What’s Really Going On With Joe Lieberman

One of the big hobby horses with left-leaning political blogs at the moment is that despite the collective lefty howling mass calling for the obliteration of Joe Lieberman for being a traitor to the left, it looks like he might hang on and stay with the Democratic caucus, in no small part due to the intervention of Barack Obama, whose people have hinted that it would please the president-elect to have Lieberman stay within the fold.

This is causing consternation — what’s the point of being in power if you can’t settle scores? — but I believe there may be a good and practical reason that Obama has hinted that he’d be fine with Lieberman hanging about. As you might know, on the day Obama came and toured the White House, on the way back to Chicago he held a couple of other meetings with undisclosed people. I suspect one of those meetings went like this:

—-

SCENE OPENS on SENATOR JOE LIEBERMAN sitting alone in a nondescript back room at Reagan National Airport. It’s clear he’s been made to wait a long time. Suddenly, the door to the room opens and two Secret Service agents enter and examine the room. After they’ve given the all clear, another man enters the room. It is PRESIDENT ELECT BARACK OBAMA. LIEBERMAN stands.

LIEBERMAN

Hello, sir.

OBAMA

(Holds up hand to silence LIEBERMAN)

Let’s make this quick. To recap, for the last couple of years you’ve been in the pocket of the Republicans on the war and other topics. You campaigned against me and for the Republicans. You even spoke at the Republican National Convention. And now you want me to help you save your seniority with the Democrats.

LIEBERMAN

Yes, sir. Please.

OBAMA

If I do this thing, you understand the cost.

LIEBERMAN

I do.

OBAMA

Fine. Hand them over.

LIEBERMAN

Now?

OBAMA

Yes, now.

LIEBERMAN looks around at the other men in the room, who stare at him impassively. Finally, LIEBERMAN sighs, reaches down into his pants, and detaches his TESTICLES. He raises them up to look them, wistfully, then moves to offer them to OBAMA.

OBAMA

No. Give them to Carl.

OBAMA nods toward one of the Secret Service agents, who is holding up a lunch-sized paper bag. LIEBERMAN drops the TESTICLES into the bag. CARL quickly folds the top of the bag over twice, three times, and once the TESTICLES are secure, hands the bag to OBAMA, whose takes it without looking, having kept his eyes on LIEBERMAN. OBAMA raises the bag, still looking at LIEBERMAN.

OBAMA

These are mine now. I’m keeping them for the next four years. I’m going to keep them in a drawer in the White House desk. And if at any time in the next four years there’s so much as a hint that you might do something to displease or oppose me, then I’m going to take them out, and then I’m going to take this –

(OBAMA raises a large rubber mallet he’s been hiding behind his back)

– and I’m going to turn them into pate, which I will then feed to Malia and Sasha’s puppy. Or maybe I’ll just skip all of that and give them to Rahm.

LIEBERMAN

(eyes widening in abject terror at the thought of what RAHM EMANUEL might do to the TESTICLES, if given a chance)

That’s not going to be necessary, sir.

OBAMA

Let’s hope not, Joe. Let’s sincerely hope not.

(OBAMA turns to go, then pauses, jiggles the bag, and looks back at LIEBERMAN)

This bag is really light, Joe. You know, I thought they’d be bigger.

OBAMA leaves, followed by his Secret Service agents. LIEBERMAN is left in the room, still unzipped, mouth open.

—-

Now, maybe that’s not exactly how it went. But I bet it was something along that line.

137 thoughts on “What’s Really Going On With Joe Lieberman

  1. I’m not quite laughing hysterically here, but I am chortling. I can actually imagine that. To steal someone else’s meme, “Oh, John Scalzi, No!”

  2. I hope something like that happened. The idea of giving a weasel like Lieberman subpoena power over the Obama White House strikes me as a really terrible idea.

  3. The closer the Democrats get to 60 seats in the Senate (cf. Alaska and MN), the more leverage Lieberman has.

  4. Correction: the lefty blogs are not fulminating about Lieberman being allowed to stay in the Democratic caucus; they’re fulminating about him being allowed to keep a plum committee chairmanship.

    On the one hand, I think these bloggers are right on the merits. On the other hand, as long as the new Administration and Congress get shit done, I don’t care so much about what happens to Lieberman. The recent news about Senator Baucus (the chair of the Finance Committee and one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate) standing up for universal health insurance makes me optimistic about the getting-shit-done part.

  5. The issue isn’t whether he stays in the caucus (even if that’s what Lieberman himself wants the issue to be), the issue is whether he keeps his committee chairmanship, which, as was mentioned elsewhere, has subpoena power. (He has threatened to resign the Senate or to go to the GOP if he doesn’t keep it, but that’s *his* choice. No Dems are threatening to throw him out of the Dem caucus.)

    It is also supposed to provide oversight on the government, but guess who never held any hearings in 2007? If he hasn’t done anything with it, why does he want to keep it? To hold hearings on his *real* enemy, the Democrats. Y’know, the ones he’s been campaigning against for the past year.

    Time after time in the last 2 years, while the Dems were supposedly in power in Congress, it was *they* who caved to GOP demands. This time, btw, was when Obama himself was in the Senate, and readily participated: FISA cave, war funding cave, bank bailout cave. Y’know, those fringe partisan socialist commie issues, that doing anything about is just “pandering to the base.” Jeez.

    If the Dems let him keep the chairmanship, it won’t be Lieberman with his balls in a sack.

  6. Or maybe, just maybe… Obama is actually planning on doing what he SAYS he wants to do, trying to change partisan politics and unite the country. I know, hoping for change can be a little naive, but man, wouldn’t that be something?

  7. I don’t think getting to 60 senators really gives Lieberman much leverage. Even if there will be 60 senators who caucus with the Democrats, the Democratic leadership will still have to come up with a coalition for each cloture vote. There’s no guarantee that everyone who caucuses with the Democrats will vote the same way. i.e., just because he votes to caucus with the Democrats does not mean he will vote with the Democrats on cloture votes over the next term. Unlike last term, whom he votes for to head the Senate no longer matters. The Democrats have a majority without him.

