Friday's Washington Post put the feisty intra-party Democratic debate on Thursday night between Sen. Joe Lieberman and his ultraliberal opponent, Ned Lamont, on the front page. That's odd, considering the nearby New York Times put the story on A-19. But reporter Shailagh Murray never described Lamont (or his fervent supporters on the hard-left blogs like Daily Kos) as "liberal." In the story's last paragraph, she acknowledged it only as an opponent's questionable charge: "Lieberman has tried to depict him as a pawn of the left."
The Times story accurately pegged the current trend: "anti-war activists and liberal bloggers from across the nation have flocked to Mr. Lamont's aid in hopes of punishing Mr. Lieberman for his centrist politics." Well, accurate at least, until the centrist part: in the latest American Conservative Union voting scores for Congress, Lieberman has compiled scores of eight percent (2005) and zero percent (2004). His lifetime ACU is 17 -- not that "centrist." Murray's story began by merely linking Lamont to the "anti-war movement":
Shunned by many in his own party because of his vigorous support for the war in Iraq, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman clashed in a debate Thursday with a well-financed challenger who has roiled Connecticut politics and turned the Democratic primary into a national test of the antiwar movement.
Murray allowed Lieberman's "pawn of the left" tactic, and noted that Lamont's hard-line insistence on a withdrawal deadline from Iraq is "a view shared by only a small number of Democrats in the Senate." But she preferred to just describe him as anti-war: "Lamont, the great-grandson of a J.P. Morgan chairman and a fresh face in Connecticut politics who is strongly critical of the war."
In Friday's online Post political chat, Murray e-mailed in with her reaction to the race, and she seemed rather defensive toward Lamont, especially on the idea that he might come across as extremely left-wing:
If it's true that Connecticut voters are just plain tired of Lieberman -- the hunch lots of people have, including Lieberman backers -- I'm not sure he helped himself all that much. Lamont was a little green and nervous, a fast talker, but he was pretty articulate and didn't look the part of a lefty lunatic.
Calling Lamont a liberal is not inaccurate. But this answer suggests the Post reporter is skipping over an accurate label so as not to damage his image. Even in Connecticut, the land of Chris Dodd? Post reporter Jim VandeHei, who was the Post reporter officially taking the questions, added that the Lieberman's-in-trouble buzz is rampant:
This is not a position other incumbents envy. That said, polling suggests he holds a double-digit lead, but every dem I have talked with over the past week said the lead is shrinking and that Lieberman's decision to run as independent if needed is concrete evidence he is very nervous about losing to Lamont. It is the best race in the country right now.
That might explain the mysterious front-page placement in the Post. The liberal media is seeking proof that supporting the Iraq war is going to be poison at the polls in 2006, and if that means vanquishing the 2000 vice-presidential nominee, so be it.