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2006-08-09

Ralph Nader on Lamont’s Antiwar Win in Connecticut Primary and Lieberman’s Vow to Run as an Independent

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Three-term Sen. Joe Lieberman lost Connecticut’s Democratic primary last night in one of the most closely-watched races in the country. He was defeated by Ned Lamont, a wealthy a telecommunications executive who has run largely on an antiwar platform. Lieberman has vowed to run as an independent candidate. We speak with former independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader. [includes rush transcript]

Three-term Senator Joe Lieberman lost Connecticut’s Democratic primary last night in one of the most closely-watched races in the country. He was defeated by Ned Lamont, a wealthy a telecommunications executive who has run largely on an anti-Iraq war platform.

Lamont won with 52 percent of the vote to Lieberman’s 48%. Voter turnout was close to 40 percent, nearly twice the norm for a primary. The race drew national attention as a measure of public sentiment over the Iraq war.

Lieberman is only the fourth incumbent senator to lose his party’s nomination since 1980. His loss comes just six years after he was the Democratic party’s vice presidential candidate in 2000. He has been harshly criticized for his vocal support of the Iraq war and his continued opposition to an immediate U.S. troop withdrawal. He has also been taken to task for his perceived closeness to President Bush and other Republicans.

Lieberman publicly conceded the Democratic primary Tuesday night shortly after 11pm. He promised his supporters to run for a fourth term as an independent candidate.

  • Sen. Joe Lieberman, speaking to supporters, August 8, 2006.

To run as an independent, Lieberman must file petitions with 7,500 valid signatures by the end of the day on Wednesday. Ned Lamont will face Republican Alan Schlesinger in November, a former state legislator seen as little threat. In his victory speech, Lamont said he would push for a withdrawal of US forces from Iraq.

  • Ned Lamont, Democratic challenger, speaking to supporters, August 8, 2006.

We speak with Ralph Nader, he ran for president twice as a third party candidate–in 2000 and 2004.

  • Ralph Nader, two-time independent presidential candidate. He is also the most prominent consumer advocate in the country.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Lieberman publicly conceded the Democratic primary Tuesday night shortly after 11:00 p.m. He promised his supporters to run for a fourth term as an independent candidate.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: Tomorrow morning, our campaign will file the necessary petitions with the Connecticut Secretary of State’s office, so that we can continue this campaign for a new politics of unity and purpose. If the people of Connecticut are good enough to send me back to Washington as an independent Democrat, I promise them I will keep fighting for the same progressive new ideas and for stronger national security. That’s who I am.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Lieberman, speaking to his supporters Tuesday night. To run as an independent, he must file petitions with 7,500 valid signatures by the end of today. Ned Lamont will face Republican Alan Schlesinger in November, a former state legislator seen as little threat. In his victory speech, Lamont said he would push for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

NED LAMONT: We have 132,000 of our bravest troops stuck in the middle of a bloody civil war in Iraq, and I say it’s high time we bring them home to the hero’s welcome!

CROWD: Bring them home! Bring them home! Bring them home!

NED LAMONT: It’s time we fix George Bush’s failed foreign policy. President Kennedy said it so well. As President Kennedy has said, "We never negotiate from fear, but we should never be afraid to negotiate." As your senator, I’m going to make sure we have the strongest army on the face of this earth, but I also know that America’s strongest when we work in concert with our allies, when we stay true to our values and we deal with the rest of the world with respect! With respect!

AMY GOODMAN: Ned Lamont, Democratic Senate candidate for Connecticut, speaking last night, his victory address. As we turn now to Ralph Nader. He was an independent candidate for president. You have welcomed Joseph Lieberman to the ranks of third parties, Ralph Nader.

RALPH NADER: Yes. I think that his entry as an independent candidate will diminish some of the chronic opposition by the Democrats to anybody who expresses their First Amendment right and runs as an independent or a third party candidate, like a Green candidate.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the success of Ned Lamont, talk about this whole campaign, as you speak to us today from Connecticut?

RALPH NADER: Well, I think it’s a testament to word of mouth, Amy. This whole campaign started without any expose, without any major 60-minute program, without any ecological disaster that the Democrats have ignored. It started in small towns around the state, with people talking to one another in the post office, meeting in living rooms, and that developed an aura of possibility that caught the attention of Ned Lamont. And, of course, it helped that he had lot of money to spend and he had some good campaign managers.