    I suspect that, as John Scalzi suggests, it’s the other way around. Lieberman is now beholden to the Democrats because he wants to keep his plum assignment. He needs them much more than they need him. Practically anything Lieberman does which doesn’t hew strictly to the Democratic party line will be seen as Yet Another Betrayal.

    What I wonder about is what will happen when he comes up for re-election. Lots of possibilities. That’s when we’ll see if the marriage of convenience holds.

  8. The whole notion of punishment makes me feel squirmy. I’ve never liked Lieberman — not in 2000, not now — but everyone ought to feel free to support and promote their favored candidate without fear of reprisal. That’s the sort of deep democratic spirit we strive for — and weren’t we pumped about the various Republican and conservative endorsements of our guy? If Obama wants Lieberman to go unscathed, he’s living up to his rhetoric.

    The subpoena power business is sort of unpersuasive. Are we expecting Obama to do something that would result in scary subpoenas? And hasn’t Obama called for the sort of transparent, checked-and-balanced government we’ve been missing these past eight years? Is it really the end of the world if a conservative Democrat holds the committee chairmanship?

  9. I don’t know that much about this, but I don’t understand the Lieberman hate. It seems like everyone talks up “bipartisanship” and being a “maverick” but once someone actually goes against party lines he’s a “weasel.” He’s conservative on some issues–big surprise!–he’s an Orthodox (OED defines: maintaining opinions or practices in accordance with those prevailing or officially sanctioned in one’s profession, discipline, party, etc.; conventional, conservative.) Jew.

  10. It was never about him being booted from caucus, Scalzi. Shame on you for not even doing basic research on this. It is about stripping him from the chair of the Homeland Security Committee. Not only did he work with the opposing party to further their agenda during the election, he also, as chair, refused to investigate numerous cases of abuse by Homeland Security. The same cases investigated by his counterpart in the House, Henry Waxman.

  11. Hehehehe… I think Obama’s just a bigger man than most people want to imagine him to be… He doesn’t feel threatened by someone who endorsed his opponent. Heck, I heard rumors that he might be considering giving McCain a spot in his cabinet!

  12. Didn’t Reagan keep GHW Bush’s manhood in his pocket?

    I’m pretty sure Bush kept it in a blind trust. (see Doonesbury comics of the era. “It won’t grow quickly though; there’s not much capital.”)

    As for Lieberman… I thought everyone was even now: the Democrats threw him to the curb last time he was up for election, so I’m not surprised he campaigned for McCain. Democrats tried to screw him over and it didn’t work, he tried to screw the Dems and it didn’t work. Good for Obama for trying to put it behind them.

  13. The Democats didn’t throw Lieberman to the curb; he lost to Ned Lamont in the Democratic primary and the Democratic nominee in the election (which makes sense, you know, he had the party’s nomination) got the backing of the party leadership.

  14. Chris:

    “Shame on you for not even doing basic research on this.”

    Oh, good grief.

    I’m perfectly aware that Lieberman’s chairmanships are on the line; there are other things on the line as well, including is his senority in the caucus and indeed his inclusion therein. When Lieberman talked to Reid, all of this, if I recall correctly, was up for discussion. And once again, if I recall correctly, Obama’s affirmative statements regarding Lieberman focused on keeping him in the caucus, rather than specifically addressing the chairmanships, which, in any event, will be voted on by the Democratic caucus.

    Therefore, having done my research, I confined my sketch to the things I’m aware that have come out of the Obama camp, rather than, say, suggesting Obama would agree to overtly influence things he has not, to date, shown overt influence on.

    In other words, shove your “shame on you” square up your ass, Chris. The amount of pedantic seriousness coming out of you over a humorous bit where Obama takes Lieberman’s testicles into receivership is, well, silly.

  15. One of the things I’m starting to realise is just how /old/ your politicians are. Here in NZ they’re mostly in their 40s and 50s, but Lieberman there has a face like the erosional features of Mars! Aureum Chaos, for instance.

    Do people worry about their politicians being out of touch with the majority of the population simply by being a generation or so behind them?

  16. Fact is Lieberman has been consistently wrong on all matters regarding homeland security and, thus, should not chair the Homeland Security Committee. It is as simple as that. The Dems are more than willing to let him chair a committee whose provenance is a subject that Lieberman has not proven himself utterly incompetent in regards to.

    He’s damned lucky they’re offering him anything more than a tin hat and a dog whistle.

  17. Some Lieberman highlights from this election season here. The man’s not a Democrat anymore. And that’s fine, but committee chairmanships go to members of the majority party. Lieberman’s welcome to caucus with the Dems if he wants, but he picked his side, and now he should have to live with the consequences.

  18. I don’t know that much about this, but I don’t understand the Lieberman hate. It seems like everyone talks up “bipartisanship” and being a “maverick” but once someone actually goes against party lines he’s a “weasel.”

    Lieberman has always been a weasel. You need to understand how he wound up in his Connecticut Senate seat to begin with.

    Lowell Weicker, Republican, held that seat for 18 years. Weicker truly was bipartisan, and was quite popular among Connecticut Democratic voters. However, when he played a significant role in bringing down Nixon, Republicans never forgave him.

    William F. Buckley, Jr. and other prominent Connecticut conservatives had a problem: they’d never get enough voters to replace Weicker in a primary election. So what they needed was someone they could run as a Democrat and get enough Republicans to vote for him to replace Weicker in the general election.

    So for the 1988 election, they found such a candidate: Joe Lieberman. Yes, that’s right: “Democrat” Joe Lieberman was basically put forward and supported by William F. Buckley, Jr.

    He ran a muddy campaign and managed to squeeze past Weicker into the Senate seat.

    He’s always been a jerk — at least, for his entire tenure in the Senate. It’s a pity Weicker never made a serious presidential run; that’s a guy who could have bridged parties.

  19. I have another take on why Joe is going to keep his chairmanship. If the Dems take it from him, he’ll switch to the Republicans. And then he’ll decry the liberal hard left taking over the Democrats, its not your parent’s party, etc.. And the powers that be within the Democratic party fear Lieberman doing just that, as the midterm elections are a mere 2 years away and counting.

  20. He wont caucus with the Republicans for two big reasons: One, he’s too liberal for them (really!) and two, he has no seniority within their caucus so the best he could hope foir is to chair a subcommittee if and when the GOp controls the Senate again.

