The following are the answers to six questions I recently submitted to Sen. Joe Lieberman. I'd like to thank the senator and his campaign for their assistance.
Q: I'm sure you're well aware of the well-publicized potential campaign of Ned Lamont of Greenwich, whose focus is opposition to the Iraq War. What do you think of Mr. Lamont and the prospect of a Democratic primary? Are you concerned?
A: The good people of Connecticut have elected me to represent them three times and I hope I have earned their support a fourth time. But I do not take anything for granted and I intend to continue to work hard to earn that support. I am accustomed to having opponents and I am ready for any challenge. I play to win – every time.
Q: If there is a primary, which is looking more and more likely, what reasons can you give Connecticut Democrats to vote for you instead of Mr. Lamont, former Gov. Weicker or another antiwar candidate?
A: Before I was even an elected official, back in the early 1960s, I went to Mississippi to help in the fight for voting rights for African Americans. It’s who I was, am, and will always be. For almost 18 years now, I have been a fierce advocate for the people of Connecticut, and I’ve been fighting for the progressive principles that are the foundation of the Democratic Party for more than 40 years. I have taken on a lot of tough fights—to save jobs, to secure funding for local projects, and to protect our environment. But there is still more to do. The future of the Long Island Sound is at stake, local jobs are being threatened by big corporate mergers and overseas competition, women’s privacy rights are under siege, our school children are being shortchanged by the Republican majorities in Washington, and this Administration and Congress have been relentlessly assaulting the basic rights of working men and women to organize and bargain collectively.
Let me be clear on the issue of Iraq. Like everyone, I want to bring our troops home. But, in order to do that, we have to establish a functioning and democratic Iraq - as opposed to the despotic dictatorship that once represented a dire threat to the Middle East, and the rest of the world. At this particular stage, our troops are essential to achieving that goal but I believe that substantial troop reductions can occur this year as Iraqi security forces become more capable and the new Iraqi government assumes the responsibility for governing Iraq.
Q: Many Democrats in Connecticut, including the Manchester town committee, are perplexed by your continuing support for the war. Is there anything you can say to these Democrats to win back their support?
A: In my many decades of public service I have always been guided by my core values and tried to do what I think is right for Connecticut and right for the country. That sometimes means that I am going to make decisions that others on the left or right don't agree with, and I respect the diversity of their opinions.
I’m going to say to people who disagree with my position on the war, “Let’s talk about it and I’ll hope you’ll conclude, whether you agree with me or not, that I’ve been talking about this for a long time now because I sincerely believe it is the right thing for our country.”
I also hope and expect that Connecticut’s Democrats will consider the totality of my service to Connecticut and to the Party, rather than basing their opinions on our differences over one issue. The Democratic Party has always had diversity and inclusiveness as part of its core beliefs and that value is one of the reasons I’ve been proud lifelong Democrat. Our Party is not, or should not be, about litmus tests on any particular issue, including the war in Iraq.
Q: Democrats have failed to win control of either the House, the Senate or the White House for three successive national elections. In your mind, what must the party do to be successful in 2006?
A: If Democrats are ever going to want to get back in power we’ve got to come up with a positive constructive program, particularly on security. We are going to have to reassure the American people that that Democrats will use the power of our government to protect people’s security in a dangerous age. National security is what government, particularly the federal government, is about before anything else and unless we reassure them, the public is never going to listen to us on everything else, including a lot of stuff that I think they agree with Democrats on such as investing in education, ensuring universal access to health care, and protecting the environment.
Q: You voted against the confirmation of Judge Samuel Alito, but did not support a filibuster attempt. Why? Do you still believe that this was the right course of action to take?
As I said in my floor statement to announce my opposition to the nomination, I reviewed Judge Alito’s lengthy record I was left with profound doubts about whether he will protect and advance the Supreme Court’s constitutional role as the single institution in our government that our Founders freed from popular political passions so that it could protect the rights our founding documents give to every American. Personal freedom and equal opportunity are America’s core ideals, and our Courts have been and must be the great advancers and protectors of those ideals. The accumulation of his personal statements during the 1980s when he was a government attorney, and his 15 years of judicial opinions, caused me to fear that Judge Alito will diminish the Supreme Court’s role as the ultimate guarantor of individual liberty in our country.
As you know, I did vote for cloture on Judge Alito’s nomination. As part of my agreement with the Gang of 14 I agreed to filibuster only in extraordinary circumstances. Though I strongly opposed Judge Alito’s nomination, I did not find that the situation met the extraordinary circumstances threshold. Unfortunately, it was clear the nomination was going to pass and I felt it was time to move on to other Senate business that affects our state.
Q: Do you believe military action will be necessary against Iran?
Well, I think most of the world agrees that the security and stability of the world are threatened by Iran’s program to develop nuclear weapons. For two years, the EU – in coordination with the U.S. -- has engaged in a vigorous and conscientious engagement with Iran. Unfortunately, the Government of Iran has responded by reneging on multiple treaty obligations and other pledges, and continuing to push forward with their nuclear program.
Of course all options for dealing with Iran’s quest to develop nuclear weapons should remain on the table. But there are diplomatic and economic options that should be our priority and that can succeed. Given the recent agreement among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council that Iran will be “reported” to that body, I urge our respective governments to pursue vigorous measures under UN auspices to induce Tehran to abandon its aspiration for a nuclear arsenal. However, should the efforts at the United Nations fail, then we in the transatlantic community must be ready to apply a cohesive regime of sanctions against Iran in an economic coalition of the willing.
We must engage in more vigorous outreach to the Iranian people, who hear only the official drumbeat of a nuclear program as a source of national pride. We must support more energetic assistance to pro-democracy dissidents inside of Iran, and the dedication of far more resources for broadcast and electronic outreach to the Iranian people, who by all accounts, remain alienated from the fanatical clique that rules them.
(Note: These questions were submitted by myself and answered by Sen. Lieberman between 1/24/2006 and 3/9/2006.)