But basically, it’s a testament to the power of the word of mouth, which historically has always been the generic source of progressive movements, whether it was in the farmer populist days or in the labor union organizing days. And I think that’s a message throughout the country for progressives. This Lamont victory is certainly going to give a lot of morale boost to beleaguered progressives in the Democratic Party to try their hand at challenging incumbents or running for various offices at the local, state and national level, and I think in New York State, it should bring more people to rally to Tasini’s campaign against Hillary Clinton in the Senate Democratic primary there. I expect to see some activists and celebrities, maybe Jesse Jackson, maybe a number of others around the country now to come to his candidate support.

AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, Jesse Jackson wrote a piece in the Chicago Sun-Times saying, "Joe Lieberman has been in the Senate for 18 years. He’s a leader of the Democratic Leadership Council, the money wing of the party. He became the party’s vice presidential nominee, even as he championed the DLC’s 'triangulating' politics, pushing off of the Democratic Party base to demonstrate his 'independence' by embracing key elements of the conservative agenda — championing the war in Iraq, attacking affirmative action, pushing capital gains tax cuts that benefit only the very wealthy." Can you talk about Senator Lieberman saying, while he agreed with the Bush administration over the Iraq war, that he has taken a progressive stance on many other issues?

RALPH NADER: Well, Senator Lieberman would have lost even bigger last night if Lamont’s people actually expanded their criticism of Senator Lieberman as big business’s favorite Democratic senator, not just George Bush’s favorite Democratic senator.

The most aggressive, cruel and insensitive business lobby and the most powerful in Washington is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and they have enthusiastically endorsed Senator Joseph Lieberman, one of only two Democratic senators they’ve endorsed out of 46 Democratic senators. And they have given him the highest cumulative score in their ranking of any Democratic senator in the Northeast, and for good reason.

He has supported the U.S. Chamber of Commerce positions, not only on capital gains tax cuts, he supported NAFTA and WTO and CAFTA, which have depleted jobs here, high-paying jobs here in Connecticut. He has supported the Chamber’s drive to weaken the rights of injured workers and consumers and defrauded investors from having their full day in court against the perpetrators of their misery.

He has supported the Exxon-Cheney energy bill, that notorious energy bill that was signed into law last year that subsidized big oil’s profiteering, weakened environmental standards in a variety of ways and made sure that there were no further advances in fuel efficiency for motor vehicles. And here in Connecticut, like everywhere else, they’re paying $3.40–$3.50 a gallon, and it’s going up. So he hasn’t done anything on that.

And then, finally, on the labor issue, he’s not been outspoken on the minimum wage like Senator Kennedy. He has not pushed for labor law reform to give workers a chance to organize. He has not gone after OSHA because of its weak enforcement of the Occupational Safety and Health laws. 58,000 American workers die every year, according to OSHA, from worker-related diseases and trauma.

So, in many, many ways, including never challenging the military budget — that’s the Chamber of Commerce position, as well — never really in 18 years advancing universal health insurance. That’s a Chamber of Commerce provision.

So, you know, the question I ask Joe Lieberman is, is he going to repudiate publicly the Chamber of Commerce’s endorsement and campaign support — lots of money from businesses in his campaign — and is he going to challenge the Chamber of Commerce’s drive all over the United States in hundreds of campaigns, working overtime to undermine his own Democratic Party and its more progressive candidates? Well, calls to four Lieberman offices in Washington and Connecticut last week received no answer to the question: Joe Lieberman, are you going to reject the Chamber of Commerce’s endorsement of you?

So, he goes around, including this morning, saying he’s a progressive Democrat and a progressive independent Democrat. So I think the struggle is going to be between the progressive Democrats and the corporate Democrats, who for years have dominated the party and has had Joe Lieberman as one of their charter members.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Ralph Nader, himself an independent presidential candidate in 2004. Now, Joseph Lieberman says he’ll run against the Democratic Party’s pick for senator of Connecticut. Again, Ned Lamont has won the Democratic primary in Connecticut, a case that is a primary that has been closely watched around the country. When we come back from break, Ralph Nader will stay with us, and we’ll be joined by Jonathan Tasini. He’s challenging Hillary Rodham Clinton here in New York for her Senate seat.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: The Connecticut primary race is seen as a measure of voter sentiment around the Iraq war, and it’s being watched around the country, perhaps no place more than right here in New York, where Democracy Now! broadcasts from, with the New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. As Lamont gained in popularity and clearly looked like he was moving towards victory, Hillary Rodham Clinton was becoming more talkative about the Iraq war. Last week, at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, she questioned Rumsfeld and said that she thought he should resign. Senator Lieberman said he had said that two-and-a-half years ago.

