Policy Over Process

Some in the press may try to frame today's vote on Joe Lieberman, and specifically Barack Obama's actions in relation to the vote, on left versus right terms, that it was a Sister Souljah moment in a sense. Yet it seems to me that this actually fits more neatly into another frame -- namely that Obama putting policy above process.

During the general election, there were process arguments over whether or not it was correct for Obama to opt out of the public financing program, instead opting to fund his campaign privately. Leaving aside the debate over whether Obama made the right decision on a process level -- and I believe he did, because a campaign funded by millions of Americans giving on average a hundred or two hundred dollars is a publicly financed campaign, one that is not subject to the type of influence problems afflicted by campaigns relying more heavily on large dollar donations -- it's fairly apparent that at least part of the decision rested on the reality that Obama's likelihood of winning, and thus being able to enact progressive change, would be greater opting out of the system than it would be opting in. To put it another way, Obama put policy ends ahead of process.

The selection of Rahm Emanuel as White House Chief of Staff can be viewed in this frame as well. While some complained that Emanuel is too partisan, or that he is too tied to the previous Democratic administration -- process arguments, in a sense -- it appears that Obama wanted someone who had experience both in the White House and on Capitol Hill, and moreover someone who will be a bare-knuckles fighter on behalf of his administration and its policy goals. Again, putting policy over process.

Obama's buttressing of Lieberman's position within the Senate Democratic caucus also appears to fall within the realm of putting policy over process. No doubt Lieberman campaigned against Obama and would-be Democratic Senators, too. Process dictates (and I think it's right here) that Lieberman should not enjoy the benefits of the Democratic majority he undercut and campaigned against, retaining his chairmanship. Yet Lieberman could make Obama's life more difficult as an angry gadfly (a Tom Coburn, as it were) than he would as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee -- particularly if he owed his chairmanship to Obama, which he does. Under this rationale, Obama will have an easier go in forwarding his legislative agenda in the Senate with Lieberman beholden to him than Lieberman weaker, but mad at him.

This isn't to say that Obama made the right decision, only that his actions with regards to Lieberman aren't necessarily best described in terms of left and right.

Tags: Barack Obama, Joe Lieberman (all tags)

Comments

38 Comments

In regards to the Executive Branch

I'm really a 1 issue guy; Iraq.

Betray me on that and it's on.

by Paul Goodman 2008-11-18 10:26AM | 0 recs
Re: In regards to the Executive Branch

I am not a one issue guy. But Iraq comes close to that because of the major sideeffects that war has wrought on the country. The opportunity cost of that war(Lieberman was invested in it as much as Cheney and Bush) was not just lives and money. It was also time spent finding solutions for health care and education. Debates that should have happened on those two issues were delayed for a long time. And even now, there will be some administration time spent on bailouts and iraq war related stuff that will not give them enough time to implement real solutions in other areas.

by Pravin 2008-11-18 10:37AM | 0 recs
Re: Policy Over Process

I'm having a hard time finding Obama's agency in all of this - are you suggesting that there was something more than the noncommital statement that they put out a few weeks ago?

by rfahey22 2008-11-18 10:32AM | 0 recs
His fingerprints are all over it

Do you really think Dick Durbin would turn on a dime and chill about it if Obama didn't give the go-ahead?

by Dracomicron 2008-11-18 11:13AM | 0 recs
I am furious about this, but

Obama is much cleverer than I am.  He may be bringing his enemies close to him.  Also, he may have the confidence to keep the long view rather than get tripped up with problems like Lieberman.  It may be that he will just let the citizens of CT make the decision about him.  Lieberman is a total scumbag, however.  I hope he can't sleep at night.

by MDMan 2008-11-18 10:33AM | 0 recs
Re: I am furious about this, but

You just gave Lieberman more power. how is that helpful? He is still not obligated to vote the same way. And we have shown that it is actually tougher to remove him at a later point contrary to what Evan Bayh claims.

by Pravin 2008-11-18 10:34AM | 0 recs
More power to do what?

Seems to me that Lieberman squandered the power he had to appeas Bush, and now has very few cards to play.

by Dracomicron 2008-11-18 11:15AM | 0 recs
Re: Policy Over Process

So why are the senators implying that through their aides or even surrogates like Lanny Davis on talk shows? They are the ones framing it as left vs right. I am no way a leftwinger (anyone sampling my diaries can attest to that). But I am for quality senators - character or production  - or both.