  21. I think Obama may be taking a page from Lyndon Johnson, who, when he declined an opportunity to fire FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, is said to have remarked: “I’d rather have him inside the tent pissing out than outside pissing in.”

    Whoever ends up with Joe’s testicles, I’ve long felt that Harry Reid needs to grow a pair of his own.

  22. Joe Lieberman has zero leverage here. Reid should simply tell Joe, look, you campaigned against us and spread the same GOP smears against the President-Elect that McCain did. There is a price to pay. You are no longer a committee chair.

    That’s all he needs to do. To pass it to a secret vote is cowardly.

  23. I will have to agree with Chris and Andrew: The concern is that Lieberman will use the investigation powers of his committee, if retained, against Dems rather than the current space-filling role he has played with Repubs in power. The issue is timing: After the inauguration, any attempt to displace Holy Joe will be seen in screamingly partisan terms as an attempt to avoid oversight, and he in effect will be untouchable and free to roam onto any issue.

  24. Even if there will be 60 senators who caucus with the Democrats, the Democratic leadership will still have to come up with a coalition for each cloture vote.

    Which will be much easier if they *haven’t* drummed Lieberman out of the caucus, or revoked his chairmanship.

    I’m not saying this gives him the kind of leverage that he had as the 51st vote, but it gives him more leverage as the (hypothetical) 60th senator than 57th.

    I don’t know that much about this, but I don’t understand the Lieberman hate. It seems like everyone talks up “bipartisanship” and being a “maverick” but once someone actually goes against party lines he’s a “weasel.”

    You’re right. You don’t know much about this. A Democratic Senator saying that the candidate of his party doesn’t care about his country as much as John McCain is very mavericky indeed.

    Also, isn’t part of the perceived value of a maverick is that they’re willing to risk the punishment?

    the Democrats threw him to the curb last time he was up for election

    If by ‘threw him to the curb,’ you mean ‘The Democratic voters in CT decided that they no longer wanted him as their Senator,’ then you’re correct. I’m not clear why people exercising their right to choose a representative is a *bad* thing.

    Joe Lieberman has zero leverage here

    Really? So if Lieberman promised to vote (D) on all cloture motions as Senator 60 in return for his chair, Reid should just throw the proposal out the window?

  25. I’ve been reading Whatever for, ah, more time than my research would like; the writing of this piece is perhaps my favourite. [No, it doesn't have the gravitas of e.g. Being Poor, and I'm not suggesting that it's my favourite piece overall, nor certainly the most important/insightful/whatever. But the *writing* skill in this, for me, is as clean and honed as I can imagine.]

    So: an unadorned compliment. Slurp. Don’t let it go to your head ;).

  26. After the inauguration, any attempt to displace Holy Joe will be seen in screamingly partisan terms

    You think partisans like O’Reilley give a flying fkc about when some dems try to go after lieberman?

    Partisans aren’t partisan because of what you do, they’re partisan because of what they do.

    Changing your behaviour won’t change who they are.

  27. Like many folks, I have a problem with Lieberman’s misplaced loyalties. But I have even more of a problem with the fact that — as chair of the homeland security committee — he’s done *nothing*.

    Nothing to investigate the horrific mess that was the Katrina response. Nothing to buttress the security of our ports. Nothing to provide more than window-dressing for transportation security (sorry, you can’t take that bottle of water on the plane… and where’s your zippy bag?)

    If that weren’t enough, he’s done far too much to aid and abet the Bush administration’s boogie-man tactics. And that’s unforgivable.

  28. it looks like [Lieberman] might hang on and stay with the Democratic caucus, in no small part due to the intervention of Barack Obama, whose people have hinted that it would please the president-elect to have Lieberman stay within the fold.

    Of course there is also the fact that the immediate past campaign aside, Lieberman does share the values of the Democrats much more than he does the values of the Republicans except for the high profile homeland security and war in Iraq issues. For other issues, he does tend to vote with the Democrats. In fact, in the last Congress, there were at least five Democrats who voted with George Bush’s position more frequently than Lieberman did.

  29. Lieberman does share the values of the Democrats much more than he does the values of the Republicans except for the high profile homeland security and war in Iraq issues.

    If he doesn’t share the values of the Democrats on “homeland security”… then why give him the chairmanship of the homeland security committee?!

    It’s been pointed out that during the two years that Lieberman has had that chairmanship… he hasn’t held a single hearing. Not one single investigation into Snippy’s administration.

    The only reason he’ll keep it (assuming he does) is because the Democrats, even with all the cards stacked in their favour, will continue to be spineless capitulators.

    Yeah, I’m pissed about it.

  30. I sincerely hope you’re right. Because otherwise I see no reason not to kick that SOB to the curb.

    I remember the dust-up a few months ago when Obama took Lieberman aside (on the Senate floor?) and did most of the talking. I hope it was the lead-up to Balls in a Baggy.

    I still don’t trust Lieberman. He’ll stab Obama in the back and call it conscience.

  31. Were it up to me, I’d tell Lieberman not to let the Democratic caucus door hit his butt on the way out. But I suspect that Obama is a lot better at the political game than I am, and knows he needs every vote he can get his hands on.

    It occurs to me that maybe there’s an advantage to putting a smart, even-tempered person in the White House.

  32. Steven @41

    Of course there is also the fact that the immediate past campaign aside, Lieberman does share the values of the Democrats much more than he does the values of the Republicans except for the high profile homeland security and war in Iraq issues.

    Which Democrats? All Democrats?

    You know, there are Security Democrats just like there are fiscal conservative Democrats (yeah, I know it’s hard to believe) and anti-abortion Democrats and anti-Gay marriage Democrats.

    Democrats are a big tent party.

    Right?

  33. “(OBAMA raises a large rubber mallet he’s been hiding behind his back)”

    You’ve gone soft on us John – a rubber mallet?

    Make that a Ball Pein Hammer!

  34. (OT: NYT reveals the creation of the “Palin doesn’t know Africa’s a continent” hoax here: A Senior Fellow at the Institute of Nonexistence )

    The hoax was NOT the original Fox story (which could still be inaccurate), but a followup MSNBC story that sourced it to a specific McCain adviser (who turned out not to exist).

    So there’s still the chance that Palin thought Africa wasn’t a continent.