Well, we are staying on the line right now from Connecticut with Ralph Nader, an independent presidential candidate in 2004. Again, Joseph Lieberman has announced he will run for the Senate seat that he has held for 18 years as an independent against Ned Lamont and the Republican. And we’re joined in our New York studio by Jonathan Tasini. He is challenging Hillary Rodham Clinton for her Senate seat. We invited Hillary Rodham Clinton on today’s broadcast. Her office did not respond to our call.

Jonathan Tasini, Ralph Nader just mentioned the issue of money. How do you compare yourself to Ned Lamont, who just won in Connecticut?

JONATHAN TASINI: Well, I’m not a multimillionaire, that’s for sure. Ned Lamont was, I guess, fortunate enough to have been a cable executive, was able to spend more than $4 million of his own money. We rely on individual donors and small donors all across the state and, frankly, all across the country, and I think that’s really the essence of democracy. One of the things that wasn’t pointed out and, I think, you know, Ralph pointed out before, it’s not an inconsequential thing in this victory that Ned Lamont was able to spend $4 million. That’s the way you get on television. That’s the way you can advertise. But we’ve had an amazing grassroots campaign that got us on the ballot, so I’m very proud of the kind of campaign we’ve been running.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about the coverage of your campaign and read a quote. The local Time Warner station in New York, NY1, has refused to set up a debate between you and Senator Clinton, because you haven’t spent enough money in your campaign. We invited NY1 to join us on today’s program, but they declined. The station’s public relations manager, Edward Pachetti, though, sent us this statement outlining their position. He said, "NY1 News is producing the most ambitious series of political debates and town hall meetings this election season. As part of the staging of these events, NY1 established criteria to identify which candidates would be invited to participate in these events. The criteria are that a candidate must poll at least five percent (including margin of error) in a recognized independent poll and would need to have spent and/or raised $500,000. All candidates who have met these criteria have been invited to participate." That’s the statement of NY1, which is owned by Time Warner. What are your poll numbers, Jonathan Tasini?

JONATHAN TASINI: Well, we’re actually at 13%, which is pretty extraordinary. That’s actually the number that Ned Lamont was at several months ago, when Joe Lieberman was leading that race by 55 points. And the reason we’re, I think, at that number is we’ve had an amazing grassroots campaign. To get on the ballot in New York, which is one of the most difficult states to get on the ballot, you need 15,000 signatures. We were able to gather 40,000, which means we have an enormous amount of support from the grassroots.

And I find that criteria that NY1 is putting out is appalling. It is anti-democratic. It amounts to essentially censorship. It takes and values money over the power of people and grassroots. I hope that NY1 changes, might we actually ask your listeners and your viewers to call NY1. You can go to our website tasinifornewyork.org and get all that information. But we need to pressure NY1 now to hold a debate between myself and Hillary Rodham Clinton, because voters deserve to see our positions side-by-side before they go to the ballot box.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, interestingly, NY1’s parent company, which is Time Warner, has contributed — is one of the top contributors to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign, contributed — what? — $100,000, was number six of the top ten.

JONATHAN TASINI: Yes, that’s correct. It’s amazing.

AMY GOODMAN: Newsday today also, in an editorial comment, says that NY1 should reconsider its criteria. You’ve been dealing with this for years, Ralph Nader. Your response.

RALPH NADER: I think the Time Warner Corporation should be in trouble under the 1934 Communications Act. I know that Time Warner owns over-the-air radio and TV stations, and this — NY1 is a cable, Amy. Is it a cable station?

AMY GOODMAN: Yes, NY1 is cable in New York.

