the blog of DC Drinking Liberally

July 7, 2006

Schumer and Bush Agree: Lieberman’s Sheer Animal Magnetism Could Lure Them Away From Their Own Parties’ Candidates


You’d think that someone occupying a prominent position within a political party — say, chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee or president of the United States — wouldn’t have to think very long about whether to support that party’s candidate in an election (barring criminality, terminal kookiness, or something equally disastrous). But within the past week both Senator Chuck Schumer and President George Bush have danced around answering the question of whether they’d support their own parties’ candidates if Joe Lieberman decided to run as an independent in the Connecticut Senate Race.

Here’s Schumer, talking to Andrea Mitchell on Sunday’s Meet the Press:

MS. MITCHELL: OK, as campaign chairman, will you now, today, commit to supporting whoever wins that Democratic primary in Connecticut where he is now facing that tough challenge?

SEN. SCHUMER: Well, let me say this, Andrea. Harry Reid, myself, the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, in this primary, are supporting Joe Lieberman. And we’re doing everything we can to help him. I’m not going to speculate on what happens after the primary, because we believe Joe Lieberman is going to win, and it—I’m not going to undermine my candidate by speculating about what might happen afterwards. We think he’s going to win and we’re supporting him in the primaries.

MS. MITCHELL: You’re supporting him even though his position on the war is completely contrary to most, most Democrats?

SEN. SCHUMER: Well, again, the Democratic Party is united in holding the president’s feet to the fire on oversight, but…

MS. MITCHELL: But why won’t you commit today to supporting Joe Lieberman, the former vice presidential nominee?

SEN. SCHUMER: Because…

MS. MITCHELL: You’re basically saying that you will support the Democrat, whoever wins?

SEN. SCHUMER: I am saying that we are supporting Joe Lieberman in the primary…

MS. MITCHELL: But only for the primary.

SEN. SCHUMER: …and we’re not going to speculate about things afterwards because that undermines your candidate. We’re supporting Joe. He’s going to win.

MS. MITCHELL: Are you suggesting that you might not support the Democratic winner?

SEN. SCHUMER: As I said, I am not going to speculate on the future because we’re for Joe Lieberman in this primary.

MS. MITCHELL: We’re talking about what the definition of “is” is here, but…

SEN. SCHUMER: Well, there you go.

MS. MITCHELL: So, Joe Lieberman up through the primary, and then he’s on his own?

SEN. SCHUMER: We’re not speculating after the primary.

MS. MITCHELL: What if he runs as an independent?

SEN. SCHUMER: We’re not speculating after the primary. It doesn’t make sense. When you have a candidate you’re supporting, you don’t say, “What happens if he doesn’t win?”

I don’t understand how Schumer would be undercutting Lieberman or speculating if he simply said, “Of course the DSCC will be supporting the winner of the Democratic primary. That’s its purpose.” If he really wanted, he could even say, “And we expect that winner to be Joe Lieberman.” That answer would be completely unsurprising, and it wouldn’t be news. Instead, Schumer has been refusing to give a straight answer for a couple of weeks, allowing this to blow up into a controversy and causing people to withhold donations to the DSCC out of disgust.

Now here’s Bush talking with Larry King yesterday (via the Ned Lamont for Senate blog) being similarly slippery on the issue of whether he might support an independent Lieberman over the Republican candidate, Alan Schlesinger:

LARRY KING: Move to politics. An unusual situation in Connecticut. Joe Lieberman is running for reelection to the Senate.

He’s in the primary fight, may lose, and has said that if he loses, he might well run as an independent.

He supported you staunchly on Iraq and Iraq is the major issue in that campaign, the primary.

Would you support him if he ran as an independent?

G. BUSH: First, the Democrats have to sort out who their nominee is going to be and that’s going to be up to the Democrats. And the rest of it’s hypothetical.

LARRY KING: But he said he would run as an independent, if he were…

G. BUSH: He also has said he’s going to win his primary.

LARRY KING: I know you like him.

G. BUSH: You’re trying to get me to give him a political kiss, which may be his death.

Bush’s motivations are more complicated, since he’s interested in causing trouble for the Democrats but certainly would prefer that Lieberman win if Schlesinger isn’t a real possibility, but he doesn’t want to help Lieberman among Republicans if Schlesinger might be electable (or maybe he does, since the bipartisan cover Bush gets from Lieberman, and the trouble Lieberman causes for Democrats, might conceivably be worth more than one more Republican Senate seat). And of course Bush has never been good at answering questions clearly. Still, if I were Schlesinger I’d be a bit miffed.

What is this strange power Joe Lieberman has to confuse leaders in both parties about how to answer what should be a straightforward question?

ConnecticutBlog is keeping track of which other Democrats are confused and which aren’t.

post a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.


DCDL is a blog by Washington, DC-area members of Drinking Liberally. Opinions expressed are the writers’, not those of Drinking Liberally, which provides no funding or other support for this blog.

Upcoming Events

See information on the revived DC chapter (2012).

DCDL Member Blogs

DCDL Speaker Links

DC Links

Liberal (Mostly) Blogs

Liberal Groups

Internal Links


Drinking Liberally

Recent Comments

Recent Posts


Search Blog



46 queries. 0.392 seconds