Harry Smith's Utter Lack Of Political Knowledge

As many anticipated, Senator Joe Lieberman lost his bid for renomination to the U.S. Senate in Connecticut yesterday. This morning, as reported here by MRC analyst Geoff Dickens, all three network morning shows interviewed Mr. Lieberman and in essence told him to quit the race. And as reported here by Lyford Beverage, Harry Smith, co-host of the "Early Show" questioned the Senator from the left.

However, some important points have been neglected regarding Mr. Smith’s questions. As to Smith’s point:

"Incumbents do not get turned out of office, especially in primaries in this country."

Harry Smith makes it seem as this is something that has never happened before, that is an incumbent Senator losing a primary. Quite the contrary. In 2002, New Hampshire primary voters defeated incumbent Republican Senator Bob Smith in favor of then Congressman John Sununu. In 1992, Illinois Democrats threw out then Senator Alan Dixon and nominated Carol Mosely Braun. And in 1980, Alaska Democratic Senator Mike Gravel lost his bid for renomination to Clark Gruening, the grandson of the incumbent Senator that Gravel himself defeated in a primary in 1968. But if Smith needs further evidence that incumbents in fact do lose primaries, two other incumbents went down to defeat yesterday, Georgia Democrat Cynthia McKinney (who also lost a primary election as an incumbent in 2002) and Michigan Republican Joe Schwartz.

Secondly, Smith sounds condescending in asking Senator Lieberman:

"A final quick question. You will run as an independent at risk of losing the seat to the Republicans? You understand that risk? By splitting the Democratic vote."

It is true that could be a risk, if the Republicans were fielding a credible candidate. However, according to an article in Time the GOP candidate, Alan Schlesinger is no threat and according to an editorial in the Hartford Courant the Republicans have given up on this race. In fact, polls show Schlesinger drawing only nominal support, polling just 13% in a July Rasmussen poll. Perhaps Smith is unaware of who exactly the GOP candidate is, which is inexcusable for a journalist conducting this type of interview, or he realizes the only candidate in the race who can beat the darling of the anti-war crowd, Ned Lamont, is Joe Lieberman and Smith was attempting to guilt him out of the race, which again should be out of bounds for a journalist.

After the interview with Lieberman, Smith spoke with Amy Walter, Senior Editor of the Cook Political Report about the impact of the Connecticut primary nationwide. While Walter, a former aide to former liberal Democratic Congresswoman Marjorie Margolies Mezvinski, that Connecticut is an extremely blue (democratic) state, Smith tried to portray Connecticut as a moderate state:

"But, by and large, it's also a kind of a moderate state in many, many ways. They have a lot of Republican congressional seats there. Is this, is there a wind? Is there a shift? Is there something that can be gleaned out of this?"

Just because Connecticut has elected some Republicans does not make it moderate. The last three governors of Massachusetts, William Weld, Paul Cellucci, and Mitt Romney, have all been Republicans. Does this mean Massachusetts is not a liberal state? Rhode Island currently has a Republican, Don Carcieri, serving as Governor and has sent Republican Lincoln Chafee to the United States’ Senate. Yet isn’t Rhode Island one of the most liberal states in the nation? New York City has elected Republicans in each of its last four mayoral elections. But can anyone make an honest argument that New York City is anything but a bastion for liberalism?

In conducting interviews such as these, reporters ought to have a basic understanding of history and political trends, it appears in Smith’s case today he lacked both.