Obama Saves Joe Lieberman

ImageIt is being reported tonight that Senate Democrats will vote tomorrow not to strip Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) of his powerful chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee. Lieberman will lose his subcommittee chairmanship,and has Barack Obama to thank for his light punishment.

CNN is reporting that Lieberman can thank Barack Obama for saving his chairmanship, as Obama intervened in the discussions over what to do with Lieberman, and urged his fellow Democrats to let bygones be bygones. Things looked less clear for Lieberman last Thursday after he met with Majority Leader Harry Reid. Lieberman had threatened to caucus with the Republicans if he was stripped of his committee chairmanship.

In an interview with The Hill, Sen. Tom Carper said that their needs to be consequences for Lieberman’s criticism of Obama, “There need to be consequences, and they cannot be insignificant.” Carper also described the anger of several of his fellow Senate Democrats, “Many of my colleagues … are very angry with his criticism of Sen. Obama.” There are two issues here at the Lieberman has to get past tomorrow, his speaking at the Republican Convention and his open criticism of Obama during the campaign.

If Obama is willing to let Lieberman’s campaign rhetoric go, then so should Senate Democrats. The bigger issue is Lieberman’s speech at the Republican convention. It is difficult to accept Lieberman back into the caucus when he criticized the Democratic Party and virtually declared himself a Republican at McCain’s convention. There is some validity to the notion that Lieberman backed the wrong horse in the election, and should have to pay a price for his choice.

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However, strongly punishing Lieberman would go against the new politics that Obama has been calling for. There is also a practical political side to consider. Except for issues of war and national defense, Joe Lieberman votes with the Democratic Party. Since the Democrats, probably won’t get to 60 votes in the Senate, having Lieberman in the caucus will help advance the domestic agenda. I personally feel that Lieberman had worn out his welcome with Democrats long ago.

I think the Senator was trying to exact a measure of political revenge against the party that he feels betrayed him in his last primary election against Ned Lamont.(Lieberman lost the primary, largely because of his hawkish support of the Iraq war. This led to his running as an Independent and defeating Lamont in the fall campaign).

Lieberman now owes Obama for saving his chairmanship, so it is doubtful that Joe will give him too much trouble on the Homeland Security Committee. If the Dems would have hit 60 votes, I think Lieberman was history, no matter what, but now they need him, so they are just going to have to swallow hard and forget about the fall campaign.

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