November 18, 2008

Barack Hearts Joe

I wanted to make a brief comment on the Joe Lieberman situation before returning to our regularly scheduled eco-blogging. Everyone is presumably aware that Lieberman is on the verge of getting a mild wrist-slap for his endorsement of McCain and his attacks on Obama during the campaign and won't be stripped of his major committee gavel.

Lieberman's fate is relevant to environmentalists since his name is on the one piece of significant and serious climate legislation actually introduced in the Senate. For those who pooh-pooh it, I say that while Lieberman-Warner may have been weak tea, at least it was tea. That said, I myself am no fan of the junior Senator from Connecticut. In fact I can't stand the self-righteous blowhard: but on this subject I come down, once again, on the side of chess.

Meaning: while the progressive blogosphere is screaming in rage over weak-kneed Senate Democrats letting felonies against the party go virtually unpunished, Barack Obama is counting votes. It's been acknowledged that Lieberman's virtual pardon is the result of Obama's coming out against significant punishment. As TPM's Greg Sargent reports:
Many Democrats believe that effort to oust Lieberman from the Homeland Security chairmanship were dealt a death knell last week, when Barack Obama said he held "no grudges" against Lieberman. Though Obama said he wouldn't "referee" the question over the chairmanship, Obama's statement had the practical effect of allowing Lieberman's allies to claim Obama's support and giving cover to those who want to do nothing about Lieberman's transgressions.
Needless to say, Obama's mercy has nothing to do with new politics or a spirit of bipartisanship - this is about cloture. Lieberman now owes his gavel, really his continued presence in the majority caucus, to the soon-to-be President. Thus, has Barack Obama placed Joe's privates in a lockbox under his new desk in the Oval Office.

When the time comes, the President will call on Joe for a service (or two or three or twenty). Whether he needs him to be the 60th vote on climate change legislation, health care, economic stimulus or any other priority, Obama knows he'll be able to count on Joe. Punishment is for tacticians. Pardons are for strategists.

That's my theory and there it is, too.

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Blogger charliereece said...


To me, the greatest danger of keeping Senator Lieberman as chairman of the Homeland Security chairmanship is that he will suddenly discover that his committee ought to be conducting oversight, and that Connecticut's junior Senator will engage in such oversight activities to the detriment of the new President and his agenda. It is not at all clear to me how President Obama can effectively control that oversight without looking like he's bullying the people's watchdog -- the optics would be all wrong.

So President Obama *might* come away from this with Senator Lieberman's testicles in a lockbox, but he will be constrained from squeezing them. "Look!" Republicans will say, "President Obama is silencing dissent within his own caucus! Liberal fascist! WHAT is Obama afraid of?!?!?"

This can be nipped in the bud by replacing Senator Lieberman as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. But it looks like that won't happen, and Senator Lieberman will effectively be untouchable going forward. I don't see that as a good idea, whether the game being played is checkers or chess.

Blogger tlaskawy said...

yes, but keep in mind the caucus can strip him of the gavel at any time (though they wouldn't do it for his activities as chairman, rather for his opposition on votes). but i don't think lieberman will go after obama. what's in it for him? to make himself a total outcast?

Blogger tlaskawy said...

adding, that neither does it look good to oust him out of fear that he'd go after obama. what, is obama afraid of joe? clearly, he's not.

Blogger Unknown said...

It also has to do with John McCain and Lindsay Graham ... both of whom are now much more motivated to look kindly on the new President.

"John, I am doing this because it is the right thing to do ... but there may come a time when I call you John. And when I call you I will want you to do the right thing."

And that is my theory ... Lie-berman is not the end here. He is the means.

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