CHUTZPAH. Hartford...

CHUTZPAH. Hartford Courant columnist Kevin Rennie thinks he's picked up on Joe Lieberman's coming message: Heads I win, tails I make you lose. Rennie writes that "[t]he theme of a Saturday conclave of Greater Hartford Democratic town committee chairs was that if Lieberman loses the primary he will hurt all other Democratic candidates by running as an independent in November. The message was clear: help him now or your favorites suffer in November." So vote Lieb, or the Democratic Party gets it!

A similar rationale emerged during a dinner argument with a friend last weekend: How can bloggers, usually so invested in the Democratic Party's successes, possibly rationalize throwing the seat to the Republicans? Since Lieberman's independent candidacy is a virtual certainty, a Ned Lamont victory in the primaries would create a three way race that could, quite conceivably, allow a Republican to squeak through. Worse yet, given the possibility of real Democratic gains this November, it could be the crucial vote that keeps Harry Reid out of the majority leader's office.

The duplicitousness of this argument is clear enough on its face. It's not that the analysis is wrong, but that the blame is so oddly apportioned. Lieberman, after all, need not run as an independent. If he loses the primary, he could bow to the will of the voters and simply slink off into a world of corporate boards and speaking engagements. Man has known worse fates. But that's not been his choice -- which is fine. What's remarkable, though, is that so little attention is paid by Lieberman's supporters to the import of his decision: It is Lieberman, not Lamont, who will create the three-way race. It is Lieberman, not Lamont, who is choosing to render this a Republican pick-up opportunity. It is Lieberman, not Lamont, who has decided his personal ambitions outweigh the Democratic Party's prospects.

All of that, of course, is in-bounds. Were Lieberman not determinedly unconcerned with the future of the Democratic Party, he wouldn't be facing Lamont in the first place. And Holy Joe is certainly empowered to launch a self-aggrandizing post-primary candidacy if he so chooses. But the chutzpah of rejecting the Democratic Party's decision and then appealing for votes based on the Democratic Party's prospects -- which you've thrown into chaos -- is astonishing. But as Jewish grandmothers everywhere know, sometimes chutzpah works.

--Ezra Klein

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