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The New Republic endorses Lieberman

Lieberman answers a New Hampshire voter's question during a house party in the town of Windham.
Lieberman answers a New Hampshire voter's question during a house party in the town of Windham.

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Lieberman received a strong endorsement Wednesday from The New Republic magazine, which said the senator from Connecticut offers the "clearest, bravest" vision for the Democratic Party.

In its endorsement, the moderate political journal gave a blistering assessment of front-runner Howard Dean, saying the former Vermont governor does not possess the leadership skills to head the party, not to mention the country.

"The Democratic Party is racing back to the '80s, with interest groups enforcing litmus tests on everything from partial-birth abortion to steel tariffs, and party activists dangerously out of touch with a country that feels threatened by terrorism, not Donald Rumsfeld," The New Republic said.

"Dean has helped create this mood of self-righteous delusion, and his competitors have, to varying degrees, accommodated themselves to it. Only Lieberman -- the supposed candidate of appeasement -- is challenging his party, enduring boos at event after event, to articulate a different, better vision of what it means to be a Democrat."

The New Republic endorsed Al Gore in the 2000 presidential primaries. Lieberman was Gore's vice presidential running mate in the election that November.

The endorsement came as new polls show retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark -- the former NATO supreme allied commander -- emerging as a strong challenger to Dean, while Lieberman remains far behind.

Speaking by phone with CNN, Lieberman said he was honored to receive the endorsement.

"I've been saying I'm the mainstream alternative here to George Bush on one side and Howard Dean on the other," he said. "I'm real grateful for it."

The New Republic praised Clark, Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts as being strong on national security and international policy issues, but said Lieberman stands out from the pack.

It applauded Lieberman's support for the war in Iraq and blasted Dean for throwing "red meat" to the party faithful in his criticism of Bush.

"The problem with Dean's vision of the Democratic Party is more than electoral; it is intellectual and moral. And the candidate who offers the clearest, bravest alternative is Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman," the magazine said.

It went on to say that in the current security environment a president may have to make bold decisions, even if it means upsetting traditional allies.

"A Democratic president may have to defy both America's allies and his domestic political base to aggressively fight terrorism and defend freedom. So far, at least, Dean's record on the national stage suggests he doesn't understand that. Lieberman does."

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