Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Lieberman Triumphs

The vote is in, and the Senate Democratic caucus has voted 42-13 to condemn Senator Joseph Lieberman for statements made during the presidential campaign, remove him as chairman of the Environment and Public Works subcommittee, and allow him to remain as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.

This was a total victory and complete vindication of the Connecticut Independent. (Thinkpprogress.org reported Monday that the Capitol Hill publication, Roll Call, had reported that Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer plans to deal with climate change legislation at the full committee level next year and therefore Lieberman had little to lose from his colleagues stripping him of that assignment.)

The endorsement of Lieberman was not surprising, given the statement of November 11 by Obama spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter: "We aren't going to referee decisions about who should or should not be a committee chair. President-elect Obama looks forward to working with anyone to move the country forward. We'd be happy to have Sen. Lieberman caucus with the Democrats. We don't hold any grudges."

In a conference call with major liberal bloggers today, Democratic Party National Committee chairman Howard Dean appeared to acknowledge President-elect Obama's influence on the vote to appease Lieberman:

So what... if you run and get a mandate for reconciliation, is your first act to kick this guy out of the party?

Well, people of my generation think -- yeah, damn right we should. But in the new spirit of reconciliation, which is why I think Barack Obama got elected by 66% of the under 35 vote, maybe it's not the way.

I'm very willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the Senators and to Barack Obama on that one.


And that sounds a lot like Lieberman's Connecticut colleague in the United States, Chris Dodd, who on November 7 contended:

What does Barack Obama want? He's talked about reconciliation, healing, bringing people together. I don't think he'd necessarily want to spend the first month of this president-elect period, this transition period, talking about a Senate seat, particularly if someone is willing to come forward and is willing to be a member of your family in the caucus in that sense.

It is one thing for the President-elect to forgive, and condone, Joe Lieberman for questioning the patriotism of Obama's fellow Democrats, as when Lieberman on 12/6/05 declared "It is time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be Commander-in-Chief for three more critical years, and that in matters of war we undermine Presidential credibility at our nation's peril." Sometimes, however, Obama himself was the target of the virulent attacks. Dick Polman, national political columnist at The Philadelphia Inquirer, neatly sums it up:

When asked last April 14 whether Obama is "a Marxist, as (conservative commentator) Bill Kristol says might be the case," Lieberman replied: "Well, you know, I must say that's a good question." On Oct. 23, Lieberman said that Obama wants to practice "what used to be known as socialist theory." At another point in the campaign, Lieberman declared that, while McCain always put "country first," Obama did not.

And, during his GOP convention speech, Lieberman recited the standard GOP line about how the Democratic candidate is a military wimp who doesn't care about the troops. The key passage: "When others wanted to retreat in defeat from the field of battle, which would've been a disaster for the U.S.A. — when colleagues like Barack Obama were voting to cut off funding for our American troops on the battlefield — John McCain had the courage to stand against the tide of public opinion..." (Italics are mine.)


If it looks like Barack Obama lacks a spine, he's a lot like the former President who tried so hard to deny him the nomination . On October 18, 2005 President Clinton told a business group "I'll tell you the whole story about that budget. Probably there are people in this room still mad at me at that budget because you think I raised your taxes too much. It might surprise you to know that I think I raised them too much, too." Never mind that that the revenue boost contributed greatly to a balanced budget (which in turn helped stabilize the economy), arguably President Clinton's signature contribution to American government.

Bill Clinton always had a need to be liked and not to offend anyone. It could be that a similar instinct is behind the President-elect's yearning to be post-partisan, to cast partisan disagreements aside in order to find common ground, even with scoundrels and Republicans. That could, at least in the short term, prove popular- but it will not bring the "change we need."

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