Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Lieberman to Keep Chairmanship, Receive Large Ice Cream Cone

Even when Democrats win they act like losers.

The Democratic Senatorial caucus voted 42-13 today to let Joe Lieberman keep his chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. They did kick him off the Environment and Public Works Committee, at which Lieberman has barely had the good grace to avoid laughing. Lieberman will stay in the Democratic caucus, though he keeps that nifty (I) next to his name.

Really, it's nice that Harry Reid and Evan Bayh are going around reminding their fellow Senators that the quality of mercy is not strained. Very literary. But the Democratic Party is not a religious order. Forgiveness is not a part of the founding charter; the Senators aren't under any obligation to extend a hand of friendship to the man memorably dubbed "Senator Sanctimony." Lieberman has to earn forgiveness. He has to do some penitence for his sins.

And oh, his political sins were certainly cardinal. It's one thing to decide against endorsing and vigorously campaigning for your party's presidential nominee, even though that nominee campaigned for you in 2006 when you were fighting for your political life. It's a far different thing to endorse and vigorously campaign for he opposition party's presidential nominee. It's a far, far different thing to viciously attack your party's nominee, as Lieberman did. He wasn't content with supporting McCain. He participated in some of the GOP's most odious assaults on President-Elect Obama's patriotism by saying Obama didn't always put country first and accusing him of trying to cut off funding for American troops in Iraq. As if all that wasn't enough, he campaigned for several Republican Congressional candidates.

Oh, and he's been the loudest cheerleader for the Iraq disaster and President Bush's evisceration of civil liberties. He has also demonized those who disagree with either of those things. Heck of a guy, Joe.

Democrats have always patted themselves on the back for being the "big tent party." It's generally a positive trait. But there have to be lines you can't cross, and Lieberman's crossed about 13 of them. He's spent the last two years vigorously working against the interests of the Democratic Party. At this point he is simply not a Democrat. The Democratic Party should not be handing him a reward for his actions.

I have no doubt that all (or at least most) of Lieberman's actions have been motivated by conscience. He clearly thinks the Iraq war is a grand idea. He obviously thinks poorly of Barack Obama and deeply respects John McCain. He did the right thing by his convictions when he campaigned for McCain.

But as the Republicans are quick to point out, actions have consequences, and Lieberman's convictions are not those held by the Democratic Party. Mercy is admirable. But from time-to-time, a leader has to break out an iron fist. The Democrats have decided instead to lay down a red carpet.


Tanto said...

Ima have to disagree with you on this one. I basically agree with Nate Silver's take -- the Democrats have basically nothing to gain by "punishing" Lieberman but a lot to lose; trying to marginalize him just gives the right an issue to talk about, squanders some of the bipartisan goodwill the Democrats currently have, and alienates Lieberman in the event that they happen to need his support for something. It would feel good to kick Lieberman down a couple of notches, I agree, but it's probably a more politically savvy move to keep him in the fold and eliminate him as a topic of conversation.

Basically, the "punish Joe" argument seems to be based on emotion more than anything, and I'd just as soon not see the Democrats take dumb risks for the sake of spite.

Andrew said...

That's fine and it makes sense, but this is one of those issues that goes beyond strict rationality. Any organization, but particularly a political party, has to have discipline. It has to have rules. And it has to have consequences for those who broke the rules.

And in this case, Lieberman broke a pretty serious rule, and he did it flagrantly. You can always come up with good reasons to forgive. But eventually you have to choose a moment to enforce your regulations.