Looking back, it seems kind of crazy, the pre-occupation with What Will They Do To Joe Lieberman? But the truth is, I still can't decide if it really matters or not.
If you've been in retreat from politics since November 4 and aren't familiar with the details of how the U.S. Senate, primarily Democrats, boiled over with anger toward the U. S. Senator Joe Lieberman (CT-I), basically, he endorsed fellow Senator John McCain for president, he was not nice to Barack Obama during the campaigning and the Senate Dems felt as though they'd had enough of his maverickiness.
This transcript from his interview last night with Katie Couric provides more background, but you can also watch the few minute clip:
Most people I know seem to have much firmer opinions about Lieberman's fate that I do.
Lisa Renee Ward at Liberal Common Sense sensed that whatever decision was made, it would be a bellwether for who is really in charge:
What happens today will demonstrate who is truly in charge of the
Senate when it comes to the Democratic Party. Those more to the left
who have wanted something done about Lieberman since he decided to run as an "Independent" or the Washington insider politics as usual members of the Democratic Party.
This one decision by the Senate Democrats will give a very good look into who holds the power and what we can expect.
Senator Joe Lieberman is begging to be kicked out of the Senate’s Democratic caucus. While stumping for John McCain in Florida, Lieberman sat down for an interview with the conservative news outlet, Newsmax
and told them that ” he is so disappointed with the Democratic Party, he will consider whether to bolt the Democratic Senate caucus next session.”
Why wait Senator Reid? Kick Joe Lieberman out now!
I think the Senate Democrats should kick Joe Lieberman out of their caucus no matter how many seats they gain this election. Lieberman has already threatened to leave the caucus/party anyway because he’s so “disappointed with the Democratic Party.” Harry Reid, let’s give Lieberman what he really wants–OUT. The Bold Progressives aren’t as mean as me. They want to let Lieberman stay if he ends up being the 60th vote the Democrats need to get Obama’s legislation passed...
The plight and plunder of Lieberman resulted in multiple posts by Suburban Guerilla over the last few days. including this excerpt from one she titled, "Please, Stop Hitting Us. But We'll Still Like You If You Don't!":
It now appears that Joe Lieberman will get a symbolic slap on the wrist tomorrow from the pantywaists known as Democratic senators. They’re going to remove him as chair of a couple of subcommittees he doesn’t [care] about anyway, and leave him in charge of the important Homeland Security committee, where he will continue to obstruct any significant Democratic progress or oversight.
But they’re going to speak to him in very stern tones, so I’m sure he’s going to turn over a new leaf!
I myself think that Joe acted like a traitor to his old party, but Harry Reid disagrees:
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said that, "Joe Lieberman is a Democrat. He's part of this caucus."
If the past Republican era was one where the Democrats came to face the Republicans' guns with old and rusty swords, the new Democratic era appears to be one where the main Democratic weapons are Q-tips.
Vivian Paige writes simply and effectively at her blog of the same name, "Politics as usual." Though this Haiku, from Mad Kane's Political Madness, sums up the majority of opinions in an efficient way too:
Democrats hand Joe
A tiny slap on the wrist.
Thumbs down to the Dems.
Of course, there's inevitable wondering, what do Jewish voters think? Especially, maybe, Jewish voters in CT but also nationally, vis a vis Israel.
Well, like pretty much everything that has to do with the Middle East, it's not so simple. For one thing, Lieberman is at heart a Democrat, but the Republican hawks love him because he supports the war in Iraq and nearly all things Israel, which is something that makes him less than dear, at least on the surface, to all Jews. Remember that 78% of Jews voted for and helped make Barack Obama our president-elect.
However, Lieberman does have a special place, to wit, the venerable Forward magazine included him as one of 50 Jews they call the Forward 50:
Only eight years have passed since Senator Joseph Lieberman was the Democratic nominee for vice president, an acclaimed moral voice and a historic figure as the first Jew to appear on a major-party ticket. Today he stands at the edge of the wilderness, a four-term lawmaker at home in neither party. Democrats are furious over Lieberman's sharp-tongued campaigning this year for John McCain. But the bad blood goes back further. The only Orthodox Jew on Capitol Hill, Lieberman was an enthusiastic booster of President Bush's Iraq War policy in 2003.
