DEATH WITH DIGNITY. I've been arguing for a long time that the Lieberman independent bid would fizzle, that Lieberman stood a much better chance of winning the primary than the general, and I still believe that. If I'm wrong about that, then my comment below is inoperative.

But if I'm right, the question is not whether the Connecticut for Lieberman Party ends, but how. The next few weeks are going to be one of those desperate last chapters in a political career, the kind of thing that Lieberman's biographer will label "epilogue." Political careers never end gracefully, never, and if a politician sees a chance, however slim, he will take it. And they always end with the desperate pol claiming that he is trying to practice "a different kind of politics." (The kind in which winning and losing elections doesn't matter.)

The next two, three or at most four weeks of Lieberman's life will be sad and painful to watch. He'll find every potential supporter saying, "Sorry, Joe, I'd love to help, but..." (The fact that he's never shown any loyalty to any of his colleagues won't help here.) He'll try to extend the pitch he made last night -- that Lamont is a lefty extremist (although last week he was "center-right") while he represents a middle ground, but his major point of difference with Democrats -- Iraq � will turn out to be equally unpopular with independents and moderate Republicans in Connecticut. He'll fire his old staff, but after a while he'll find that the 2006 elections are already a full employment project for good Democratic staff, and August/September is not much of a time to start a campaign from scratch!

All of which is to say, eventually he will give up. And while I think all the points made here about pressuring Harry Reid, etc., are valuable, we should not forget that at the end, Lieberman needs a dignified way out. No, he doesn't deserve it, not at all. He still doesn't accept the legitimacy of Lamont running, never mind winning. But it will be valuable for the perception of Lamont, the netroots, and the Connecticut grassroots if we're not seen as trying to jump on his coffin. Let's find a way to give him a dignified way out, and accord him exactly the level of respect for his service that Lamont did last night, which was considerable and was deserved.

--Mark Schmitt

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