Ned Lamont, the Greenwich businessman pondering a Democratc primary challenge to U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman, visited La Paloma Sabanera cafŽ in Hartford so progressive legislators, lobbyists and advocates could take a whiff. threw in a few questions of our own.

Around 25 people showed up to chit-chat. They heard Lamont inveigh against the Iraq war and budget irresponsibility- he cited the “bridge to nowhere,” a pork project in Alaska, as a symbol of what’s wrong in the federal process. The crowd, mostly political veterans like former Hartford deputy mayor Nicholas Carbone or Love Makes a Family President Anne Stanback, listened politely and asked very few questions publicly.We were able to fire off three questions before Lamont stepped in front of the group:Ctnewsjunkie: You’re a rich, white guy from Greenwich, exploring the possibility of leading a populist revolt within the Democratic Party against Lieberman. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt was pushing the New Deal, many people called him a traitor to his class [a phrase that was also hurled at Lamont’s great uncle, Corliss, a famous philosopher and socialist]. Do you think you a traitor to your class?Lamont: No, I think I am an outsider, an insurgent who wants to shake up the status quo. I’m a business guy, I’ve been competing against big telecommunications companies for 20 years we’ve been doing it pretty well, and I think at this point in this state it’s been a long time since we’ve had a good challenge to the party establishment. I think in this case, when it comes to Senator Lieberman, I’ve been generally supportive of him over the years mainly because I liked him better than the guys he’s been running against. But at this point I think he’s out of touch with the state, he’s out of touch with his party, and on a lot of big issues I just think he’s wrong. So that’s why I’m challenging him. Ctnewsjunkie: You’ve been outspoken about the war in Iraq, but I was hoping you could speak more broadly of your views about the Middle East. For instance, do you think the situation in Iraq is related to the situation in Israel?Lamont: I think that the war in Iraq is a terrible distraction from what we ought to be doing in the Middle East, or in the war on terror. I think it’s a distraction in terms of our intellectual energy, it is a distraction in terms of our resources, and it is a distraction of our military resources. I think we are in a much weaker position when it comes to our negotiating position with Iran because were stretched so thin in Iraq, right next door. I think that nobody is as a strong a supporter of Israel as I am. But I’m not so sure what our play in Iraq is, how that helps the strength and independence, the security of Israel.Ctnewsjunkie: You say you are a strong supporter of Israel. Senator Lieberman has always been a strong supporter of Israel. What new approach or what new challenge could be brought to the situation in Israel and Palestine?Lamont: Let me get back you on that.