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Ned Lamont: Henry Wallace with a Website

By Barry Casselman

First of all, greetings to the new poster boy of the 2006 mid-term US. elections, Ned Lamont, the Democratic Party nominee for the U.S. senate in Connecticut.

Who is Ned Lamont?

He is Henry A. Wallace with a website.

For those boys and girls of the netroots who may not remember who Henry A. Wallace was, here is some background. Born in Iowa to a prosperous family, Wallace became an expert on modern farming. His father was secretary of agriculture under President Warren Harding. President Roosevelt chose Henry A. Wallace to be his secretary of agriculture. Wallace devised innovations in farming and seed corn and made a personal fortune before entering politics. In 1940, President Roosevelt imposed Wallace on a dubious Democratic convention to be his new running mate. From 1941 to 1945, Wallace was vice president of the United States. But Wallace was a mystic and a dupe of the Soviet government. Roosevelt replaced him on the 1944 ticket with Harry Truman, then a Missouri senator. Embittered, Wallace, himself not a communist, ran for president in 1948 as the candidate of the communist- dominated Progressive Party, denouncing U.S. efforts in the Cold War. He came in fourth behind segregationist Strom Thurmond running as the States Rights Party candidate. Arthur Schlesinger has described Wallace as a naive apologist for the Soviet Union. Wallace later repudiated the Progressive Party. He died in obscurity in 1965 in Connecticut.

Ned Lamont does not even have Henry Wallace's acomplishments. He is a rich heir and a political dilettancte. He has held no great office. He is not known for any great ideas. But he is a naif. He is an apologist for the left wing anti-war movement in Connecticut and the U.S. Born in Washington, DC, he grew up in Syosset, New York, and has ended up in Connecticut.

His opponent in the 2006 Connecticut election is a distinguished Democratic U. S. senator, Joe Lieberman. Lieberman's "great sin" is that he followed the principle of foreign policy bipartisanship, the very same policy followed by Senators Harry Truman, Scoop Jackson, Hubert Humphrey and virtually all the great Democrats for the past 65 years. (In those early days, isolationist Republican senators were the ones who pretended there was no threat from encroaching fascism and Stalinism.)

Mr. Lamont is not a pacifist; he says he agreed with the war in Afghanistan. He opposes the war in Iraq and its part in what President Bush says is a long war against islamo-fascist terrorism. Mr. Wallace was U.S. vice president during almost all of World War II; but he opposed the Cold War afterwards, saying that Soviet communism was not a threat.

In the days before the primaries, we were told that Mr. Lamont was going to crush Mr. Lieberman. Polls were indicating a double digits defeat.. Netroots blogs, filled with shrill attacks and their own self-importance, trumpeted a great repudiation of Mr. Lieberman, and a new anti-war political day for the Democratic party with Mr.Lamont. National liberal pundits, trying to transfer their hatred for President Bush to Mr. Lieberman, said it was the beginning of the end for current U.S. foreign policy. Various political wags whispered knowingly that Mr. Lieberman, after results were in, would not even try to run as an independent, so great would be his humiliation.

The results are now in. By less than 4% or about 10,000 votes out of 300,000 cast, Mr. Lieberman lost. Apparently, Connecticut voters, coming out of the intense media hysteria blitz against Mr. Lieberman, were coming back to him in great numbers. Some might compare it to the presidential election of 1968 when Lieberman hero Hubert Humphrey fell just short of victory on election day despite a late surge against Richard Nixon. Most observers of that election agree that Humphrey, if the election were held a few days later, would have won. In 2006 in Connecticut, this might-have-been scenario need not be repeated. As he said he would weeks before the primary, Joe Lieberman will be running in November as an independent.

Nothing is certain, but he has an excellent chance to win this race against Mr.Lamont and a weak Republican candidate. But that is not my concern here.

My concern is what has happened to the national Democratic Party. Senators Reid and Schumer hastily endorsed Mr. Lamont, now certainly the poster boy of the 2006 elections. Good for them. "Party above Principle" is a well-known strategy in American politics. If it isn't a very successful one, it is always seems the safe and ineffective way.

Timing is everything in politics. A day after the Connecticut primary, a huge and frightening terrorist plot against innocent civilian air passengers flying from Great Britain to the U.S. on American airplanes was thwarted and revealed, apparently just before it was to be implemented. Mr. Lamont, whose entire campaign against Mr. Lieberman was his opposition to the war on terror in Iraq, must now tell the voters of Connecticut why he thinks the terrorists must be placated and appeased so that our soldiers can return home precipitously from the Middle East.

Mr. Lamont and his allies also oppose President Bush's surveillance program against terrorism. Since uncovering the plot was aided greatly by this and similar programs in Britain, perhaps Mr. Lamont will now explain his position on surveillance to the voters of Connecticut.

No doubt he and his clever allies in the radical netroots have a good answer, and Mr. Lamont will be hailed all over America as the avatar of peace and freedom, just as Mr. Wallace hoped he would be in 1948.

And what about Democratic U.S. senators and governors who want to be president, most of whom are moderate liberals who do believe in national security and do oppose terrorism? Will they rush in to embrace Mr. Lamont. In 1944, Democrats told President Roosevelt no to Henry A. Wallace, the sitting vice president. Mr. Wallace left office in 1945. A few months later, his successor Harry Truman became president, led the American effort in the Cold War, and was by almost all current assessments, one of our best presidents.

Governor Bill Richardson has now come forward as the first prominent Democrat (and presidential candidate) to publicly call for Mr. Lieberman to withdraw. He is being a "good soldier" for the party, and trying to enhance his 2008 candidacy. Alas, American needs its good soldiers on the war battlefields, not in partisan politics. A statesman has a clear mind and thinks independently. A statesman does not cave in to bullies, be they dictators or radical netroot bloggers. Mr. Richardson fails his first real test. Senator Biden? Governor Warner? Senator Bayh? Senator Clinton?

All wars are terrible and difficult to fight. In 2006, we can see the images of the victims of war transmitted instantly and in horrible detail. No decent person welcomes these frightful images of war. The war in Iraq has become problematic and complex. Mistakes have beem made. The enemy does not play by the rules. In fact, the enemy turns the rules of decency and civilized behavior on their head, hiding their military actions among civilians, in mosques, hospitals and in U.N. vehicles.

All across America, voters will ask themselves this November: Who is more likely to protect them, anti-war appeasers of terrorism or those who would make the hard, sometimes unpleasant, decisions to protect our country?

I repeat what I have been saying for many months. This is not Democrat vs. Republican. Any Democrat who steps up to the plate for American security could have my vote. This is not a partisan question. It is a question about the deepest principles of American life in our own time.

It is certainly not a partisan question for those thousands of innocent Americans who would have been travelling on those planes going from Great Britain to return home.

Barry Casselman writes about national politics for Preludium News Service.

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