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Lieberman’s Old Foe Urges Blumenthal to Say ‘Yes’ to Iran Deal

by | Aug 31, 2015 5:30am
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Posted to: Business, Congress, Foreign Policy, Election 2006, Election 2011, White House, Greenwich

File Photo

Ned Lamont in 2011

With ads that harken back to the political and social tumult of the late 1960s, former senatorial and gubernatorial hopeful Ned Lamont has embarked on a campaign to rally support for a nuclear non-proliferation agreement with Iran as the deal awaits congressional approval.

The focus of Lamont’s advertising push is Sen. Richard Blumenthal, the only member of the Connecticut delegation who has not yet stated his position on a multi-national agreement that would lift oil and financial sanctions on Iran in exchange for strict international oversight of a nuclear power program that would be used for peaceful purposes only for the next 15 years.

In 2006, Lamont ran unsuccessfully for Joe Lieberman’s Senate seat after beating the incumbent in the Democratic primary. Lieberman went on to win election as an independent. Lamont also lost a 2010 bid for governor to Malloy in the 2010 primary.

One of Lamont’s main platforms during the 2006 Senatorial campaign — and why he won Democratic support — was his position against the war in Iraq. Lieberman was widely criticized for a hawkish stance in step with the policies of the Bush/Cheney administration.

Lieberman now serves as the chairman of a bipartisan advocacy group called United Against Nuclear Iran.

“I’ve long believed that problems in the Middle East are better solved through diplomacy with political solutions rather than war,” Lamont said in a phone interview. “Many of those who were strong supporters of the invasion in Iraq are strong opponents of diplomacy in Iran. I think they were wrong then and they’re wrong now.”

Lamont declined to specify how much he spent on the online-only advertising campaign but said it cost less than a 30-second television spot in the greater New York City market.

“I just wanted to get the conversation going. The opponents of the deal are loud and doing a lot of expensive advertising,” he said. “In a modest way, we tried to prompt the conversation.”

Lamont’s ads place the message “Vote For Diplomacy Not War With Iran” against the backdrop of a Norman Rockwell image showing concerned citizens arrayed in front of a dais and an empty chair.

Titled “The Right To Know,” the popular American artist’s illustration ran in Look magazine in 1968 alongside an editorial advocating for government transparency in light of opposition to the Vietnam conflict, according to the Norman Rockwell Museum website.

“We sort of lifted off the theme of that painting,” Lamont said, citing Rockwell’s opposition to the war almost a half century ago.

The ads ask if Blumenthal will support the agreement and urges viewers to contact him to recommend a “yes” vote on the deal.

“Senator Blumenthal: We Have A Right To Know,” the ad states.

At an unrelated press conference earlier this week, Blumenthal would not say whether he’s been in communication with Lieberman.

“I’m generally adopting a policy of not saying whether I’ve spoken with specific individuals. I expect that I’ll talk to all of the former, present public officials who have points of view in this area and if you want, I’ll get back to you,” Blumenthal said.

When asked about how public protest from members of groups like MoveOn.org weigh in his decision making, he said their voices are among the many he has taken into consideration during his deliberations on the issue.

“I’m listening to supporters and opponents, experts on both sides as well as administration officials and nuclear physicists,” he said. “I believe that advocacy is very, very important to all of us who are in public office and we should listen to people who have points of view on issues that are important and this one is extraordinarily consequential and significant.”

Blumenthal said on Thursday that his decision could be expected within weeks.

Lamont characterized the upcoming vote in Congress as the most important foreign policy vote in the last five years. He applauded the rest of the Connecticut delegation for their strong in support of a deal that “seems to keep Iran from getting access to nuclear weapons for at least 15 years.”

According to Lamont’s own account of a trip to Iran earlier this year published on the national political website Real Clear Politics, Iran is a nation primed for capitalism. The Greenwich businessman — whose wife is a venture capitalist ranked 49th on the Forbes 2015 Midas List — described the culture of Iran as one in which the people are moving away from the “Death to America” mentality even as the government continues to promote anti-American rallies filled with “rent-a-demonstrators.”

Lamont wrote that the dichotomy also manifests itself in an “indoor-outdoor split personality” that eschews alcohol, public displays of affection, and desegregation of the sexes on the outside while hiding a Vegas-like atmosphere behind closed doors.

“This split personality should remind us how important strict and intrusive verification of any nuclear deal will be, indoors and outdoors.  But an on-the-ground look at Iran and the intense business networking there are reminders that the nuclear deal is not between the supreme leaders of Iran and America. It is a compact between a fast-changing and impatient Iran and the world community. That train has left the station and it is too late for the mullahs or the U.S. Senate to derail it,” Lamont wrote.

Lamont visited Iran with a delegation from the Young President’s Organization, according to his account. The group is composed of select chief executives and business leaders from across the globe.

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