  35. Classic dialogue, John. Let’s hope it was something along those lines.

    The key’s definitely the committee chairmanship. To Eric @#13, it’s not a matter of whether we expect Obama to do something sketchy–it’s a matter of giving Lieberman an opportunity to get back into the limelight. Imagine what would happen if another 9-11 occurred on Obama’s watch; this time there’d be no bipartisan unity like there was in the immediate aftermath of the last attack. The GOP would be calling for Obama’s head, and Lieberman would be in a position to make life pretty tough for the president. (Putting it mildly.)

  36. I have some real problems with the idea of political reprisals for someone (and someone that holds his seat as an independent, at that) supporting the presidential candidate that he thinks will do the best job, no matter what letter that candidate has in parenthesis beside his name. If I lost my job because I supported Obama, there’d be some major backlash (and lawsuit fodder.) Lieberman’s got the same rights as a citizen that I do, however much I may disagree with him. For that reason, reprisals against Lieberman seem wrong to me.

    Furthermore, I think that the reason Obama’s sticking up for Lieberman is that he’s serious about that promise he made of working with both parties. Dumping Lieberman out on his ass is only going to give fodder to the hysteria-mongers screaming about a liberal Obama/Reid/Pelosi conspiracy which will raise your taxes, socialize healthcare and force you to marry a same-sex partner, no matter your orientation.

    True, nothing this administration says or does is going to convince the REAL right-wing nuts that that’s not the case, but this is a pretty simple way to give the more moderate folk on the right a sign that Obama’s at least trying to work in a bipartisian manner. The country’s in trouble, and we’ve got to change the way things have been being done in Washington. They’ve got to work together down there, or we’re in for a long slide. Kicking Lieberman to the curb is only going to signal another spate of politics-as-usual in Washington.

  37. Too bad I’m in the library right now. Otherwise I’d be giggling at that.

    Personally, I think the Democrats should throw him overboard. One thing about the Republicans, you know…that sort of disloyalty to the party would not be tolerated in someone holding his position. But, I’m a registered Democrat because we are the more tolerant party.

    Still, I think the only reason they should keep him, and then on a very short leash, is if he were the one to give the Democrats a 60/40 majority in the Senate.

  38. Interesting, that Lieberman is deemed human scum among leftists for daring to cross the bridge too often, and defy the Democratic zeitgeist. John McCain also crossed the bridge too often, defying the Republican zeitgeist, and is human scum to many conservatives.

    What this tells me is that the wings of both ideologies — and both parties — despise the middle. And anyone who traffics there.

    I have always respected Lieberman because he was not an automoton for his Party. Lieberman was a big reason I voted Gore-Lieberman in 2000.

    I am disappointed to see Joe getting turfed in this thread. He is an honorable man and even if you disagree with some of his choices, as a Democrat, that doesn’t make him a fiend in human form. I suspect Obama’s conversations with Lieberman have been respectful and productive, because if Obama really is the “change” candidate he claims to be, part of that “change” means abandoning (as much as possible) the Beltway Dodgeball and in-party knife fighting that characterizes D.C.

    Good for Obama. My respect for him just went up a notch.

  39. Lieberman’s got the same rights as a citizen that I do,

    Those rights, however, do not include being voted the chair of any committee by the Democratic caucus.

  40. Darth Cheney would have crushed his windpipe with “The Force.”

    Senator Quisling–er–Lieberman should feel lucky he only had to surrender his balls.

  41. John,

    This is an excellent start to the musical I’ve been bugging you for. Personally, I think the Secret service fellas should break out into song next, but I’ll leave that one up to you.

  42. No, really, John–have you ever thought about taking about writing? Especially dark fantasy? You’d be an instant bestseller or something.

    And you are damned lucky I didn’t piss myself reading that young man, or I would have had to come over there and give you such a zatz!

    Jane

  43. Mr. Scalzi, JANE YOLEN just commented on your blog!!!!

    *swoon*

    (recovering from swoon)

    I’m seconding M Thyer on the musical suggestion; maybe Journey could get involved, too.

  44. Lieberman is deemed human scum among leftists for daring to cross the bridge too often

    He didn’t cross that bridge you futz, he burned it. You don’t cross bridges and crossing aisles by shitting on your own party’s people. Stop drinking the koolaid.

    Lieberman is an ass and deserves to get thrown out of the democratic party. The only problem is that throwing him out will either piss him off to the point of being even more of an obstructionist ass or maybe he’d resign and the governor (a republican) might appoint a republican nutjob to replace him until the next election.

    And if there’s two things I see about Obama, one is that he’s good at political strategy, strategic voting, and understanding that kicking Joe out only to have him replaced by someone worse, doesn’t serve Obama in any way.

    When Lieberman comes up for reelection, every progressive in teh country should donate money to kick his sorry ass out of office and get a real democratic candidate in there.

    Until then, it seems pretty clear that Obama understands that Lieberman on a weak leash is better than some republican that he can’t control at all.

  45. Bravo John,

    Evan Bayh hinted at this in his “why we should keep Lieberman” discussion with Rachel M last night. Basically his logic was 1) Lieberman will either quit or go Republican if we take away his chairmanship, 2) CT has a Republican Gov so they will assign a Republican if he quits, and 3) At any point in the session we can meet to take away his chairmanship so he better be good.

    I personally think he is completely untrustable and was worse than worthless as committee chair (as compared to Waxman in the same role for the House). However, since I did not know point 3 above could happen at any point should the Democratic Senate Caucus decide, I now have to go along with the idea that Obama can actually make Lieberman play ball (so to speak).

    There is another aspect of this which makes me giggle though. I don’t know if you recall watching that horrible move Gladiator with me and Deven but … picture the next head of the Republican party mumbing “Obamus the Merciful” a lot.

    I feel bad for those RNC white guys in that they now need to combat someone who is smarter, works harder, and is just better all around than anyone they have worked against before. At least they know his moves in advance to some degree as the poor guy feels compelled to honor the Constitution.

  46. I’m with Obama….put Lieberman where you can see him. Keeping enemies close and all that. Actually, Lieberman is prollly one of the few people he can trust. At least he *knows* Lieberman is a rat fink traitor and two faced jackass. The rest of the senators are undercover. Besides, the first part of his name is Lie. What are you expecting, the truth?

