Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Nutmeg Joe Keeps His Big Committee Chairmanship


So, I'm not at all happy about Senate Democrats deciding to let Joe Lieberman (I-CT) keep his Chairmanship of the important Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. It seems to me that Jiltin' Joe deserved some meaningful punishment for his over-the-top negative comments about President-elect Obama during the political campaign just ended. Elections do - or should have - consequences as Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) famously said when the Democrats recaptured the Senate in 2006.

Even if we put aside his non-stop stumping for Republican Presidential candidate John McCain, Lieberman's nasty and untrue insinuations that Obama might be some sort of Marxist or that Obama wanted American troops to be defeated on the battlefield were outrageous. The Senator from the Nutmeg State needs to recant those assertions and apologize to the President-elect. It's not likely to happen of course, but it's what a decent man would do.

All that said, I'm trying to make the best I can of the Senate Democrats' decision today. As a practical matter, we Democrats do need Lieberman if we are to have any chance of getting to a sixty seat majority in the Senate. Given ElectBlue's unyielding focus on obtaining that 60-seat majority in the US Senate this year, it would be pretty inconsistent of us to trash totally the notion of allowing Joe to retain some of his privileges for voting with Democratic majority. Without him that magical (though largely symbolic) number just won't happen. In politics, symbolism does matter.

Additionally, it is the clear desire of President-elect Obama to mend fences with Lieberman and to move on from the harsh rhetoric of the campaign. Our new President-to-be deserves some slack now and then. He needs all the help we can reasonably give him for the tough times ahead. So I guess I shouldn't be feeling so nauseous about today's developments, re: Lieberman. Still, I do feel a bit sick to my stomach. Maybe more than a bit, to be honest.

In spite of being an unabashed progressive, I like to think of myself of being a 'Big Tent' kind of Democrat. You know, a guy who sees room in the Party for a range of views even on some very important issues. However, this Lieberman thing challenges my faith in the Big Tent idea. It's not the fact that he is so strongly for the Iraq war or that his anti-terrorism shtick borders on xenophobia or even that he brandishes his religion like a sword in the town square of public discourse. 

No, it's more than differences over policy positions that cause me such agita about Mr. Lieberman. You know, here it is: I just don't trust him. On some visceral, gut level I often find myself wondering just what Joe Lieberman's real priorities are. What does this man really stand for? Somewhere in his talk, in his loquacious pontifications there is something that makes me ask myself: "who does this man really represent?". It's that uncertainty that makes me always just a little queasy when I think about Jiltin' Joe

So, alright, I'll try to get over it. I sure as hell will feel much better about the Lieberman thing if we win all three still unresolved Senate races: Alaska, Minnesota and Georgia. Having Senators Begich, Franken and Martin on Capitol Hill next year would go a long way towards settling my uneasy stomach.

No comments: