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Punishing Lieberman

Harry Reid, not unreasonably, is strongly considering stripping Joe Lieberman of his chairmanship after he campaigned vigorously for the Republican nominee for president.

Reid, in a sternly worded statement after the 45-minute meeting, said no official decisions have been made. But an aide to the Nevada Democrat said Reid was leaning toward removing Lieberman as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions were confidential. “While I understand that Sen. Lieberman has voted with Democrats a majority of the time, his comments and actions have raised serious concerns among many in our caucus,” Reid said.

[…]

“I want to spend some time in the next few days thinking about what Sen. Reid and I discussed what my options are at this point,” Lieberman said. “He promised me that he would do the same and we would continue these conversations.”

Republicans have said they would welcome Lieberman to their caucus.

Democrats in the past had tolerated Lieberman’s political straddling because he held their slim 51-49 majority in his hands. Now that Democrats have strengthened their hold in the Senate to at least 55 seats as a result of Tuesday’s election, Lieberman no longer is vital to their majority control. Despite splitting with most Democrats on the war in Iraq, Lieberman tends to vote with them on domestic issues such as health care, education and the environment.

One suspects that, in the incredibly unlikely event the Minnesota recount, Georgia run-off, and Alaska inquiry all go the Democrats’ way, Reid will see fit to keep Lieberman around and, otherwise, won’t.

The irony is that the Iraq War, the issue which most divides Lieberman from the Democrats, is going to wind down.  It would have even under a President McCain but it’ll happen slightly faster under President Obama and a solid Democratic majority in both Houses.

Lieberman is simply in the uncomfortable spot of being a bad fit for either party.  He’s a liberal on social issues but a hawk on foreign policy.  He’s every Republicans’ favorite Democrat but, if he switched parties, he’d soon be about as beloved as Arlen Specter and Olympia Snowe, widely dismissed as a RINO.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Eric says:

    First! (Sorry, couldn’t resist)

    My opinion is that it wasn’t so much his backing McCain that PO’d the Dems (although I’m sure that is a problem), but his “vigorous campaigning” which led him to say some very disparaging things about his own party that he simply cannot walk back.

    The funny thing is that for all of Lieberman’s calls to put partisanship aside, he as much as anyone helped widen the divide.

    I can’t see how anyone could disagree with Lieberman getting yanked.

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  2. legion says:

    The irony is that the Iraq War, the issue which most divides Lieberman from the Democrats, is going to wind down.

    Actually, that’s quite wrong. Lieberman’s position on the war was largely a difference of opinion that most Dem voters would have long forgotten about by now. The wedge is his utterly reprehensible behavior during the campaign – his treatment of Obama and his open support of the opposition candidate have simply burned far too many bridges for him to _ever_ be accepted back “into the fold”, as it were.

    His transparent ass-kissing of McCain and the entire GOP machine, in a desperate attempt to garner a cabinet position in a prospective McCain administration, clearly illustrate the fact the Lieberman has long since been _done_ being both a Democrat and a Senator – he wanted to move up, and he bet the bank on the wrong side. Not only that, he did it in such a callous, dismissive manner that he can _never_ come back.

    Lieberman is simply in the uncomfortable spot of being a bad fit for either party. He’s a liberal on social issues but a hawk on foreign policy. He’s every Republicans’ favorite Democrat but, if he switched parties, he’d soon be about as beloved as Arlen Specter and Olympia Snowe, widely dismissed as a RINO.

    This, however, is entirely true. His days as a power player in DC are up in flames – there is _nobody_ who wants his stink near them. I’ll bet a dollar that as soon as his term’s up, if he’s not stupid enough to try to run as a Republican, Joe will magically appear in a think tank or as a Fox pundit.

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  3. Bithead says:

    I take this as a sign that the Democrats are planning on a big lurch to the left, particularly as regards Israel policy… clearly, Lieberman stood in the way.

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  4. DC Loser says:

    If by “…big lurch to the left, particularly as regards Israel policy” you mean that the White House will no longer be a subsidiary of the Likud. Maybe. Please tell me Rahm Emmanuel hates Israel. Was he the anti-semite that the McCain idiot staffer was referring to that Obama was “palling around” with?

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  5. Dave Schuler says:

    He’s every Republicans’ favorite Democrat but, if he switched parties, he’d soon be about as beloved as Arlen Specter and Olympia Snowe, widely dismissed as a RINO.

    James, the problem is that by the standards of those holding the whip hand in the party so are you. I don’t see any way that libertarian Republicans, not joiners by temperament and conviction, will gain any real influence in the party. They’re just not willing to do the spade work.

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  6. PD Shaw says:

    Seems like the first test of Obama’s inclusiveness. Does anybody doubt that Reid has felt out Obama’s views on this?

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  7. tom p says:

    Seems like the first test of Obama’s inclusiveness. Does anybody doubt that Reid has felt out Obama’s views on this?