Angry Democrats replied by virtually ignoring his primary bid for
president in 2004 and sinking his Senate re-election bid in Connecticut's 2006 primary. He ran for Senate anyway as an independent and won. Returning to the Capitol, he sat with wary Democrats, providing their 51st vote to control the chamber. They rewarded him with the influential Homeland Security committee chairmanship. That was then. Today Lieberman, 66, is a conundrum. Liberals despise his hawkish defense views, but don't relish losing his vote — nor alienating Orthodox Jews. Republicans mistrust his liberal record on domestic affairs. He is threatened with loss of his powerful committee chairmanship. Few admit it, but he's become the embodiment of the centrist's lonely plight in a polarized Washington.
And, on Tevye's third hand we have the Jewish political persona of Illinois Congressman and Obama's Chief of Staff in waiting, Rahm Emanuel, who, like Lieberman, is an Orthodox Jew but is far more firmly planted left of center. So, again, as far as Jewish voters go, no pat answer.
Ultimately, while Senate Leader Harry Reid seems to have held Lieberman's fate in his hands this week, it is the voters of Connecticut who will have the last say. And here we have some pretty solid feelings that I would trust.
First, from none other than my parents, who have lived in Connecticut since
1962 and are Jewish, life-long Democrats as well as not infrequent
fundraisers for CT politicians including Lieberman in the 1980s, I
We do not respect Lieberman for many reasons. Originally it was his position on the war in Iraq but now there are additional reasons. Lieberman was defeated by the Dems of CT in favor of Ned Lamont in a primary and so did an end run around his own party in order to keep his seat.
Sadly, his actions were predicitable if you look at the history of his rise in CT politics and then his move into national politics. In his initial nomination to run for the office of Attorney General of CT more than 20 years ago his solidarity with the people of his party was shaky even then.
That is only part of our problem with Joe. If you see the Democratic party as a family of sorts, he spent the presidential campaign speaking the worst sort of invective against his own family. An honorable person in that position could be seen to leave
the family before speaking against the leaders but he chose otherwise.
I fully support whatever Mr. Obama has chosen to do about Joe, which is to keep him sort of inside the tent. But we are looking forward to the voters of Connecticut showing him the door. We have to hope that the Republicans who were responsible for his previous win will also see him as neither fish nor fowl, but only foul (sorry, couldn't help it).
But also, from our own BlogHer and fellow CT resident, Love Babz, some thoughts she shared with me specifically on this topic (I've edited out the profanity, sista!):
He is a complete [er um...] and TURNCOAT. I was still in office during his last re-election. Ned Lamont was a formidible candidate and many are sorry Lamont didn't win. I think folks were hoping that Lieberman would go back to his roots...but his desertion of the DEMS was tough to take. Folks in New Haven were really pissed with him. You know he moved to Stamford...no longer calls New Haven home... so that has to tell you something.
I do not think he can win re-election the next time around. I think he knows his days are numbered.
...I am disappointed that the DEMS did not deal harshly with him by removing his [er um] from the chair of Homeland Security. But I understand why they didn't. Everyday he is in that Chair he has to remember that he has to kiss some....Democratic [er um]!
And finally, me. I lived in CT until I was 26 (except during college and a year abroad just after) and I agree with what my parents say regarding the family aspect. Connecticut is a very small state, population-wise, and it's as funky as they get in New England (which is pretty funky) as far as electing major league mavericks (former US Senator and CT governor - as an Independent, Lowell Weicker, is perhaps one of the most well-known) or at least non-cookie cutter politicians. I love that about CT.
Also, as Babz and my folks suggest, CT Dems feel empowered that they'll be able to find and elect a Democratic U.S. Senator to replace Lieberman who will represent as well as they used to think Lieberman did. I would put money on Lieberman not being re-elected in 2012. But I would also consider that he'll retire or make a different political move to avoid defeat. The CT Dems are done with him and the Republicans are not numerous or conservative enough there to keep him in.
Final answer? If anything, Lieberman is at his weakest now, because who can trust him or want to put trust in him - voters, colleagues - who? He may be loyal, and loyal without looking at political party, but we don't call it "politics" for nothing. In American politics, the concept of being an Independent, like being a maverick, still seems to be better in theory than in practice.
As for the What It Means For The Next Four Years Of Governing, I'm not as fateful. I think too many needs had to be met in this one decision and, like my mother, I would have been fine either way - kick him out or follow Obama's lead. Frankly, by not expelling Lieberman, he's been neutralized and that's probably the best case scenario for an incoming administration that's got it's plate more than full of tsuris.
NB: This post is my last as a special CE for Elections 2008. Many thanks to the BlogHers in Chief for asking me, letting me, inspiring me and answering all my questions and giving me more ideas. The potential within this already established community is well beyond the sum of its extremely large membership, and I look forward to continuing to contribute to it for as long as my password works.
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