Joe the Team Player -- For the Wrong Team
by Jonathan Singer, Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 09:21:16 AM EST
As Todd noted a little earlier, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is meeting today with Joe Lieberman, presumably to talk about the Connecticut Senator's future in the Democratic caucus. Politico reports further that Reid was likely to offer Lieberman a subcommittee chairmanship in lieu of the chairmanship of the Senate's oversight panel. The most amazing, though by no means shocking, development related to this meeting is the extent to which the establishment media is crowing about withholding punishment for Lieberman. Take a look at First Read this morning, for example.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will have a closed meeting with Sen. Joe Lieberman sometime today, NBC's Ken Strickland reports. While both offices have refused to discuss details of the meeting, the men are expected to discuss Lieberman's fate as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee and possibly his status within the Democratic caucus -- after Lieberman vigorously campaigned for McCain and against Obama. At one time, Reid still seemed to reluctantly stand by Lieberman, arguing that every vote was significant and that punishing Lieberman could force him to switch to the Republican Party. But as the election progressed with estimates showing that Democrats might pick up several more seats -- as they did -- Reid's talk of support changed to talk of post-election reevaluation. Strickland says this meeting is a step in that process. The thing for reporters to ask today: Does Obama have an opinion on this? Should Obama have a say in Lieberman's fate? After all, it was Obama whom Lieberman campaigned against the hardest, not the Democratic Party as a whole. Lieberman wasn't out there campaigning for Republican senators to win re-election. Will Obama urge his soon-to-be former Senate colleagues to not punish Lieberman?[emphasis added]
What Chuck Todd, et. al, write is just facially untrue. While Lieberman did contribute over $100,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in August, buying him some good will with the Democratic caucus, other actions he undertook during the campaign -- and not just those on behalf of Republican presidential nominee John McCain -- indicated that he was throwing his lot in with the GOP caucus.
Back in May 2007, for instance, Lieberman raised money for Susan Collins, the Republican Senator up for reelection in Maine. While the matchup between Collins and Democratic Congressman Tom Allen did not end up tightening by the end of the campaign, at that point in the election, the race was at least potentially competitive, so Lieberman's support for Collins did decrease the Democrats' ability to pick up a seat in a reliably blue state.
Beyond that, just the day before the election Lieberman was heard ruing the possibility of a 60-seat Democratic majority in the Senate. Specifically, Lieberman told ultra right wing talker Glenn Beck that he "fear[ed]" that in many ways America will not survive in the event of a filibuster-proof Democratic majority. While I wouldn't say that this was the cause for the Democrats not quite reaching 60 (there's still a chance they will, but the odds are narrow at this point), it certainly did not help the cause to have a Senator nominally part of the Democratic caucus making the case for reelecting Republican incumbents.
So taken as a whole, Reid clearly would not be going out on a limb to strip Lieberman of his chairmanship -- or even to give him the final nudge out of the Democratic caucus.
Update [2008-11-6 14:29:39 by Jonathan Singer]: Here's the statement from Reid:
Today Senator Lieberman and I had the first of what I expect to be several conversations. No decisions have been made. While I understand that Senator Lieberman has voted with Democrats a majority of the time, his comments and actions have raised serious concerns among many in our caucus. I expect there to be additional discussions in the days to come, and Senator Lieberman and I will speak to our caucus in two weeks to discuss further steps.