  47. I’m with Obama….put Lieberman where you can see him. Keeping enemies close and all that.

    Just shows what would have happened to Obama had he actually crossed party lines as he claimed he did during the election.

    Good thing he knew his place, huh?

    Of course, it could very well be that President Obama is attempting to live up to his campaign rhetoric to “reach across the isle”. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on this. Why not?

    You don’t think that living up to his rhetoric will piss of the Left Wing of the Party do you?

    You know the ones. They say

    “Let the purges begin.”

    I myself think that the Democrats would be a much stronger Party if they were the ones purged, but hey, I’m just an amused observer.

  48. Greg @ 69:

    When Lieberman comes up for reelection, every progressive in teh country should donate money to kick his sorry ass out of office and get a real democratic candidate in there.

    We *did*. We backed Ned Lamont in his primary challenge to Lieberman. Ned won the primary. Lieberman quit the Democratic party and ran in the general as an “Independent” (in a party of one… Joe.)

    I just bet all the Connecticut Dems who voted for him are real proud of themselves now, huh?

  49. David @78

    Y’all have your own purges to worry about, Frank.

    Not me. I really am not a Republican. As time progressed from 1968, I just wound up voting for them more often.

    But you are right in the sense that Republicans have their own Caucus drama about which I, and most Americans are uninterested. Except possibly for amusement. Hard to believe, but what people want is for Congress to something reasonable when necessary and not do stuff when they shouldn’t.

    All this drama only serves to illustrate how dysfunctional our political class is; especially the leadership.

    I am sorry, but neither Representative Jefferson nor Senator Stevens should be allowed to continue serving in Congress. Period.

    And the fact that both parties will allow both men to continue serving at this point is shameful.

    And I don’t mean to just pick on them.

    But Lieberman? He’s just doing his job as he sees fit.

    He’s not a criminal.

    And for people disputing his status instead of Jefferson’s is completely and utterly absurd. The fact that Jefferson won the nomination (in a runoff) to run again for his seat is beyond absurd.

    And I’ll say the same damn thing if Stevens wins and he is allowed to keep his seat in the Senate.

    But Lieberman?

    There are bigger fish to fry.

  50. S-O: I am disappointed to see Joe getting turfed in this thread. He is an honorable man…

    No, he’s not. He’s a sleazy hypocrite. Seriously, if all you know of him is what you’ve read and seen in national news, you don’t know how low he’ll stoop.

    I kind of wish 20 years hadn’t passed already so I had a firmer grasp on the specifics. Also so that I would be 20 years younger, that would be good, too.

  51. @Frank

    To be fair, the big difference between Jefferson and Stevens is that Stevens has actually been convicted; Jefferson is still awaiting trial. I’m pretty sure he’s guilty, and I hope they expel him the moment he’s convicted. But for the moment, he’s entitled to the same presumption of innocence everyone else gets.

    I’m not sure why you bring it up in reference to Lieberman, though. Nobody’s talking about kicking him out of Congress. The only question is whether he should continue to receive perks reserved for members of the political party he spent the last year campaigning against.

  52. Frank @ 80

    AFAIK, Jefferson hasn’t actually been convicted of anything, has he? If not, then I don’t have a problem with him continuing in the House.

    Call me naive, but I believe in our justice system. I don’t think being indicted on something should have repercussions like losing your congressional seat.

    Being convicted, however, I feel differently about. Stevens should be gone. If Jefferson is found guilty, I’ll say the same about him.

  53. The scene is January 20, 2037. President Athena Scalzi is delivering her inaugural address.

    “And so it is with great pleasure that, on behalf of my predecessor and all who have served their country in the Oval Office, that I present the Smithsonian Institute with the balls of Joe Lieberman, donated by the Barack Obama Presidential Library…”

  54. There are bigger fish to fry.

    Shockingly, I’m pretty sure that folks can handle more than one thing at a time.

  55. Two things that seem to be confused in a number of posts.

    Thing one, the statement that Lieberman is a Democrat. This is not the case. He lost the Democratic nomination and ran as an independent. He caucuses with the Democrats, but is not one of them any more.

    Thing two, the characterization of his chairmanship as part of his job. It is not. His job is to represent the the people of his state as a senator. The end. His chairmanship and his seniority are privileges granted to him by the majority party in the senate (in this case the Democrats). As such, they can be removed pretty much at any time by that majority (though it is much easier at the beginning of a session). Whether they should be removed is another question entirely, but they are in no way rights or a part of his job description.

  56. what’s the point of being in power if you can’t settle scores?

    Well, the point is that there’s still a tsunami of raw sewage roaring towards the shore, so could skull-fraking Joe Lieberman wait until the 2012 Christmas party or something?

    And given that rather vindictive streak the Cheney-Rove administration showed towards those filthy turncoat Republicans who had the gall to go off-message, it is nice that Obama offered up some evidence that he wasn’t bullshitting about changing the tone.

  57. Democrats are a big tent party.
    Right?

    Big enough that if they had the cajonés to END the Republican Party as anything more than a regional bunch of nutbags, which they just might be in a position to do, they could easily split into center right and center left parties.

    We should have Greens on the left, Democrats on the center-left, Whigs on the center-right and Republicans on the hard right.

  58. I’m fine with Lieberman being given some sort of probation, and letting him keep his chairmanship if he knuckles under. But it has to be enforced. Actually endorsing MCcain *and* passing out the “palling around with terrorist” nonsense is not “crossing the aisle” it’s turning coat. Give him one last chance not to blow it, and then in a few years, he can kiss his Senate seat goodbye if he deviates and get a job at FOX news.

  59. Sub-Odeon,
    I’d be a lot more forgiving if he hadn’t campaigned for re-election after losing the primary on a platform of “we must put a Democrat in the White House.”

  60. so could skull-fraking Joe Lieberman wait until the 2012 Christmas party or something?

    Again, it is possible to do more than one thing at a time

  61. No. Give them to Carl.

    This is where I had to carefully place my beverage down.

    LOL, Mr Scalzi. Indeed, LOL.

  62. Okay, I apologize for not being able to think of or find the name, but does anyone remember a really mopey dog that used to be on Looney Tunes? He was either light-blue or white with brown spots, and he had the most depressed put-out voice in the whole world.