RALPH NADER: So, overall, this company’s responsible, under the 1934 Communications Act, "to perform in the public interest, necessity and convenience." Those are the words in the act. And for this corporation, whose executives are giving to Hillary Rodham Clinton money, to have a means test to say that Jonathan Tasini has to raise $500,000 — do you know that you have to raise only one-third of that running for president in order to qualify for matching funds under the federal law? And so, they put the bar very high. They should have no right as a corporation, which is not a human being, not a person, to determine that kind of access. The only criteria that’s justifiable is whether the candidate is on the ballot. If the candidate is a ballot-qualified candidate, that should bring that person into any of the debates.

JONATHAN TASINI: I completely agree with Ralph and, in fact, the League of Women Voters has a debate scheduled on September 6, which I’ve agreed to attend and Hillary Clinton has not, and the criteria they’re using is exactly what Ralph says, which is getting on the ballot, which, in fact, in New York State is a very difficult thing. And I want to say, I don’t even think the polling number is right the way to go. Their criteria at NY1 is 5%. I’m at 13%. But If somebody came to the debate and was running as another candidate in this race, I would stand up for their right, if they were legally on the ballot, to be in this debate, whether they had 5% or not, whether they had raised $500,000, because democracy is about the ability to go out there, talk to people, get them to sign your petitions. It’s an amazing grassroots effort.

And I think, frankly, that the Clinton campaign does not want to debate us. Putting aside the NY1 issue just for a moment, I call on Hillary Clinton to agree to the set of debates that we’ve proposed in a letter just a couple of weeks ago. I’m happy to debate her on this program, anywhere that she would agree to do that. I think we should debate multiple times on the Iraq war, on the Middle East, on her relationships to corporate power, her support for free trade agreements like NAFTA. The voters deserve to know where she stands. She cannot run and hide from the voters in New York.

AMY GOODMAN: She called for Rumsfeld’s resignation this past week.

JONATHAN TASINI: Yes, but that’s like — you know, that’s like hitting a piñata. That was easy. I hope the debate in this election comes down to the following: whether the war was run ineffectively, inefficiently, which is her argument, and whether this war should have happened or not, because I believe the voters will then support my position, which is this war was illegal and immoral, we should withdraw immediately — not Hillary Clinton’s position, which is essentially, well, we should have had 500,000 troops there or bombed Iraq even harder. That’s her argument, that the Bush administration has bungled this war. I hope we get to debate the differences on that issue.

AMY GOODMAN: Have you seen her changing as a result of the Connecticut primary?

JONATHAN TASINI: Well, there’s no question that she took that — the attempt — she challenged Rumsfeld, because of the race in Connecticut. And let’s remember, Bill Clinton crossed the border to go campaign for Joe Lieberman. Remember, Joe Lieberman was the man who came to the Senate floor and condemned Bill Clinton for his affair with Monica Lewinsky. There is no love lost between them. The only reason that Bill Clinton crossed this border to go to Connecticut was this race here in New York, because they worry that I am where the voters are, and I know that from the polling. I know that from talking to people on the streets, that the majority of voters support my position, not Hillary Clinton’s.

AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, beyond your position here in New York, if Hillary Rodham Clinton has her eye on the presidency, in terms of the whole country, and the sentiment around it.

RALPH NADER: Also, I might add, Amy, there needs to be a debate on the war in Iraq and on the war in Lebanon after the primary, and I’m sure that NY1 and the Democratic politicos are going to try to freeze out third party antiwar candidates like Howie Hawkins of the Green Party from Syracuse, who is running against Hillary Rodham Clinton for the U.S. Senate, a very accomplished civic organizer, a Teamster, a writer, and just the kind of person who can present, after the primary’s over, a continuation of this public debate. So I really hope the people in New York State will rise up for a vigorous debate and not give Hillary Rodham Clinton a free ride.

AMY GOODMAN: Jonathan Tasini, what about the war in Lebanon? What is your view right now on the conflict?

JONATHAN TASINI: Well, just a little background for your viewers. My father was born in what was then Palestine, fought in the Israeli underground. A cousin of mine was killed in the 1973 War. My step-grandfather was murdered by a Palestinian who was taking revenge for the massacre that Baruch Goldstein conducted against the Muslim worshippers that very day. So I felt the cost of war in a very personal way. And I have been very saddened by Israel’s response. I believe Hezbollah did break the law, international law, and at the same time, I think that the Israeli response was, particularly the bombing campaign in Beirut, was disproportionate.

