Barack Obama Politics The Opinionsphere


Everyone seems to have very strongly held positions as to whether Joe Lieberman should be allowed to keep his committee positions in the next Senate. I don’t have a strong position.

It’s clear that Lieberman went further than any Democrat should have in attacking the nominee of his party on a personal level – saying he would be afraid for America if Obama won as late as the day before the election. (TPIP has an excellent video from Rachel Maddow’s show over at his site explaining some of the various reasons Joe the Lieberman shouldn’t be allowed to keep his position.)

Yglesias points out that Lieberman – in trying to make the case to keep himself as head of his various committees – seemed to be threatening to vote against the positions he has held for years if he is removed:

As it stands, Lieberman seems to be saying that he deserves to stay in charge of the committee in virtue of his moderately progressive domestic views, but that continuing to hold those views is contingent on him getting favors from the Democratic leadership.

As Rachel Maddow pointed out, Lieberman’s position has more than a mere symbolic relevance – as he held off various investigations of the Bush administration since 2006 with his committee chair position. As long as Lieberman is considered a Democrat, his criticisms of the Democrats will carry extra weight.

But at the same time – by removing him the Democrats would risk alienating moderate Republicans, who they will likely need to get past filibusters. Without Lieberman the Democrats would have no chance at the 60 votes needed to override filibusters. Plus, Lieberman’s demotion and the accompanying commotion would not send the message of bipartisan cooperation Obama is trying to cultivate as he readies to take on the many challenges ahead.

Either option has it’s negatives. The best approach would be for Obama to step in; for Lieberman to apologize to Obama; for Obama to indicate that he would be willing to consider doing what he could to prevent Lieberman from having his committee chairmanships removed; and for whoever the enforcer is in the party – Rahm Emanuel – or whoever else – to extract from Lieberman a promise to vote with the Democrats on any potential filibuster issue. He can vote his conscience or politics or whatever on the issue when it comes to the floor – but he would make a public statement that he would not support any filibuster to block the agenda of the president of the United States of America.

That’s the only thing the Democrats need Joe Lieberman’s vote for – to prevent the filibuster. At almost every other point, with decent party unity, and most likely some Republican cross-overs, they win with ease.

Joe Lieberman’s public statement that President Obama’s agenda deserves an up or down vote could make a significant difference in what can be accomplished in the first 100 days.