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Lieberman-Lamont vs. Reagan-Carter

Here's my quick summary of the Lieberman-Lamont debate this evening in Connecticut (here's the transcript):

Lamont actually praised Jimmy Carter's infamous cardigan speech.

And Lieberman repeatedly channeled Reagan, telling Lamont: "There you go again."

Here's the slightly longer version:

Joe Lieberman clearly gave the impression of a man fighting for his political life. But he wasn't flailing. He coolly took Lamont apart, limb by limb, revealing the netroots favorite's candidacy as what it is: a childish lashing out by the Democrats' anti-war base at an extraordinarily ill-chosen target.

Lamont has one issue and one issue only: the Iraq war. And it's an issue about which, should he be elected, he would be able to do absolutely nothing. How does he differ substantively from Lieberman on health care, education, dealing with North Korea, Social Security? Hardly at all, despite a lot of blustering during the debate.

In fact, it hardly seems as if Lamont knows anything about national policy, save what his staff has briefed him on. All he has to say is that Lieberman is too close to George W. Bush.

I admit I came in as a Lieberman supporter (one of his many conservative supporters). But in my first prolonged exposure to Lamont I found him deeply unimpressive.

Lieberman was on the attack. He interrupted Lamont repeatedly. And some of his shots were low blows, such as bringing up ludicrously irrelevant votes from Lamont's time on the Greenwich town council.

But, ultimately, Lamont offered no compelling reason for Democratic voters to throw Joe overboard, except to throw a tantrum over their opposition to the Iraq war. Lieberman still believes the war was right. Lamont believes it was a mistake and that Bush misled the country. But Lamont has no clear idea what the U.S. should do next, other than withdraw -- an idea that the vast majority of Americans finds to be unacceptable.

When the topic moved beyond the Iraq war and Lieberman's decision to prepare for an independent run (awk-ward!), Mr. Joementum did an excellent job of painting himself as the adult -- understanding that any big piece of legislation involves tradeoffs and skilled at bringing home the bacon to the Nutmeg State.

If I were Lieberman, I would try to squeeze as many debates in as possible between now and August 8.