Saturday, November 08, 2008

Country First

In what must be one of the most interesting sideshows of the 2008 election, Joe Lieberman -- part time Democrat -- is now weighing his options between the Republican and Democratic parties.

Now, before any Lieb fans go off on an immediate tangent about how he's a great guy who was abused by the Democrats, let's just step back for a minute and ponder the situation because it really is kind of fascinating.

Lieberman, an old and powerful member of the US Senate, has been on a rather tumultuous ride over the past decade. In 2000 he was Gore's VP pick against Bush/Cheney, where he was brutally ridiculed by Republicans (as is their way) both before and after being defeated by them. Remember "Sore Loserman"? Ah yes, I'm sure he was feeling the love.

In 2002, Lieberman became an unquestioning supporter of the Iraq invasion. I say unquestioning because, despite the emerging cracks in Bush's case, and despite the horrific mismanagement of the war post-invasion, Lieberman continued to be Bush's number one fan. Even after John McCain himself finally had the balls to say to Bush, essentially, "What the hell are you doing?" Lieberman continued with his faithful, unflinching support. None of this endeared Lieb to the anti-war faction of the base, all of whom began working overtime to oust Lieberman from the Senate.

Lieberman was forced to defend his seat in a tough primary fight against base-supported Ned Lamont in 2006. His Senate peers were a bit torn on who to back... Lieberman had been outspoken in bucking his party regarding Iraq but he still voted with the Dems on most other issues. In the end they mainly stayed silent, vowing to support whichever candidate -- Lieberman or Lamont -- emerged the victor.

Here's where it gets interesting.

What's probably not known to people who don't follow politics closely is that Lieberman asked for Obama's help in defending his seat against Lamont and received it. By 2006 Obama was already becoming somewhat popular among Dems on the national scene with his youthful charisma. At Lieberman's personal request, Obama lent him whatever influence he had by traveling to Connecticut to actively campaign with Lieberman, including a turn as keynote speaker at the annual Jefferson Jackson Bailey Dinner:

Lieberman, Connecticut's junior senator, is under fire from some liberal Democrats for his support of the Iraq War. He was key in booking Obama, who routinely receives more than 200 speaking invitations each week.

Some at Thursday's dinner said that while they were pleased with Lieberman's success in bringing Obama to Connecticut, they still consider Lieberman uncomfortably tolerant of the Bush administration.

Obama wasted little time getting to that point, calling it the "elephant in the room" but praising Lieberman's intellect, character and qualifications.

"The fact of the matter is, I know some in the party have differences with Joe. I'm going to go ahead and say it," Obama told the 1,700-plus party members who gathered in a ballroom at the Connecticut Convention Center for the $175-per-head fundraiser.

"I am absolutely certain Connecticut is going to have the good sense to send Joe Lieberman back to the U.S. Senate so he can continue to serve on our behalf," he said.

It was a generous thing to do and it cost Obama some support among the base. Lieberman lost the primary but eventually won the Connecticut general by running as an "Independent Democrat".

Lieberman's idea of paying Obama back, of course, was to not only support McCain in 2008 but to go well out of his way to undermine Obama.

When Lieberman announced he was supporting McCain and planned to speak at the Republican Convention, Democrats asked one thing: Don't publicly attack Obama. Lieberman agreed and then... well... completely disregarded.

"When others wanted to retreat in defeat from the field of battle, when Barack Obama was voting to cut off funding for our troops on the battlefield," Lieberman said, "John McCain had the courage to stand against the tide of public opinion and support the surge (in Iraq), and because of that, today our troops are at last beginning to come home, not in failure but in honor."

Further, Obama "has not reached across party lines to accomplish anything significant," Lieberman added.

Red meat for the Republican base, who gobbled it up with cheers and adoration. After the convention, of course, the Lieb attacks on Obama continued. Not only did Lieberman campaign for McCain, he actively campaigned against Obama. Taking incredible liberties with the truth, such as the "cut off funding" statement above, added insult to injury.

So now Lieberman's guy has lost and Lieberman will most certainly not be electable in Connecticut as a Democrat (Independent or otherwise) anytime during the next 100 years. What's a guy to do? Why, crawl back to the Dems with his tail between his legs, of course.

I thought Lieberman's betrayal of Obama was stunning but if Lieb felt so strongly about McCain that he was willing to throw away the fruits of a long political career for it, you've got to at least give the guy some credit, right? I figured after the election Lieberman would ride out the end of his term and then disappear to "spend more time with his family", quietly paying the price for his principled stand.

As John Belushi used to say, "But noooooooooooooooo..."

What's happened instead is that Lieberman expects to be restored as a full fledged member of the Democratic caucus and retain his two coveted chairmanships. Fortunately Reid had the good sense to put the brakes on that... and while Lieberman will be allowed to caucus with the Dems, he'll be stripped of his chairmanships. I think that's a fair price for party betrayal. The party giveth, the party taketh away.

Lieberman, however, is apparently more politician at heart than principled statesman. He's put out feelers to the Republicans to see what they're willing to offer. If they'll give him a chairmanship, he's willing to flip. So far the Repubs are not biting... they'd love him to come vote with them but they're not willing to fork over a committee. It will be quite interesting to see what happens next.

I have no sympathy for the man at this point.... for me it's all just a bit of entertaining dramz. I kind of hope Lieberman does flip. Republicans might love him now but that's only because he's stabbing his own party in the back. Once he's a Republican who frequently votes like a liberal, they're going to lose that love in a hurry. Quite frankly, I couldn't think of a better punishment for him than being despised by both parties.


Blogger BurrDeming said...

You do post a thoughtful analysis.

The anger against Joe Lieberman goes back to 2006. He was not the only Senator who continued to support a forever occupation.

But even then he was unique as a Democrat in going out of his way to taunt those whose support he demanded.

2:10 PM, November 08, 2008  

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