Did the Neocons pick their horse?

December 20, 2007

Jonathan Schell: McCain picks up Leiberman's endorsement

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Jonathan Schell: McCain picks up Leiberman's endorsement



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McCain picks up endorsements

ZAA NKWETA, PRESENTER/PRODUCER: As the candidates head down the final stretch towards the first two primaries next month, Senator John McCain has picked up endorsements from several important newspapers. McCain also got an endorsement from former Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Joe Lieberman in Connecticut, who is now an independent. Will the endorsements breathe life into McCain’s campaign? And who does Joe Lieberman represent? The Real News talks with journalist and author Jonathan Schell in New York.

JONATHAN SCHELL, VIA BROADBAND FROM NEW YORK: Well, John McCain was endorsed by Joe Lieberman. It’s pretty interesting to reflect how far he’s come over the years. You’ll recall that he was Al Gore’s running mate back in the year 2000.

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Hillsborough, New Hampshire

July 17, 2007

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I-CONN.): Being a Republican is important. Being a Democrat is important. But you know what’s more important than that? The interests and well-being of the United States of America. Let’s put America first again. And John McCain is the man as president who will help us do that.

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Then, in 2006, he was beaten for the Democratic nomination and ran as an independent, or as he called it, an independent Democrat, which seems like a contradiction in terms. But that’s how he chose to designate himself. What that meant in practical terms, which was something very, very important, and that was that he would caucus with the Democrats, thereby giving them their one-vote majority in the Senate. So they lived in terror ever since that he might actually defect to the Republicans, because on a whole range of issues, but especially foreign policy, he has seemed closer to the Republicans, and especially, as we now see, to John McCain. So his endorsement of McCain hardly comes as a surprise ideologically.

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SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-ARIZ.): Well, I think what it means is that town hall meeting after town hall meeting, people all stand up and say, why can’t you all work together? Why can’t Republican and a Democrat work together for the good of this country? I think that his endorsement shows that I can and we can.

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Joe Lieberman is a member of the Committee for Present Danger, which is a group of super-hawks, Democrat and Republican, commonly known as the neocons, who were agitating for war against Saddam Hussein going back into the 1990s. So there are many who believe that the blueprint for the war and the impulse to go to war in the aftermath of 9/11 was a done deal even before that. Both McCain and Lieberman are very hawkish in regard to Iran. They have really said that Iran must not have nuclear weapons and that the United States should resort to military action if diplomacy fails in order to prevent that. So these are some very, very hawkish gentlemen who have gotten together to give McCain a boost in the primary. And in addition to that, of course, he’s been endorsed by three newspapers, The Demoines Register, The Boston Globe (which is neighbouring to New Hampshire), and, The Manchester Union Leader. Usually, newspaper endorsements aren’t exactly critically important, but in this case I think it’s a little different, because McCain is running on his reputation for independence. And when a newspaper which is supposedly not beholden to any party endorses him, it seems like independent voices endorsing an independent person. So I think it plays to his strength. The Republican race is fantastically fluid and has been throughout the campaign season. I think there’s a real chance that McCain is going to win this. The reason is that there’s been terrible dissatisfaction with the whole Republican field. At times, it seemed that the voters have really wanted, above all else, to vote for none of the above, and Fred Thompson, the former senator, seemed to be none of the above for a while, but it turned out that they were trying to fill the vacuum with a kind of zero. He pretty much bombed as a candidate, although, again, you’ve got to hedge your bets when you’re talking about politics. And now we’ve had the boom for Governor Huckabee, but then again, all kinds of news about his past and so on is starting to disturb various elements of the party. So the fact that McCain, who declined quite seriously about six months ago and seemed almost to be out of the running after being a favourite, he’s kind of stayed the course there. And the flirtations with so many of the other candidates having dimmed, including Rudolph Giuliani, who was still the front runner in national polls, but he keeps declining. And nobody has really made the deal with the Republican voters. And so it’s entirely possible that they’ll revolve their attention 180 degrees back to McCain. The war is, of course, extremely unpopular in the United States and among the public at large. McCain has been a gung-ho supporter of the war from the beginning. The question is, of course, in a general election, is it possible that such a strong pro-war candidate can appeal to independent voters in the general election? Not so much of a problem for the primaries, but more of a problem for the general election. Although you have to note that Lieberman did win as an independent senator in Connecticut. He beat Ned Lamont, who was one of the strongest antiwar candidates—or most strongly anti-war, I should say. I can’t say strongest, because he was beaten. It’s not an entirely clear-cut situation. Although this may work well in the Republican primary, it could turn off voters in the general election.

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