Hell, I supported Rahm Emanuel's appointment based on his ability despite my dislike of his personality. I hated the way Obama and others acted during the Lamont-lieberman election. But we put it aside as we were not some nutbags unable to put imperfections behind us. But there is a point at which one has to draw the line. These kind of moves ignores the last 8 years. If Al Franken loses by a few votes and Lieberman's campaigning somehow affected those few votes by giving fake bipartisan credibility to Coleman, will Democratic bigwigs treat Lieberman with the same venom they reserve for Nader?

by Pravin 2008-11-18 10:33AM | 0 recs
I live in Minnesota

Lieberman's Coleman endorsement went over like a lead weight here.  It sunk without much notice.  I doubt the actual tally was much affected one way or the other.

by Dracomicron 2008-11-18 11:17AM | 0 recs
Re: I live in Minnesota

Yeah, I think Lieberman has zero influence, maybe even a negative one. In a way, the netroots have made him a bigger deal than he really is.

I think Obama did give his tacit approval for this move, I just hope Obama does have Joe in a small box that he can't move out of.

by Lolis 2008-11-18 11:23AM | 0 recs
We need to have a little faith

Obama beat Hillary Clinton and John McCain, the two biggest names in recent politics.  Somehow I'm not afraid of Joe Lieberman.

by Dracomicron 2008-11-18 11:39AM | 0 recs
The Senate did right

Not by saving Lieberman, but by not handing Obama a defeat before he even takes office. Obama's going to need all the honeymoon period he can get if he's going to deliver on peoples' expectations.

Thank you Senate. I'm sure there are many senators who would have loved to give Lieberman stiffer punishment, but recognized that the cost would have been too high.

by PhilFR 2008-11-18 10:35AM | 0 recs
Re: The Senate did right

This is such bullshit. Why don't you play out the scenario. If they voted against lieberman, this would have happened according to my guess. The majority of pundits would have wondered if this was partisan retribution. People would talk about it for a day or two and forget about it. Imagine how many abuses of Bush it took for some of them to gain any traction in the media? And even then , he would have gotten away with it if he wasnt so incompetent. These things do not resonate with a lot of Americans either way. it is the same with public financing. The McCain people thought they could get Obama on those grounds by saying he was not being honorable enoguh to stick with that. Did that gain any traciton? No.

But it doesnt even have to be negative news even for a day.
If the Democrats had any sense, they would send COMPETENT spokesmen who would rattle of many logical reasons for getting rid of him in a tone more appropriate for a mainstream audience instead of the screams we find from the likes of me and other MYDDers. Just watch how Maddow gave an excellent rebuttal without losing her cool. Do you think many people who saw that thought Maddow was a crazy loon? Then some pundits would have backed off and merely grumbled. You do not let others dictate your talking points. Otherwise, democrats are going to keep being the party of the weak. Obama ran an excellent campaign, but let's face it, the main reason he won was because Bush fucked up the country royally. The reason why people like Evan bayh still can claim with a straight face that Lieberman is strong on national security is because Democrats keep letting the other side dicate the conventional wisdom.

by Pravin 2008-11-18 10:46AM | 0 recs
Don't confuse the public with the Senate

Sure, Lieberman is out of the new cycle in a day, regardless of what Senate Dem's decided.

But the president's honeymoon isn't ended by the public. It's ended by the congress, when they decide the the prez has lost enough momentum that they can buck him. It would be a bad thing indeed if that was happening to Barack in November of 2008.

by PhilFR 2008-11-18 10:54AM | 0 recs
Well, for me, the honeymoon is OVER!

So I hope h enjoyed it while it lasted.

Stabbing u in the back for LIEBERMAN and HILLARY?

Yeah, f**k that noise.

by teknofyl 2008-11-18 11:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Well, for me, the honeymoon is OVER!

Didn't stab me in the back. And as for HRC: she wasn't my pick for prez, but I'm perfectly OK with her for Sec. of State.

As for Lieberman... if Obama wants to save his ass, I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt. He's no fool (as opposed to many bloggers.)

by PhilFR 2008-11-18 04:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Well, for me, the honeymoon is OVER!

That was a generic 'you' but your point is taken.  You are fine with both of these move.

I may be a fool - you may be right.  Time will tell; I oppose these choices based onwhat I think will happen, not ideological purity.  If neither comes back to cause bad things, then I am wrong.

