Editorials

Joe Lieberman: The Primary Choice

August is a time for beach vacations and pennant races, not politics. Nevertheless, this August, Democrats in Connecticut will have to make a momentous decision: Will they renominate three-term U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman, or will they turn to upstart Ned Lamont?

It is not an exaggeration to say that politicians, political junkies and even the current resident of the White House will be paying close attention to Connecticut’s decision.

We believe Connecticut’s voters should support Mr. Lieberman, even though we disagree with the Senator’s support for George W. Bush’s misguided and tragic war in Iraq. That support gave birth to Mr. Lamont’s candidacy, and Bush haters from around the country have rallied around Mr. Lamont’s effort to deny Mr. Lieberman the Democratic nod.

Mr. Lamont profoundly disagrees with Mr. Lieberman about Iraq. So do we, and so do a great number of Connecticut residents. However, the incumbent’s track record, independence, intellectual honesty and years of public service require thoughtful voters to consider more than just a single issue.

For nearly 20 years, Mr. Lieberman has served as the Democratic Party’s conscience and voice of reason. His opponents in the party’s left wing despised him long before U.S. troops set foot in Iraq. They’ve never forgiven him for refusing to go along with the leftist line on domestic and international affairs. They loathe him for calling out President Bill Clinton over his reckless personal behavior. And they hate him for his strong support for Israel. And now they are counting on a low August turnout to defeat the Senator, and are using this election as a way to swing the Democratic Party far to the left.

Mr. Lamont, by all accounts a decent man with good intentions, is running as a single-issue candidate. While that issue—Iraq—is important, it is not enough to make for a compelling candidacy. We know he disagrees with Senator Lieberman on the war. But what does he stand for, and how does he propose to achieve it? Indeed, Mr. Lamont has little knowledge of foreign policy and would bring no seniority to the Senate, an institution built on seniority.

The Lieberman-Lamont race will receive national attention in the weeks to come. The outcome will be viewed as a referendum on Mr. Bush and the war. But that’s not the way it should be.

The primary should be a referendum on Joe Lieberman’s 18 years in the U.S. Senate. Seen in that broader context, he deserves renomination.

The City’s Poverty Crisis

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is making a habit out of attacking problems that for decades had been shrugged off as beyond solving. When he first took office, his low-key style seemed unlikely to match the sizzle of the Giuliani years, which indeed represented a radical break from municipal inertia and entrenched special-interest groups. But Mike Bloomberg has not only improved on Rudy Giuliani’s legacy, he’s made deep, long-lasting changes in the way City Hall views its mission.

Take crime, for example. Mr. Giuliani and his rotating cast of police commissioners brought the crime rate down to levels not seen since the 1960’s. But in so doing, racial tensions were inflamed and reports of police brutality and recklessness turned up on page 1 of the tabloids. When Mr. Bloomberg took office, many observers expected the crime rate to rise. The mild-mannered technocrat billionaire surely didn’t have the stomach for confronting mayhem. And yet Mr. Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly brought crime down to even lower levels, and did so without Mr. Giuliani’s brusque and ultimately alienating manner. Or take public education, a thorny issue that Mr. Bloomberg grabbed with both hands in his first term, proclaiming himself “the education Mayor.” The results have been undeniable: Last year, the high schools showed the highest on-time graduation rate in over two decades. New private-public education partnerships have sprung up, creating hundreds of small schools, as philanthropists have been impressed by Mr. Bloomberg’s commitment to results over rhetoric.

The latest unsolvable problem on Mr. Bloomberg’s agenda is poverty. Despite the city’s admirable economic recovery since 9/11, with incomes rising faster for New Yorkers than the rest of the country, chronic poverty remains and is growing. Perhaps the most distressing figure: Some 30 percent of the city’s two million children are living in poverty. Thousands of children still sleep in homeless shelters on any given night. These statistics conjure images not of a big-hearted, progressive city, but of Dickensian London.

To try to put an end to this madness, Mayor Bloomberg has created the Commission for Economic Opportunity, led by Time Warner chairman Richard Parsons and Geoffrey Canada, creator of the respected nonprofit Harlem Children’s Zone. The commission is comprised of well-known, philanthropy-minded New Yorkers such as William Rudin and Merryl Tisch, as well as academics and former government officials. Overseen by Linda Gibbs, the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, the commission aims to get to the roots of unemployment—specifically, to work out ways that City Hall can aggressively create conditions that make it easier for adults to find steady and lasting work. The commission’s members have been analyzing data, visiting social-service centers and talking with experts. A full report is due soon.

The proof, of course, will come over the next several months, as the city tries to implement the fruits of the commission’s labor.

New York, College Town

New York is now the nation’s largest importer of college students, according to statistics which show that among freshmen who leave their home states to attend college, more come to New York than any other state, including California.

It wasn’t always so. As recently as 1992, New York had to share that title with Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. Since then, New York has experienced a surge in enrollment, led by the startling success of New York City, which is home to more college students than any other city in the nation, even Boston. For example, for the past three years, when the Princeton Review asked high-school seniors, “What ‘dream college’ would you most like to attend, were prospects of acceptance or cost not issues?”, more chose New York University than Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Yale, Brown, Columbia, Duke or Cornell.

Driven by the city’s success, institutions of higher learning located around the state and on Long Island have also benefited from increased enrollment. With luck and planning, cities such as Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo can emulate the city’s success in retaining graduates after their four years are up. Private universities are one of the upstate region’s largest and fastest-growing employers; private higher education contributes an estimated $21 billion to the state’s economy.

New York’s status as the country’s most sought-after destination for collegians is no accident. Smart municipal government has transformed New York City into the place where the best and the brightest yearn to be.