I obviously don’t understand politics as well as Harry Reid and Democratic Party leaders: if the decision was mine, I would have stripped Lieberman of all assignments long ago, and especially when he started being John McCain’s BFF1.
By the time Washington settles down to look at the election results next month, there may not be many more lines left for Lieberman to cross. Endorse the GOP nominee? Check. Blast Barack Obama at the Republican National Convention? Check. Defend embattled Republican incumbent Norm Coleman of Minnesota in one of the country’s most contested Senate races? Check. Yet, despite all that, top Senate Democrats like Harry Reid still aren’t willing to say they’ll kick Lieberman out of the caucus next year. In fact, they’re still not willing to say they’ll move against Lieberman at all, even if things break their way and the party winds up in control of more than 60 seats. “We truly are in a spot where [Reid] will talk to the members of the caucus after the elections about what — if anything — to do,” said Jim Manley, Reid’s spokesman, regarding Lieberman’s role. (Since becoming an Independent, Lieberman has continued to caucus with Democrats in the Senate and regularly votes their way on domestic policy.) “We’re going to have to wait and see how this thing plays out.”
Lieberman’s future is partly a question of math — as in, will Democrats win enough Senate seats to gain a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority, and if they do, will Lieberman represent that 60th vote? But it’s also partly a question of clubby intangibles inside the Senate. The guy may have irritated a lot of liberals in 2008, and even a lot of Democrats in the Senate, but he’s been on Capitol Hill for 20 years, and, although people may wish they could forget it now, he was on the party’s national ticket in 2000. In the end, how far will longtime friends want to push him to hold him accountable for supporting McCain?
What isn’t in doubt is how fervently Lieberman has been out there pushing the Republican ticket. He hops on and off McCain’s campaign plane and bus constantly these days, in between trips to suburban areas in swing states with lots of Jewish voters — south Florida, the Philly suburbs, the Cleveland area. During Sunday’s tele-town hall, he tried to make the case that McCain is the real heir to the legacy of Bill Clinton. “The eight Clinton years were good years, but the Democratic Party is not where it was eight years ago on a lot of issues,” Lieberman said, citing trade and “government reform,” without specifying exactly what that is. Addressing McCain, he continued: “You are more in that tradition on those issues than a lot of the Democrats are today.” (McCain may be pretty sure he’s not George Bush, but he didn’t sound like he wants to be Bill Clinton, either. “Yeah,” he muttered. “Next question, please.”)
This kind of shtick is what drives many Democrats crazy. “I think that Sen. Lieberman feels much more comfortable in the Republican Party,” said Ned Lamont, who beat Lieberman in Connecticut’s Democratic primary race for the Senate in 2006, but then lost the general election when Lieberman ran as an independent. “I got in the race two and a half years ago because I thought he had left a lot of Democratic principles a long time ago.” Blogger and activist David Sirota says he hopes Reid and other leaders will punish Lieberman: “I hope that there is some personal animus toward the guy.”
I seriously see no reason the Democrats should include Lieberman in anything the Democratic Party does, unless Lieberman changes his ways. Zell Miller was bad enough, but Lieberman is even worse.Footnotes:
- best friend forever in internet slang [↩]