    PD:

    Of course Obama has been consulted on this. I suspect that as the nominative leader of the DEM party, he is in fact behind it. If he is going to get even half of what he wants done, he has to be able to enforce some kind of party discipline. He will use carrots as well as sticks, but this is a situation that clearly calls for the stick.

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  8. Mark says:

    Something not given nearly enough attention by the media, but much more important to the Democratic Caucus, is that Lieberman campaigned, and campaigned hard, for Republican Senators. His efforts in Minnesota on behalf of Sen. Coleman ensures his place in the wilderness. McCain was one thing, but campaigning down-ticket is unpardonable.

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  9. Floyd says:

    Proof of the Bi-partisan approach preached by the Democrat party!
    Ya think they were saying Try-partisan approach?

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  10. Derrick says:

    Proof of the Bi-partisan approach preached by the Democrat party!

    I think you have a child’s (or David Broder’s) view of what bi-partisanship is. Bi-partisanship is working together on issues and finding common ground and requires some give and take on both sides. Lieberman, apparently, promised that he would take by campaigning for his long-time friend but give by not demonizing Obama, and the Democrats would like wise allow him to go against their caucas without taking away his assignments. Instead, Lieberman went back on his word by campaigning for unrelated races for the GOP, calling Obama a Marxist and an Anti-Semite. He did this.

    This doesn’t preclude them of working with Lieberman, but he can’t have control of the Democrat agenda just so they can fulfill Republican’s notion of “bi-partisanship” that we’ve seen so effectively used by Rove and Bush where Democrats roll over and take it.

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  11. PD Shaw says:

    If he is going to get even half of what he wants done, he has to be able to enforce some kind of party discipline.

    I certainly think that’s true of Reid who is charged with leading the Democratic caucus in the Senate. It’s not necessarily true of Obama if he wants to forge his own center-left majority as many seem to want or predict.

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  12. tom p says:

    I certainly think that’s true of Reid who is charged with leading the Democratic caucus in the Senate. It’s not necessarily true of Obama if he wants to forge his own center-left majority as many seem to want or predict.

    True on the 1st part PD, but not so much on the 2nd. Obama has already forged a “center-left majority” by bringing in at least 5 more DEM Senators, and 20(?) more DEM Reps. No, he did not do this all on his own, but he certainly helped. Would Kay Hagan have won in NC without him? Would Saxby Chambliss be facing a run off with out Obama? Would Coleman be hanging on by his fingernails without Obama?

    The job for Obama now is to hold them all together (thru Reid and Pelosi) and poach off what REP votes he can get to move things thru the Senate. He can’t do that if they are all free to stab him in the back (as L has done) whenever they want.

    Obama is a smart, savvy, and tough politician who is playing for keeps. Lieberman is finding that out the hard way.

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  13. hcantrall says:

    I think Chambliss is facing a run-off because the Libertarian Allen Buckley pulled votes from him. Jim Martin most likely isn’t going to win a run-off.

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  14. tom p says:

    I think Chambliss is facing a run-off because the Libertarian Allen Buckley pulled votes from him. Jim Martin most likely isn’t going to win a run-off.

    agreed hc, but it would not have been even close with out the large black turnout for Obama.

    Also, I would not assume Chambliss was going to get those Libertarian votes. As is, my bet is they will stay home in a runoff… Which of course will leave Chambliss with over 50%. (not to mention that a lot of blacks will stay home too)

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  15. just me says:

    I think the democrat is hurt more by the run off, because he gets no help from Obama. The GOP base almost always turns out better than the dem one. Also the GOP will be more motivated to make sure the senate has one more GOP member in it.

    As for what to do about Lieberman-while I think a lot of democrats want to see him punished, I think it is wiser to save the punishment and let bygones be bygones. The democrats may think they won’t need him, and it might feel good to punish him, but they probably would do better politically to forget about it. Lieberman on their side probably helps them more than if they drive him to caucus with the GOP-and Lieberman really isn’t much of a fit with the GOP, but the GOP would probably take him.

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  16. tom p says:

    As for what to do about Lieberman-while I think a lot of democrats want to see him punished, I think it is wiser to save the punishment and let bygones be bygones. The democrats may think they won’t need him, and it might feel good to punish him, but they probably would do better politically to forget about it. Lieberman on their side probably helps them more…

    I see your point jm, but I have to disagree. The thing is, it is not a matter of punishment, it is a matter of trust. Lieberman can not be trusted, and one does not give a man like that a position of power like the chair on a gov’t oversight comittee. Pushing him out, what do they lose? They go from 56/44 to 55/45… Sure it puts them one more vote from 60, but they could never count on his vote anyway, and the DEMs were always going to have to work with the GOP in the Senate.

    If he does not take the deal HR has offered, they are better off without him.

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  17. Bithead says:

    Please tell me Rahm Emmanuel hates Israel.

    Heh.
    Are we to make this judgment by what he says, or what he does, or by his family tree?

    I ask because they don’t seem to mesh very well.

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