Nutmeg Smackdown: Lieberman v. Lamont

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Lamont: A Jack Russell to Lieberman's Shar-Pei

The first five minutes into the Lieberman/Lamont debate last night it seemed like the three-term senator was going to squash bug-eyed, nervous Neddy. Gone was the ponderous, priggish, sonorous senator who predictably failed to generate any'Joementum' for his 2004 campaign. Here, instead, he was a fighter:

I know George Bush. I have worked against George Bush. I have even run against George Bush. But, Ned, I'm not George Bush. So why don't you stop running against him and have the courage and honesty to run against me and the facts of my record?

I'm a Democrat with a 35-year record of fighting for progressive causes, for the middle class, for civil rights, for women's rights, for human rights and a lot more. I voted with my Senate Democratic colleagues 90 percent of the time. And when I have disagreed, I have had the courage of my convictions to say so. That's who I am. That's who I have been. And that's what I offer Connecticut voters.

But after a few moments, this convincing bull-dog mask began to slip, revealing the sleepy, self-entitled Shar-Pei underneath. Lieberman, the tired scold came droning back to the fore. He bragged repeatedly about the lucrative benefits of his seniority, culminating in his decidedly non-Kosher defense of pork: "Earmarks are great for Connecticut." Whoa!

With those words, Lieberman revealed himself as compromised establishment politician, the kind of man who would sell the nation up river on the fantastically awful energy bill, the one that gave billions to the price-gouging oil companies and stripped the nation of vital environmental protections, because the bill was able to "save Connecticut electricity customers $800 million. Would you have voted against that?"

Lamont, in his finest moment, called a spade a spade:

LAMONT: Look, you want to boast about how many earmarks you bring to the state of Connecticut? Alaska gets 10 times what we do. We're not doing very well on that front. But more importantly, I think we should outlaw these earmarks. I think they corrupt the political process. I think they are written by lobbyists and they're wrong.

Overall, Lamont remained antsy throughout. But despite the nerves, he found his footing far more quickly than you might have expected from a former selectman from Greenwich. He took a few hits on the consistency of his anti-war stance — though he was helped by Lieberman's lack of deftness in hammering home the point: "There you go," Lieberman stretched, "You have just taken a sixth position" on Iraq.

But Lamont certainly emerged as fresh and principled, agile and energetic. A Jack Russell to Lieberman's Shar-Pei. And he got off the line of the night, even if he didn't deliver it well, responding to Lieberman's persistent crosstalk with the barb: "This isn't Fox News, sir."

Overall, I think Kos nailed it, and revealed perhaps more than he intended, with this assessment:

Lieberman may have technically won the debate, but he did so using tactics so ugly that Lamont was the sentimental favorite.

My guess? We'll be saying the same thing of this primary after the vote in August.