I often hearken back, startlingly enough, to Ariel Sharon, who, when the Israeli businessman was kidnapped some time ago, rather than conduct a war, he actually engaged in negotiations and freed prisoners that Israel had kept, and there was no war between Hezbollah and Israel at the time. Why could we not negotiate? And the United States was the only country that did everything possible to prevent a ceasefire. Condoleezza Rice was sent by George Bush to Rome to scuttle that ceasefire, and Hillary Rodham Clinton stopped just short of saying, "Let the bombs fall." She abrogated her responsibility as a leading figure in the Democratic Party and, I believe, fanned the flames of violence in the Middle East.

AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, you are a Lebanese American.

RALPH NADER: Well, first I want to say, I’ve rarely seen a more compassionate and brave candidate for a public office in this country on this issue than Jonathan Tasini, and he needs to be not only commended, but supported for this. He represents the best of the peace movement in our country. Given the background that he’s just described, he could very easily have become a hawk.

Second, I think this is a massive high-tech terror war by the Israeli government against an innocent Lebanese people and their livelihood and infrastructure. Hezbollah was engaged in a number of skirmishes with the Israeli Army over the last six years. Israel, of course, violated the Lebanese border far more, airily and navally and on land, than Hezbollah did. But that lethal skirmish was turned into a catastrophic war by the Israeli government against the innocent, defenseless people of Lebanon, in three stages of state terrorism.

First, direct strikes against residential areas, against wheat silos, against highways, water systems, power stations, hospitals, schools, the vehicles fleeing with refugees. We’ve seen it all on TV.

The second stage of Israeli state terrorism is deliberately impeding the rescue of the injured people, bombing, for example, ambulances on their way to the hospital, cutting off roads, preventing medical supplies and hospital workers from reaching the terrified injured in the remnants of the bleeding families. We saw Doctors Without Borders trying to manually convey across the Litani River, after the last bridge was destroyed, medical supplies.

And the third stage of Israeli state terrorism is direct strikes against rescue workers or injured people; for example, hitting at hospitals, ambulances, medical supplies, etc. You know, these are not just impeding rescue by blockading the whole country, which has now only six days left of fuel, including hospitals, but also going after rescue operations.

So I would recommend, in addition to a ceasefire, in addition to withdrawal of combatants, in addition to an international peace force, I would recommend an immediate international rescue operation, because thousands of people are going to die and get sick and get injured from the consequences of what has already been done in Lebanon in the blockade of any entry of supplies.

It’s hard to find a situation anywhere in the world where, after the devastation by one all-powerful party to a conflict of innocent civilians and their entire public services throughout a defenseless country, that this powerful agent anywhere in the world would be allowed to block relief efforts. And that’s what has to be done right now: relief efforts. It’s not enough that Israel has created an environmental disaster by blowing up oil depots that have contaminated the entire coast of Lebanon, but they also blew up 400 little fishing boats in a port north of Beirut and destroyed the livelihood of these people.

So, we really have to ask ourselves, in settling the core problem between the Palestinians and the Israelis — and that is what the core problem is; if that was settled, you wouldn’t hear about Hezbollah — who’s the most powerful of the adversaries? Who is the occupier and the colonizer of whose land? And who has the all-out support of the most powerful country in the world, the U.S. government? And we know the answers to that. It’s Israel, and it’s Israel who should have responded in June, as Gideon Levy pointed out and others in Ha’aretz, to the agreement between Hamas and Fatah, the Palestinian arm, who agreed to seek a permanent settlement with the Israeli government, in terms of a two-state solution.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to Israel in a minute. We’re going to hear from people who are refusing to serve in the Israeli military. But Jonathan Tasini, ten seconds, last comment.

JONATHAN TASINI: Well, there’s an enormous amount of violence in the region. We need a ceasefire. There have been civilian casualties on all sides, and it’s horrifying. It must stop. I’m going to continue arguing the points in this campaign. I urge people to help us and support our campaign and go to our website tasinifornewyork.org.

AMY GOODMAN: And we will link at democracynow.org. Jonathan Tasini, thank you for joining us, a New York Senatorial candidate in the Democratic primary. He is taking on Hillary Rodham Clinton. Ralph Nader, former independent presidential candidate, speaking to us from Connecticut.

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