Saturday, November 22, 2008

Obama's Choice

Senator Claire McCaskill (D.-Mo.) was a very early supporter of, and constant surrogate for, Barack Obama, and fittingly, backed the bid of the Independent Senator from Connecticut, Joe Lieberman, to remain chairman of the Senate's Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. In an article in Salon, Mike Madden quotes the Missouri Senator as saying:

He has sent a very clear signal since his election -- one of humility and one of reconciliation and healing, and it's very clear to all of us that he doesn't want to play the old political games. Old politics would have been revenge and retribution. New politics would be, let's get to work.

In an ironic way, McCaskill is half right. Unlike the comments of some such as Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas ("what happened, happened in the Senate- not in the White House, in the Senate"), McCaskill seems to understand that the primary reason Lieberman (who lost his position as chairman of a subcommittee) was given an ineffectual slap on the wrist was Barack Obama. It was the President-elect's spokesperson, Stephanie Cutter, who, in an e-mail of November 11, wrote Greg Sargent of Talking Points Memo

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.

If the leader of your party, recently elected in a near-landslide and currently enjoying great popularity, says (through a representative) a)"we'd be happy to have Sen. Lieberman caucus with the Democrats" (though evicting Lieberman from the caucus never was on the table); and b)"we don't hold any grudges" toward a politician who has said that you are "a talker" who hasn't always "put country first," the message is clear: I want that guy to remain in a position of influence. And another message: cross me, and I will reward you.

At some point during what he hopes will be an eight-year run, President Obama will be faltering in the polls with little support among the American people. And he will need the vote of a wavering member of Congress, who will then remember the message Barack Obama sent in his advocacy of another member of Congress who actively, and virulently, attacked him throughout the campaign. And that member will know that bucking President Obama carries no retribution and no consequence, except possibly reward.

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