Joe Lieberman's race-baiting attack ad

The Lieberman campaign questions Ned Lamont's commitment to civil rights.

Published August 1, 2006 3:57PM (EDT)

Joe Lieberman is playing the race card. On Sunday, according to several bloggers following Lieberman's primary race against challenger Ned Lamont, the Lieberman campaign plastered cars parked in black churches throughout Connecticut with a flier questioning Lamont's commitment to civil rights.

"Who has and will always be on our side?" asks the flier, which you can see at TPM Document Collection. It's got a picture of Bill Clinton campaigning with Lieberman, and it runs through a list of issues meant to bolster Lieberman's cred with African-Americans. For instance: "Lieberman has fought throughout his entire career to knock down barriers, stop discrimination and extend the promise of America to everyone."

The back side of the flier asks, "What is Ned Lamont's civil rights record?" The answer: "For years, he didn't pay as much attention to race ... until he got into the Senate race." The flier cites a New York Times article in which Lamont acknowledged that he'd recently resigned from a country club that had a predominantly white membership. At the bottom of the flier are the words "Paid for and authorized by friends of Joe Lieberman."

Dan Gerstein, a Lieberman advisor, has defended the ad. In an interview with TPM Election Central, he said: "This flyer simply states the facts, and in particular repeats a very questionable statement Mr. Lamont made which raises many questions he has yet to answer. If he's so concerned about discrimination, why didn't he resign from this club before he became candidate for u.s. senate? Also, what are the policies at the club and why won't he answer that question?"

Yet it's hard not to see this as yet another in a long line of clunky Lieberman attacks. Close followers of the race will remember Lieberman's bear cub spot, the laughably bad animated ad that suggested Lamont was really working for Connecticut Republicans. This flier fails in similar ways. First, it bends the truth. It's true that Lamont did confide to the Times that he hadn't thought much about his country club's membership before he decided to run for the Senate. But he also pointed out that the country club's policies weren't discriminatory. And anyway his membership certainly doesn't mean that he "didn't pay attention to race."

More important, though, the flier, like the bear cub ad, stinks of desperation. An incumbent should not need to rely on such low-tech, slimy maneuvers to win back his seat. A race-baiting flier -- this is what Joe Lieberman has come to? That can't be good.

By Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

MORE FROM Farhad Manjoo

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

War Room