Joseph Lieberman (Fredo-CT)

Posted on 28. Oct, 2009 by in Uncategorized

I wonder what Barack Obama thinks about when he hears the name Joe Lieberman. I wonder if it makes him angry. I wonder if it makes him feel like a dupe. I wonder if he feels betrayed.

I wonder about these things because Lieberman, who was just a controversial Supreme Court decision away from being Vice President on a Democratic ticket in 2000, now claims that he will join a Republican filibuster aimed at blocking the inclusion of a public option in the president’s signature domestic policy initiative, which is reforming the nation’s health care system.

Back in 2006 when he was still just the junior senator from Illinois, Obama waded into Connecticut’s contentious Democratic primary to back the Iraq War supporting Lieberman over Ned Lamont, an anti-war candidate who garnered a lot of attention and support from the more progressive wing of the party:

A few minutes later, however, the audience was riveted as Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, the guest speaker at the $175-a-plate dinner, stood on the podium and began the customary round of recognition of candidates and incumbents in the room. When he got to Mr. Lieberman, who is his mentor in the Senate and who helped recruit him to speak at the event, the applause again was muted.

“I know that some in the party have differences with Joe,” Senator Obama said, all but silencing the crowd. “I’m going to go ahead and say it. It’s the elephant in the room. And Joe and I don’t agree on everything. But what I know is, Joe Lieberman’s a man with a good heart, with a keen intellect, who cares about the working families of America.”

Then, with applause beginning to build, he finished the thought: “I am absolutely certain that Connecticut’s going to have the good sense to send Joe Lieberman back to the United States Senate.”

That time, people cheered loudly.

Even though Lieberman eventually lost the primary but later won the general election as an independent, one might expect that Obama’s endorsement garnered him some good will. It became apparent over the course of last year’s presidential campaign, though, that Lieberman’s memory is a bit short. During the 2008 presidential election, he served as his friend John McCain’s attack dog, repeatedly hitting Obama on foreign policy issues (which led to a tense situation on the Senate floor). He even ripped Obama in a speech during the Republican National Convention:

“When others wanted to retreat in defeat from the field of battle, when Barack Obama was voting to cut off funding for our troops on the battlefield,” Lieberman said, “John McCain had the courage to stand against the tide of public opinion and support the surge (in Iraq), and because of that, today our troops are at last beginning to come home, not in failure but in honor.”

Further, Obama “has not reached across party lines to accomplish anything significant,” Lieberman added.

Given that, it would have been understandable if Obama, after defeating McCain, might have decided to take his pound of flesh from Lieberman. Instead, the president-elect expressed his desire for Lieberman to remain in the Democratic caucus.

And now we stand at point where Lieberman (who was also allowed to keep his committee chairmanships over the objections of other members of the Democratic caucus), is now threatening to hold hearings about Obama’s “czars” and block his health care bill.

What’s the phrase? “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

If I were Obama, I’d be beside myself right now. Lieberman’s not even making coherent arguments about why he’s willing to torpedo health care reform (though campaign funding should never be overlooked). He’s fairly insulated from retribution at this point because of the vote-counting dynamic in the Senate (the Democrats – with immigration reform and cap and trade still on the agenda – can’t afford to have him pull an Arlen Specter).

That leaves Joe with lot of power and O with few options. Still, I can’t help but think of this when I consider how this situation could play out in the end:

Let us not forget that Obama’s a supposed practitioner of “Chicago-style politics”. He’s shown the willingness to get down and dirty when he needs to. Joe Lieberman might have the upper hand at the moment, but if I were him, I wouldn’t want to go on any figurative canoe rides on the Potomac with Rahm Emanuel any time soon.

2 Responses to “Joseph Lieberman (Fredo-CT)”

  1. Nicholas Martinez

    29. Oct, 2009

    What’s up with all the Godfather references all of a sudden? You are going to force me to break out the Star Wars stuff . . .

  2. robert.voris

    02. Nov, 2009

    Did Lieberman have some kind of progressive track record that made Democrats in the caucus and Connecticut look the other way? All I remember pre-2000 was the video game rating system controversy, which doesn’t, to me, establish even centrist Democrat bona fides. Can’t we just push him into the GOP? It seems he wants to be there any way.