by Matt Stoller, Wed Feb 08, 2006 at 03:11:54 AM EST
The McCain-Obama fight is one of those insider-y deals which has nothing to do with the argument and everything to do with changing power dynamics in the Senate. Currently, McCain is trying to push Obama off the bipartisan reform stage, and using a vicious attacks and the complicit Beltway talking heads to do so. I'm not just saying that, read the correspondence (or read the partisan blog Redstate's joyous celebrations over McCain's red meat throw). It's extremely clear that Obama is asking McCain for a procedural request, while McCain's letter is bitterly sarcastic, partisan, and insulting. Obama's second letter, praising McCain, makes this point especially well. A key figure here is Lieberman, because he was actually at the meeting where the misunderstanding took place, and because he is part of the bipartian group working on lobbying reform. As I wrote yesterday:
Lieberman can call out McCain on his partisan slash-and-burn strategy, and buttress Obama's claim to bipartisanship. Or he can participate in the smear and ask both sides to calm down, even though this attack is entirely one-sided and it is very clear that Obama is seeking a bipartisan good ethics bill.
Well, on Imus this morning, Don Imus interviewed Lieberman. And while I don't have the transcript yet, the gist of the conversation was as follows. Imus asked Lieberman about the fight, and Lieberman alleged that it was all a big misunderstanding and that both men had were interested in getting a good bipartisan bill out of the process. He implied that both men had cleared up the misunderstanding. Imus at that point interjected that McCain stands by his letter, and Lieberman changed course. Lieberman then said that McCain stood by his letter, and Obama stood by his letter, except that Obama probably wishes he were a little clearer.
And then Imus and Lieberman talked about Joe's wife and how she leaves angry diatribes on his voice mail, and that he can just delete them. Finally, Lieberman added that he hopes it's a one day story, on the third day of the story, on Imus. Later in the interview, he bragged about his work with McCain on some legislation. Looks like he made his choice.
Oh, and earlier in the interview, Lieberman agreed with Imus that there was "some nonsense" at Coretta Scott King's funeral.
UPDATE: I should add that Lieberman is a very mild-mannered and nice man, and so if you're not aware of the context this can appear a bit overanalytical. But the choices he's making are clear.
UPDATE: It's not just my imagination. A Senate aide watching the interview this morning sent me this comment:
Absolutely spot on. He sold Obama so far down the river that he's now swimming off the gulf coast.