Obama knows his way around, but I disagree with him on the Clinton choice and I just cannot express how much I disagree with Reid on the Lieberman choice.

All I can do is wait and watch.

by teknofyl 2008-11-19 12:25PM | 0 recs
Dayum!

Well, take a look at my diary, just posted here...talk about being on the same wavelength today! Sheesh!

by bobswern 2008-11-18 10:45AM | 0 recs
Didnt Obama run on change?

So far, all his appointments have been the same old suspects.

Now lieberman gets his chairmanship despite a bad track record in this position? Who the fuck is Obama trying to fool here? I thought Obama followed Lieberman with his mouth shut becuase he was a junior senator at the time when lieberman ignored calls to make the Bushies accountable. So obama is saying it is OK to ignore accountability? When you ignore accountability, mistakes will be made in the future.

Where is the change in keeping a moron like Lieberman with fringe ideas(well, not fringe in 2002, but the fringe of 2002 is now the mainstream of 2008 regarding the war). What is Obama's plan in having that committee run well. Did they at least get Lieberman to promise to make the Bushies accountable for their mistakes in the closing months of the bush presidency?

Why is it that moderates are all for being tough on crime, but when we let politicians get away with their outright negligence and corruption during Katrina and Iraq, it is OK. A black person wading in water with a TV is somehow much worse than a politician giving his buddies rich contracts to not do their job properly in disaster areas?

by Pravin 2008-11-18 10:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Didnt Obama run on change?

On the one hand, I don't expect too much from Obama. People project so much on him it's hard to keep in mind that his record just isn't that liberal, especially on Foreign policy. Consequently, these old-school appointments don't shock me too much. On the other hand, what I most want from the new administration (beyond better policy) is competent, lawful governance. In that regard, the Clinton administration's track record is quite good.

by 1arryb 2008-11-18 11:12AM | 0 recs
Re: Didnt Obama run on change?

I am actually not liberal on financial and crime issues. I just want to see some bold moves. I am not of a specific ideology.

by Pravin 2008-11-18 11:30AM | 0 recs
Re: Didnt Obama run on change?

Change of policy. Are you arguing that what Obama is proposing isn't going to change the direction that we were headed?

by bruh3 2008-11-18 05:14PM | 0 recs
Re: Policy Over Process
keep your friends close, your enemies closer. listen to Lieberman, he sounds like some kid saying leave me alone, Daddy, says you have to leave me alone.  He is weakened by this in many more ways than if he had gone over to the Republicans and I just don't beleive that that chairmanship has that much power under a democratic president.  Lieberman is a born shil. He'll be a shil for Obama, all he needs to do is invite him to dinner.  
I see everybody getting really upset about the people O is considering appointing.  He wants competent people who will know how to effectuate his policies.  I think that the netroots considers Lieberman to have been the one who slipped out of our hands since we thought we had him beat.  i await further developments.
by ruthhmiller 2008-11-18 11:18AM | 0 recs
The appointees aren't a problem

What the appointees believe doesn't really matter if they're enacting Obama's policies.

Bush hired incompetant idealogues that believed the same way he did.  Obama hires people that sometimes disagree with him, but whom he trusts to get things done effectively.

Bush, who was fundamentally weak, was pretty easy to sway by advisors.  Obama, who appears to be fundamentally strong, won't be as easy to convince.

by Dracomicron 2008-11-18 11:23AM | 0 recs
BUT HE DOESN'T!

That's just it, if they try to remove him later on it will look like a Partisan Witch Hunt. He has free reign and 42 allies. Besides he already knows his Senate allies won't turn on him no matter what. He can do fuck all.

by MNPundit 2008-11-18 11:30AM | 0 recs
Re: Policy Over Process

Obama isn't interested in posturing, he's interesting in being the absolute best president he can be.  And he, correctly, sees nothing to be gained from sending a signal that the Democrat party is triumphalist and vengeful.  He would rather send a signal that he is a big tent democrat and inclusionary president who wants to build the widest possible coalition for his policies.