    Joe Lieberman sounds exactly like that dog to me, and I’ll be damned if I can find the name to get a youtube clip to compare it against Joe Lieberman.

    Also, Mr. Scalzi, you are once again hilarious.

  63. I don’t like Joe Lieberman. Joe Lieberman was the only reason I didn’t vote for Al Gore in 2000. He’s a cynical opportunist who works mainly for his own power and aggrandizement. In other words, he’s a typical US Senator. But should he be punished for his support of John McCain by being stripped of his Chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee, perhaps even by expulsion from the Democratic Caucus?

    Consider this; Jim Jeffords was a loyal Republican until the Spring of 2001. He supported Shrub and his fellow R’s through the 2000 elections, much as Lieberman supported McCain and several other Republican candidates in 2008. Yet he was welcomed into the Democratic Caucus when he changed his (R) to an (I). Why? Because he’s a nice guy? Because he’s a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and he threatened to kick Tom Dascle’s ass? No. He was accepted because his lack of partisan loyalty gave the Dems control of the Senate from 2001-03. And he’s a nice guy and a black belt.

    I will admit that this is a different situation. The D’s control the Senate and will do so even without Lieberman. But simple majorities don’t always carry the day in the Senate. Even though he’s been a Neocon on foreign policy and Shrub’s extra-Constitutional power grabs, he has a solid record of voting with the Dems on domestic issues; and we have a shit load of domestic issues that need to be dealt with. We may not like Joe Lieberman, but can we honestly say that we’ll never need his vote? Are we so certain that the help average Americans desperately need, and most R’s oppose, will never be filibustered? Or that enough R’s will cross the line to invoke cloture?

    Now let’s consider further the few remaining members of the Senate Republicans’ Mod Squad — moderate Republicans –, or as the right calls them RINO’s — Republican In Name Only. What if, unlikely as it is, Olympia Snowe, Arlen Spector or any other member of the Mod Squad came knocking on the Dem Caucus door? Would they be cursed for having supported fellow Republicans in the past? Would the be mocked for the obvious partisan disloyalty that led them to switch sides? Or would they be welcomed with open arms, maybe even rewarded with a Chairmanship?

    And what would we have the Republicans do with members of their party who supported Obama? Would you applaud the sanctioning of them by their party for their disloyalty? No? Then to call for sanctions on Lieberman is the epitome of hypocrisy.

    If Lieberman wants to continue to caucus with Senate Democrats, then he should be allowed to. If he does the job well, he should keep his chairmanship. To punish him for supporting the candidate he felt was best qualified would be to shit all over President-Elect Obama’s message of bipartisanship, healing and national unity.

    Joe, this independent Democrat of questionable loyalty who stands far to the left of you and finds you to be an unpleasant human being wants to welcome you back to the winning team. I hope most of my fellow D’s agree.

  64. Glad to see the ennui/writer’s block is over. With a bang. No wait, that comes later if/when Lieberman steps out of line. For now, it’s just a whimper.

    As for the lack of weight, I guess Lieberman was running on chutzpah rather than testosterone.

  65. Jane, my bubbe (God rest her soul) used to threaten to give me a “zetz”, not a “zatz”. Then again, that might just be a Galitzianer thang. (Okay, the whole purpose of that comment was being able to use the phrase “Galitzianer thang.”)

    Re Lieberman: That he supported his good friend John McCain? Meh. That didn’t bug me so much. That he bought into McCain’s smears was what really bugged me. (“Is Obama a Marxist” is a good question? Obama put himself before his country. Etc.)

    And while I like Scalzi’s dialog as much as the next guy, I’m not sure it’d work out that way. Suppose Mr. Independent Maverick-y decides to have his committee conduct its first ever investigation of the executive branch six months from now. How will it look if Dems yank his chairmanship then? His balls may be on the chopping block now, but they won’t be forever.

  66. I had much the same reaction as Jane Yolen did, and I had to take a potty break.

    Haven’t had to test the ‘nearly waterproof’ new keyboard I bought a month ago and don’t really want to, either.

  67. My two very Republican coworkers found this hysterical. One of them ask, “Do you think Romney will get to do this in 2012?”

    I wanted to say “2016,” but he looked so happy that I didn’t want to burst his bubble. It’s Obama’s bubble to burst.

  68. In real life, Obama would have had one of the Secret Service men hand him the mallet. Which would have been taken from a black plastic carrying case embossed with the Presidential seal.

  69. Steven @41 wrote: “In fact, in the last Congress, there were at least five Democrats who voted with George Bush’s position more frequently than Lieberman did.”

    Yeah, but their excuse is that they are in conservative states. Lieberman’s in Connecticut, a safe D seat.

  70. Norm @71 wrote: ” 3) At any point in the session we can meet to take away his chairmanship so he better be good.”

    The problem is that this would only happen after Lieberman stabbed the Dems in the back, possibly on an especially crucial vote.

  71. Funny skit, and it was especially easy to imagine Joe Lieberman’s voice speaking those lines – but please, for the love of all that’s sacred, don’t again sully your corner of the Internet with the phrase “Reagan National Airport” … an unfortunately influential 1998 style decision of the Washington Post (i.e., boiling down “Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport” to something shorter) at a time when, it would seem, the Post was trying to curry favor with the Republican leadership of Congress – may they never return.

    Briefly: A few weeks after the Monica Lewinsky story broke (in the Post), then-Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia introduced an airport-renaming bill (the House’s version omitted “Washington” from the new name). Barr was also, years earlier, the first congressman to introduce an impeachment resolution against Bill Clinton. The bill was put through quickly (over some dissent from Democrats) in both chambers in time for Reagan’s birthday, and signed by Clinton at his nadir of political weakness.

    Many DC-area residents like me thought this was arrogant of Congress and still call it simply National; others call it Reagan National (or simply “Reagan,” as for example the Washington Times has done in headlines). When I travel, I notice the pleasing absence of “Reagan National” from weather reports. Even here in DC, a given local TV news broadcast might vacillate from one week to the next, sometimes using National or National Airport in a news story. And at the Post there’s a columnist who rigorously keeps to National and has advocated officially reverting to it. On the other side are people like Grover Norquist (was there ever a more perfect name for a Republican?) who want to rename every damn thing for Reagan.

