repudiation of the decision to invade and occupy, something Lieberman is unable to deliver. He may not “be” George Bush, but he’s having a hard time wiping George’s lipstick off his cheek. As it stands, unaffiliated Connecticut voters have been registering Democratic by the thousands, apparently just to vote against Joe.

Not that he’s entirely without friends. Bill Clinton has stumped for him. Of course, there are friends and then there are “friends.” It can hardly be reassuring to any Democratic politician when Newt Gingrich rides to his defense. Yet there was Newt, all over the tube, sticking up for Joe by rhetorically likening fed-up Connecticut voters to the Iraqi insurgency. Lieberman’s challenger Ned Lamont may be many things, but it’s doubtful he’s actually a member of a sectarian militia.

There was a time when being a “centrist democrat”- socially liberal; hawkish on defense- was a viable position. But with extreme partisans of the far right willing to tar decorated war heroes as traitors for not imbibing the neo-con Kool-Aid, that stance has become increasingly untenable. Once upon a time, in the months after 9/11, Joe Lieberman’s embrace of President Bush and his avid support for the war in Iraq might have seemed politically wise. But that feels like a long time ago now. There have been too many misrepresentations of the facts revealed since then, too many arrogant mistakes unacknowledged. Someone has to pay for all that, and it looks like Connecticut voters have decided to start with Joe.

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Aug. 7, 2006 | 1:48 p.m. ET

Why Connecticut matters
Kicking off the primary season in a big way, host of “Hardball” and MSNBC's election anchor, Chris Matthews, will cover the Connecticut primary from NBC’s WVIT-TV New Haven studios Tuesday, August 8 all day and into the evening.  He will host two live “Hardball with Chris Matthews” shows at 5:00 p.m. and 7 p.m. (ET) and the "Hardball" 2006 Netcast with election results and analysis with MSNBC's Joe Scarborough and Mike Barnicle live on

Connecticut gets to do something Tuesday that the rest of us can’t: vote on the Iraq War.

Take me.  I live in Maryland, a state that always goes Democratic for US Senate.  My vote is not decisive. 

You live in a Blue State?  You face the same problem.

You live in a Red State, you face the same problem.

I have the same problem with my vote for US Congress.  I live in Montgomery County, a predictably Democratic area.

(Very few congressional districts are “in play” this election because of gerrymandering and other factors).  My vote for Congress is not decisive, just like my vote for US Senate is not decisive.

But the voters up in Connecticut will have a decisive say this year. On Tuesday night they get to say where they stand on the American decision to invade Iraq.

If they vote for Lieberman in the primary, they’re saying one thing.  If they vote for Lamont, they’re saying another.  Try complicating it if you will, but that’s the way the world will read it. 

As the British say, a vote for Ned Lamont is a “no confidence” vote on the Lieberman, Bush, the decision to invade and occupy Iraq. 

Every vote counts.  Whoever wins and by how much will be an international story reported and analyzed around the world.

I find it refreshing that we Americans can have the vivid chance to vote on the most profound decision of the Bush presidency.  As we push democracy in Iraq, it’s a joy to seeing it so vigorously practiced here at home - especially up in Connecticut!

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Aug. 7, 2006 | 1:48 p.m. ET

Parachuting into a political war zone

Flying into Hartford this morning I feel like I’m parachuting into a political war zone.  It may be only a primary in a small state, but the battle here will have repercussions across the nation—for both parties.

The Quinnipiac poll has Lamont’s lead at 6 now—down from 13 just three days ago, and Lieberman is finally (what took him so long?) on the offensive on Iraq.  And with his organizational advantage, there’s still a chance he can pull this out.

But perhaps more important than polls and GOTV (get out the vote) right now is what this means nationally.  Is the anti-war wing of the Democratic Party now so powerful, so energized, that all Dems who support the war do so at their peril? Is this issue potentially fatal for Hillary Clinton’s presidential prospects? Or can she keep war critics at bay by beating up on Bush and Rumsfeld over their CONDUCT of the war? Will Russ Feingold, who voted against the war, or even Al Gore, who expressed grave doubts early, find themselves getting more attention for 2008? And does this race throw only the Democrats into turmoil or is it evidence of the political power of the anti-war message—and does that mean yet more worry for Republicans over a possible anti-war tide sweeping them out of power in Congress in November? Those are some of the questions we’ll be asking over the next few days here in Connecticut, though let’s face it—whatever happens here, what it really means will take weeks or months to figure it all out.

July 31, 2006 | 11:55 a.m. ET

Bush's talent: subverting the truth

In case you hadn’t noticed, President Bush has a tendency to say things that aren’t exactly true. This is a longstanding habit. Remember, he was all for restricting greenhouse gasses…until he took office. Iraq posed a “grave” threat to the U.S.,…only it didn’t. We’ve found weapons of mass destruction there…except we haven’t.  His tax cuts have reduced income inequality…in truth, well, don’t get me started.

Mr. Bush’s latest diversion into the realm of the forked tongue involves our prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In June, standing in the Rose Garden, Bush said, “I’d like to close Guantanamo,” leaving the impression he might actually be planning to do such a thing.

At that moment, his statement left room for hope that the administration was not entirely impervious to reality. “Gitmo” had already become a travesty, an affront to democratic principles, a source of national shame. The Supreme Court, which had already rejected a “blank-check” wartime presidency, was about to declare Bush’s planned military tribunals unconstitutional. Our own officers were admitting that most of the detainees were likely guilty of nothing more than bad luck.

Now, we learn that while bush mused about closing down the infamous facility, plans were being realized to expand the prison, the contract having been awarded to - who else? - a Halliburton subsidiary.

Isn’t it past time we realized that whenever Bush or his allies seem to admit an uncomfortable truth, it’s only a tactical retreat. They’re really just trying to get through the day. Then, when we’ve stopped paying attention, they’ll go back to doing what they’re good at: subverting the truth. 

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