Good for him.  I agree.

by markjay 2008-11-18 12:10PM | 0 recs
Re: Policy Over Process

Yet Lieberman could make Obama's life more difficult as an angry gadfly (a Tom Coburn, as it were) than he would as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee -- particularly if he owed his chairmanship to Obama, which he does.

didn't lieberman already owe obama his senate seat after begging him to stump for joe in 2006?

i just can't see what lieberman has to offer that doesn't require trusting him.

by truth hurts 2008-11-18 12:19PM | 0 recs
He Never Said Heads Would Roll

Obama in his campaign of change and unity said nothing about retribution and punishment.  His only chance to accomplish his ambitious agenda is to line up all the allies he can.  Although it may frustrate those of us who can't stomach Lieberman and his shenanigans, I suspect the public view will be positive.  

by citizen 2008-11-18 01:10PM | 0 recs
Re: He Never Said Heads Would Roll

Do you think Lieberman will change his mind when Obama needs to scale down in Iraq?

by Pravin 2008-11-18 01:47PM | 0 recs
Re: He Never Said Heads Would Roll

No, but Lieberman will be constrained from speaking his mind.  

by citizen 2008-11-18 02:46PM | 0 recs
Re: He Never Said Heads Would Roll

Lieberman would have had a vote on that either way.

by Jess81 2008-11-18 08:32PM | 0 recs
Re: He Never Said Heads Would Roll

And he would have a vote either way on other issues. 60 in the caucus is a meaningless number. what counts is votes on each individual issue. I see nothing in lieberman's behavior where he would change a vote to please the democrats.

by Pravin 2008-11-19 10:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Policy Over Process

well said!

by kydem 2008-11-18 01:27PM | 0 recs
Why this is an insult to Democratic voters

It's not just the restoration of the chairmanship. But the way they went about it. Denigrating the left through very blunt statements by aides or whoever is the surrogate. But Harry Reid went  beyond the line of proprietary by calling Joe a Democrat. I have news for you. He broke the rules by refusing to accept the results of a Democratic Primary that had the largest turnout of any primary in CT history. He campaigned as an indepdent. So if you must kiss Lieberman's ass, Harry should have the decency not to address him as a democrat because he is not.  Even Bernie Sanders whose values are closer to the Democrats isnt called a Democrat by Harry because he is not.

The party elite has just told Democratic PArty voters of CT "FUCK YOU, SUCKERS". We do not respect your primary process because all that counts is what we think, not you. It's one thing for us to grit our teeth while the spineless Democrats let him chair an important committee. But to call him a Democrat invalidates our right to vote. Democrats did not vote him senator. REpublicans did. Call him a senator, but not a Democrat.

by Pravin 2008-11-18 01:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Policy Over Process

Yet Lieberman could make Obama's life more difficult as an angry gadfly (a Tom Coburn, as it were) than he would as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee -- particularly if he owed his chairmanship to Obama, which he does.

You're assuming that Joe Lieberman has the capacity to feel gratitude, that he has a sense of honor and integrity.  He doesn't.

Lieberman will continue doing what Lieberman does: Undercut Democrats.  Obama's full pardon will mean absolutely nothing to him whatsoever.

by Will Graham 2008-11-18 02:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Policy Over Process

et Lieberman could make Obama's life more difficult as an angry gadfly (a Tom Coburn, as it were) than he would as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee -- particularly if he owed his chairmanship to Obama, which he does.

This Obama apologetics is such utter bull-crap its way, way beyond pathetic. The support of LIEberman sucks on every level imaginable. It just reinforces everything bad about Democrats, particularly that they stand for nothing, that they're a bunch of conniving milquetoast that would sell their grandmother if they thought it would benefit them. Hell, on the same day, republicans have the votes to throw out Stevens - they at least look like something matters to them. Democrats just look like sniveling drool that are either afraid of LIEberman mouthing off against them some more or are delusionally demented in thinking LIEberman now owes them something and that he would support the party and Obama.

Maybe Democrats are right: the sanctimonious, egomaniacal, malignant cancer that is LIEberman appears to truly belong a Democrat and they really can't afford to lose someone who so thoroughly represents Democrat values.

That's it for me, the last straw, I'm out. A 35 year Democrat - I'll be changing my registration to Independent.

by gak 2008-11-18 03:14PM | 0 recs
Re: Policy Over Process

Over this?  And not the AUMF?

by Jess81 2008-11-18 08:33PM | 0 recs
Re: Policy Over Process

Perhaps anger managment and xanax should be mandatory for anyone posting on a blog.  It would seem to be necessary.

I wanted Joe's head as much as anybody but hey, can we at least wait until the day after he's sworn in before we write Obama off as a weakling failure.  Should't he at least be in the job before we start bitching about job performance?

Flame on.

by thoughtfully ebullient 2008-11-18 09:14PM | 0 recs

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