Arizona Republic

Thursday, January 29, 2004



Arizona Democrats have a chance to be bold, to let their strong, independent voices ring loud across the nation.

When they vote in Tuesday's presidential primary, Arizona Democrats ought to be willing, even eager, to plant a cactus in the Rose Garden.

Arizona Democrats should insist on a presidential candidate who reflects values and positions that we in Arizona embrace and share.

That candidate is Joe Lieberman.

The Connecticut senator is the one candidate who embodies the ideals and issues central to the successful Arizona Democrats this newspaper has strongly supported over the years: Bruce Babbitt, Dennis DeConcini, Janet Napolitano, Phil Gordon, Chuck Blanchard and Chris Cummiskey.

Each of these Democrats is progressive in the great traditions of their party but unwilling to surrender their intellect and their judgment to a special-interest litany of litmus tests.

Like his good friend Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, Lieberman is a straight shooter who knows his own mind and doesn't need a dozen pollsters to set his course.

Lieberman embraces the economic and social ideas and ideals that are central to the Democratic Party's middle-class base. It's a base that doesn't erect protectionist barriers to free trade. It understands that a tariff on steel imports places a hidden tax on every refrigerator, on every automobile that an American buys.

Lieberman, alone among the Democratic candidates, steadfastly supports the decision to oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. He defends the selected use of U.S. military power to defend national security and to accomplish moral international goals -- in Kuwait in 1991, in Bosnia and Kosovo. Most Americans share that opinion.

Lieberman is a moderate on fiscal matters. He would not roll back the recent middle-class tax cuts.

Lieberman does not succumb to the reflexive educational orthodoxy either. He has been willing to experiment with school vouchers targeted for low-income students, giving students and parents an alternative. In that position, he's not trying to hurt the public schools, he's trying to help people.

Those positions, while eminently reasonable among most Americans who will vote in November, are not always popular in Democratic Party primaries, where only the most active partisans typically show up.

Arizona ought to be the state that rewards Lieberman's kind of political courage, to stand up for what he believes in and not always tack to the left with the prevailing winds.

In Arizona, we know how winds can shift quickly.

There's another reason Arizona Democrats would be wise to support Lieberman.

He actually cares about Arizona. He has visited here numerous times. He's actually seeking our support.

Joe Lieberman knows Arizona. He's traveled from Nogales to Window Rock, from Yuma to Mesa. He actively recruited the state's top Latino leaders and courted a wide swath of Arizona's diverse population. He knows Arizona well enough to eat at El Portal in central Phoenix.

We understand that Lieberman faces an uphill fight for the nomination, that the political momentum now belongs to Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts. And that momentum could propel Kerry to a victory here on Tuesday.

But remember, not long ago, Kerry was woefully behind in the national polls, at 3 percent in one poll in Arizona.

The whole point of moving up Arizona's presidential primary by a couple of months was to give Democrats here a greater voice in nominating their presidential candidate.

It would seem pointless, then, for those who go to the polls next week to use that opportunity merely to rubber-stamp what Democrats in Iowa and New Hampshire have already decided.

After all, Arizona is fast becoming a swing state, important to both political parties in their general election calculus.

If Arizona Democrats want to be bold, to have their independent voices heard, they should back the candidate who knows this state best, whose principles and commitment to this country are unquestioned.

That candidate is Joe Lieberman.

Copyright © 2004 The Arizona Republic.  Reprinted with permission.  (Ken Western, 03/01/04)

The editorial board is: Sue Clark-Johnson, Phil Boas, Ward Bushee, RicharddeUriarte, Jennifer Dokes, Cindy Hernandez, Kathleen Ingley, DougMacEachern, Joel Nilssson, Dan Nowicki, O. Ricardo Pimentel, Robert Robb,Paul Schatt, Linda Valdez, Ken Western and Steve Benson.

The editorial board met on January 28 and decided toendorse Sen. Lieberman based on principle and also on the fact that he had made a real effort in the state; the endorsement "Be Bold, Arizona" appeared in thepaper the next day.  Prior to the endorsement, the ed. board interviewed Howard Dean, Joe Lieberman, and Dennis Kucinich in person and John Kerry nd Wesley Clark by conference call; John Edwards did not campaign much in Arizona.  In view of Arizona's early voting, the editors had wanted to make the endorsement earlier, but they delayed in order to reach all the major candidates.