    I hope this explains why I’m sensitive to this one element in what was otherwise a very fine bit o’ sketch comedy.

  72. Lieberman (I)diot not only campaigned for his buddy McCain, which is understandable, but gone out of his way to trash Obama’s reputation (despite swearing he would not) and that of other Democrats for 2-ish years, which is not, and helped campaign for down-ticket Republicans, which is petty spitefulness.

    That notwithstanding, the reason he should loose the chairmanship is simple: he failed to do his job in the committee much less as chairman. Fire his ass for failure to perform his duties to the people and let him decide for himself whether he wants to stay in the majority caucus.

  73. “How did he get them back from McCain?”

    [The scene is backstage at the ballroom of the Arizona Biltmore. Standing together are John McCain, Sarah Palin, and Joe Lieberman.]

    MCCAIN: Well, there goes Virginia, it’s over. Sarah, will you do the honors?

    PALIN: [Makes noises not unlike a mother bird bringing up food from her crop for her young. She spits out two testicles into the palm of her hand.] Here you go, Joe.

    MCCAIN: We won’t be needing them anymore.

    LIEBERMAN: [Reattaches testicles discreetly.] I hope I get to keep these a while.

    MCCAIN: I wouldn’t hold my breath.

    PALIN: Can I get some Maalox? Six weeks of holding onto those made me sick.

  74. So, does this hint at a screenplay in the future? Perhaps for one of your own books? If so, I personally would like to see Agent to the Stars as a movie. It would be easier to screen than any of the green soldier books, or Androids Dream.

  75. the reason Joe wants the committee is so that he can prevent over site of the previous administration

    preventing action goes under the radar

    that’s the only reason he wants on this committee and it is rediculous baracak wants him there too

  76. I can find no evidence to support the idea senate Dems might decide to get a spine later. They have shown no inkling of a spine for years now, so why should we think those old incumbents are about to change their tune later, if Joe screws them one more time?

    I can hardly find evidence to support the idea they might actually do so now, but clearly, it’s now or likely never.

    Bayh, Carper, Landreiu, Pryor, Nelson etc., want the cover Lieberman provides. And they want it for all the wrong reasons.

    At the very least, joe should be stripped of DHS committee chair and stripped of his seniority.

  77. Again, it is possible to do more than one thing at a time

    True enough, David. It’s just that when I’m multi-tasking, I prefer all those tasks to be kinda sorta useful. Again, skull-fucking payback doesn’t strike me as a priority for the next Congress or the Obama Administration. Then again, Obama just appointed as White House Chief of Staff a man whose idea of mad management skillz is posting dead fish and threatening to glue shut the arseholes of disobliging people.

  78. Sorry – but if Lieberman keeps his Homeland Security chair, he keeps his testicles, and everyone else better be watching out for theirs.

  79. This is funny, sort of, in a silly little juvenile “I wish Obama was everything I thought he’d be” kind of way.

    But the truth is, Lieberman will get away, what little balls he has intact, for the same reason that Rahm Emmanuel, a douchebag corporatist and lobbyist muppet, is now his chief of Staff.

    AIPAC and Israel.

    And now, back to business as usual.

  80. The problem is, this is like the scorpion and the frog. Even if Lieberman is enormously indebted to Obama–what will keep him from future betrayals? And, meantime, the reality is that Lieberman, along with a lot of other Senators, ought to be right up there with Bush, Cheney, et al at a war crimes trial, oh, they’ve fed us corvids well.

    Not revenge. Justice.

    Caw!

  81. It’s just that when I’m multi-tasking, I prefer all those tasks to be kinda sorta useful.

    Let’s see: making sure that someone who 1) endorsed the Republican candidate for President, 2) claimed that Obama didn’t put country first, and 3) did nothing as the chair of the committee tasked with oversight on perhaps the biggest fuckup of the Bush Administration is NOT said chair again strikes me as a eminently useful thing to do.

    Again, skull-fucking payback doesn’t strike me as a priority for the next Congress or the Obama Administration.

    See first answer.

    White House Chief of Staff a man whose idea of mad management skillz is posting dead fish and threatening to glue shut the arseholes of disobliging people.

    Which enabled him to win back and then increase the size of the Democratic majority in the House. Dead fish are useful.

    On a more general note, the people calling for comity, happiness, and cross-aisle friendliness share many members with the people who said nothing (or thought it was *just* dandy) when the Republicans were running roughshod over the Democratic minority in 1994-2006. So, you know, you’ve got a credibility issue here.

  82. David at 117: To the extent that I’ve called for temporarily burying the hatchet, its been in relation to improving Obama’s chances to govern effectively. He is the president and we, even foaming at the mouth conservative-libertarians like myself, should back off. But when you and or others go after our own, its very hard not to go after yours, which includes Obama.

  83. But when you and or others go after our own, its very hard not to go after yours, which includes Obama.

    I’m not clear on how going after Joe Lieberman, who caucuses with the Democrats and has a chairmanship because a Democratic majority of Senators voted him into that position is going after _your own_.

    If you need an excuse to be partisan, fine, but this ain’t it.

  84. Steve Moss #118: Isn’t that kind of the dilemma, here? Which group should use “our” when referring to Joe Lieberman? Of course every senator/representative has the right to follow his conscience, and to chose his allies, too–but congressional committeeships are distributed along party lines. Maybe it shouldn’t be that way, but it is. So what should the Democratic party do with a member who walks like a Republican, quacks like a Republican, but still claims to be a Democrat . . . ?

  85. Oops–sorry for suddenly thinking of this, Steve Moss @ 118: Are you referring to Obama’s choice of Emmanuel? Because if so, you might have a point; in the future, Emmanuel might very well give Republicans reason to feel attacked by Obama’s Chief of Staff . . . but he hasn’t demonstrated how he’s going to behave in that role, yet. The man is capable of adjusting his behavior to suit the circumstances–admire him or hate him (and he isn’t one of my favorite public figures, by a long shot) he does seem to be big on “whatever works.”

  86. Scalzi’s script displays all the emotional maturity one associates with a teenager, and a young one at that. Hardly surprising as that seems to be a necessary characteristic to be a Liberal, based on how they have been expressing themselves over the past few decades.

