Thursday, August 17, 2006

Angry Democrats

A group of Senate Democrats is growing increasingly angry about Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman‘s campaign tactics since he lost the Democratic primary last week, the Hill newspaper reports.

If he continues to alienate his colleagues, Mr. Lieberman could be stripped of his seniority within the Democratic caucus should he defeat Democrat Ned Lamont in the general election in November, some senior Democratic aides told reporter Alexander Bolton.

In recent days, Mr. Lieberman has rankled Democrats in the upper chamber by suggesting that those who support bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq by a certain date are bolstering terrorists. He also sparked resentment by saying last week on NBC’s “Today” show that the Democratic Party was out of the political mainstream.

Democrats are worried that Mr. Lieberman may be giving Republicans a golden opportunity to undermine their message, the reporter said.

“I think there’s a lot of concern,” said a senior Democratic aide who has discussed the subject with colleagues. “I think the first step is if the Lieberman thing turns into a sideshow and hurts our message and ability to take back the Senate, and the White House and the [National Republican Senatorial Committee] manipulate him, there are going to be a lot of unhappy people in our caucus.”

‘Duck’-ing debates

A much-hyped Democratic candidate for the House seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Henry J. Hyde, Illinois Republican, has turned down two debate challenges from her Republican rival, Erick Erickson reports at

Tammy Duckworth was the ‘it’ girl for American politics this year. A veteran from the Iraq War who lost her legs when her [Black Hawk] helicopter was struck by [a rocket-propelled grenade], she returned home to run as a lefty netroots candidate. Her story was so compelling, the party elders in Washington and the netroots worked to force out Christine Cegelis, Duckworth’s primary opponent. Cegelis, unlike Duckworth, actually lives in Illinois’ 6th Congressional District and was the nominee two years ago against Henry Hyde.

“This year, [Republican state Sen.] Peter Roskam is running to replace retiring Congressman Henry Hyde. Mr. Roskam has been showing up for debates against Ms. Duckworth, but Ms. Duckworth apparently can’t be bothered to show up. He showed up in Addison, but Duckworth ducked that debate. He showed up in Elmhurst [Tuesday] and Duckworth ducked that debate. Elmhurst is the largest community in the district.

“Two years ago, Christine Cegelis went head to head against Henry Hyde debating him across the district, including in Elmhurst at the same forum Roskam went to last night. But Duckworth keeps ducking debates. It’s like she thinks she should not have to work for the seat because she’s Tammy Duckworth, injured veteran and netroots hero. Maybe she just got lost; it’s not like she’s actually from the district.”

The Duckworth campaign told the Schaumburg (Ill.) Review that the Democrat had agreed to four debates. “Tammy has been out there in each community in the district talking to voters on a very regular basis and will continue to go out there and meet with voters,” Duckworth spokeswoman Christine Glunz told the newspaper.

The most recent Federal Election Commission reports showed Mrs. Duckworth with $901,694 cash on hand, compared with more than $1.3 million for Mr. Roskam.

University backs off

Georgia Tech has agreed to end a policy banning offensive speech on campus.

A lawsuit, filed in March by two students, says Georgia Tech discriminates against students with policies aimed at protecting the campus from intolerance. The policies have a “chilling effect” on students who oppose the university’s “orthodoxy,” according to the federal lawsuit.

The partial settlement was reached Aug. 8 when Georgia Tech agreed to repeal the parts of a campus policy that prohibit verbal attacks on people because of racial, ethnic or sexual identity. The university also agreed to withdraw a portion of the policy banning the posting of derogatory signs on university property, the Associated Press reports.

“It’s a big win for free speech,” said David French, attorney for students Orit Sklar and Ruth Malhotra. “It really does give all Georgia Tech students more rights to free speech — not just the plaintiffs.”

Mr. French is director of the Center for Academic Freedom at the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative group that promotes family values, a ban on abortion and the posting of the Ten Commandments in courts, among other issues.

He said the two students were not allowed to express their views on hot-button issues such as affirmative action and women’s rights, while Georgia Tech allowed other students to harass and threaten the two students because of their views. The two students organized protests on campus that were shut down by the university, he said.

Long shots

Independent candidates Daniel Imperato and Webster Brooks brought their long-shot 2008 White House campaigns to Washington yesterday.

“It’s time to give the Democrats and Republicans some competition,” said Mr. Imperato, a former Democrat, international businessman and Massachusetts native who is running for president. Mr. Brooks is his running mate.

Mr. Brooks, a former Republican and 1990 D.C. mayoral candidate, says their Independent America party is a “serious effort” to give voters an alternative to the two major parties. But for now, they’re busy trying to get on state ballots across the nation.

“The laws of the country have been twisted and mangled by Democrats and Republicans to keep third parties off of ballots,” Mr. Brooks said.

Since starting their campaign two months ago in Boca Raton, Fla., they’ve been raising funds and meeting with third-party organizations across the country. The pair also recently endorsed Sen. Joe Lieberman‘s independent Senate campaign in Connecticut.

Biden’s strategy

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. said yesterday that his failed bid for the Democratic presidential nomination nearly 20 years ago has forced him to declare his candidacy clearly for 2008.

“I’m the only candidate who has straightforwardly said for a year that I’m running,” the Delaware senator told the Associated Press. “I haven’t danced around. The point is, because I dropped out 20 years ago, there is the question: Is Biden serious? Is he really going to stay? The proof of the pudding is the eating.”

Mr. Biden sought the Democratic nomination in 1988 but dropped from the race after it became known that he had lifted a portion of a speech from a British politician without attribution, a mistake he now attributes to arrogance and immaturity. He was 46 at the time.

Mr. Biden is in the middle of his first visit to Iowa, home of the first presidential caucuses, in this election cycle, months after many other prospective candidates began their visits, the Associated Press reports.

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or

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