- The Washington Times - Monday, July 24, 2006

WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) — Former President Bill Clinton yesterday appealed to Connecticut Democrats to put aside their opposition to the war in Iraq and re-elect Sen. Joe Lieberman.

Democrats “don’t agree on everything. We don’t agree on Iraq,” Mr. Clinton said, calling the conflict the “pink elephant in the living room.”

But “the real issue is, whether you were for it or against it, what are we going to do now. And let me tell you something, no Democrat is responsible for the mistakes that have been made since the fall of Saddam Hussein that have brought us to this point.” The Iraqi dictator was ousted by U.S.-led forces in 2003.

In a 20-minute speech to a capacity crowd in an ornate theater, Mr. Clinton went easy on Mr. Lieberman’s Democratic primary challenger, Ned Lamont.

Mr. Lamont “seems like a perfectly nice man. He has got every right to run, and he has waged a vigorous campaign,” Mr. Clinton said.

Mr. Clinton lavished praise on Mr. Lieberman, a third-term lawmaker whose once-formidable lead in the polls has vanished, as Mr. Lamont — a political newcomer backed by anti-war activists and several liberal Internet sites — has focused on the incumbent’s support for the Iraq war.

Mr. Lieberman accused Mr. Lamont of “peddling what I would call a big lie, and that is I’m not a real Democrat.” Mr. Lieberman also recalled that Mr. Clinton first volunteered to help him in 1970, when he was running for the state legislature in his first campaign.

Mr. Clinton said yesterday that Mr. Lieberman has long been a loyal Democratic vote on issues as diverse as organized labor and the environment.

Mr. Clinton was greeted with cheers louder than Mr. Lieberman received from the audience, and the words “Four More Years” were clearly audible in the crowd.

“I’m in a big fight here,” Mr. Lieberman said more than once during the day, and the polls, the recent addition of campaign staff and the decision to seek help from Mr. Clinton were evidence of that.

The former president wasn’t the only nationally known Democrat campaigning for Mr. Lieberman as the lawmaker sought to rebuild support among Democrats.

Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, an ardent critic of the war, praised Mr. Lieberman for his stand on other issues. “If you want to meet a leader on the environment, a leader on all the difficult choice issues, you got one here,” she said at a campaign stop at a candy store.

The most recent public poll rated the race a tossup.

The wealthy Mr. Lamont’s Web site boasts that he will give Connecticut “finally, a senator who will stand up to George Bush.”

At an appearance shortly after Mr. Clinton spoke, Mr. Lamont emphasized his determination to end U.S. involvement in Iraq.

“Staying the course is not a winning strategy in Iraq,” he said, adding that the United States is not going to be able to bring about “democracy at the barrel of a gun.”

Mr. Lamont yesterday countered with endorsements of his own. His office said he had gained the support of Carl S. Feen, the finance chairman of Mr. Lieberman’s first campaign and a former Clinton appointee.

Mr. Lieberman has filed petitions to run as an independent if he loses the Aug. 8 primary.

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