    Here’s something a bit closer to reality (but I am not going to format it like a movie script):

    Lieberman tells Obama, “Have you ever heard of Blue Dog Democrats? They’re the 33 conservatives that replaced too-liberal Republicans in the 2006 election and gave control of Congress to the Democrats. They are pro-life, pro-religion, pro-states’ rights, pro-gun, pro-lower taxes, pro-decentralization, and pro-Western Civilization. They are against gay marriage and judicial activism. They oppose illegal immigration and all forms of guest-worker programs, paths-to-citizenship for illegals, and amnesties.”

    Lieberman continues, “If you kowtow to Reid, Pelosi, MoveOn.org, Daily Kos and the New York Times by going too far left, we will walk and not only will you not have the veto-proof majority you were hoping for in the Senate, you won’t even have control of the House.”

    Now Lieberman is too mannered and low-key to demand the act of obeisance involving saliva and a bared posterior, but Obama will get the message.

  87. Jeffin90620:

    “Hardly surprising as that seems to be a necessary characteristic to be a Liberal, based on how they have been expressing themselves over the past few decades.”

    Uh huh. As opposed to the conservatives, whose striking maturity in expression causes them to call anyone who disagrees with them un-American socialist traitors. But it’s nice to see non-Liberals trying for the condescending tone, even as they’ve been handed both their ass and their hat by the electorate. It’s heartening to see that the reality distortion field has yet some flickering life to it.

    In any event, Jeffin, I’d like to say “nice try,” but as condescension goes, it’s not much. Not to mention your version of story lacks dramatic form, tension and otherwise sucks big donkey schlongs. Neener neener neener.

    Now go away, or I shall taunt you a second time.

  88. Which enabled him to win back and then increase the size of the Democratic majority in the House. Dead fish are useful.

    David@#117: And when the Republicans held all three branches of government, the vindictive sociopaths masquerading as responsible leaders were useful too. Too dangerous to be allowed access to matches or sharp knives, but useful nonetheless.

    Mary Frances may well be right: Rahm Emmanuel’s new position might well see him sticking to the decaf (without sugar), and avoiding the kind of freaky acting out that makes great anecdotes but also creates workplaces unfit to be occupied by emotionally-stable grown-ups who’d like to stay that way.

  89. And when the Republicans held all three branches of government, the vindictive sociopaths masquerading as responsible leaders were useful too. Too dangerous to be allowed access to matches or sharp knives, but useful nonetheless.

    1. And? I don’t believe I’ve argued otherwise (in terms of party discipline). 2. Useful for “we can’t govern worth a crap” useful, sure. See, there’s a track record for this generation of leaders. Republicans: not able to handle it. Democrats: we’re about to find out if they can handle the enormous mess left by the Republicans.

    Have you ever heard of Blue Dog Democrats

    Yes, and the Blue Dog Democrats are doing fine in the House. They have committee chairs and positions of responsibility because they didn’t go after their own nominee for President. They’re definitely not tying themselves to HMS Lieberman.

  90. Agree with much that has been said, and that background about how Lieberman won is particularly useful. One final piece of context: in 1992, in Illinois, when Carol Mosley-Braun defeated then-Sen. Alan Dixon in the Democratic primary, Dixon endorsed her the next day. There was none of this “Dixon’s getting kicked out of the Democratic party!” The party voters simply selected someone else, as the Republicans did in Maryland by dropping Congressman Wayne Gilchrist & choosing someone significantly more conservative to run (he lost.)

    It’s not about whether the Democrats forgive Lieberman, it’s whether Lieberman no longer hates the Democrats. I suspect he will never stop hating them–or Obama–and is determined to investigate every little thing Obama does, every charge he can trump up. (Eric, check your nineties history; Clinton didn’t do anything wrong on whitewater, and the Republicans made hearings hay with that.)

  91. Drudge is reporting that Lieberman is keeping his Homeland Security chair though he has to give up the Environmental chair. I am both pleased and disappointed that Lieberman was not expelled from the caucus. Pleased as a citizen (working together is good) and disappointed as a Republican (as we would have picked up a vote).

    David and Mary at 119-121: My burying the hatchet comment was in reference to David’s “in general” comment at 117, not on any specific individual. Though if I had to pick one I would reference the incessant attacks on Palin based on rumor and innuendo which, when the weakness of the attack is exposed, is then excused based on a variant of such infantile logic as “isn’t it a shame that she is such a poor candidate that we believed the false rumor and gossip.” Which completely misses the point, in that they are more demonstrating weaknesses in their own character and judgment, and not any corresponding lack of those traits in Palin.

  92. I had forgotten I had written anything here, but “forgettable” is the adjective that comes to mind when considering you, John. Thanks to Bing.com and an idle search for reminding me about this thread.

    Being a Liberal and all, it is unsurprising that, when addressing my post, you criticized the format, whined about something I did not say, and completely avoided responding to the substance of the post.

  93. John,

    I’ve got three syllables for you.

    In alphabetical order, they are “pa”, “the” and “tic”.

    Assemble them at your leisure.

    With all *due* respect…

  94. John, I’m offended on behalf of the 11-year-old girls I know. Oh, wait, you have one in your house, don’t you? I bet she’s more mature than Jeffin90620.

  95. John,

    You are either unable or unwilling to address the points in my original post and have resorted to this demonstrably puerile conduct for… well, no good reason I can posit.

    This is your sandbox and I will leave you to it. I will, however, point the guy who originally referenced your original post to this thread to see if he will revisit his obviously misplaced admiration (but not any time soon as he is undergoing treatment for cancer).

    Xopher,

    Please re-read John’s original post and then my first reply in this thread. If you truly think his is the more mature, I would very much like you to explain why.

  96. Jeffin90602:

    You are either unwilling or unable to understand that you do not always get to dictate the course of the conversation. I addressed the points in your original post I felt were worth addressing, at the level of seriousness I thought they merited; that they are not the points you wanted addressed, taken as seriously as you felt they should be, is not my problem.

    Please do grow up a little, or at the very least try not to vomit up right-wing boilerplate full of smug condescension when you feel like you want to be addressed as someone with a functioning brain.

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