Changeiness Watch - Obama Backs Lieberman

by: David Sirota

Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 16:45


"Truthiness" is defined as "the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true." And so 2008 will birth the word changeiness - "the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to exemplify real change, rather than concepts or facts known to embody real change."

In the weeks ahead, I'll try to keep a running tab on changeiness - the moves that we'd like to believe suggest the possibility of real change, but, in fact, are not real change. As the first example of changeiness, check out this story from the Huffington Post in which Barack Obama tells Democrats to keep Joe Lieberman in their Senate caucus.

Obama doesn't say Lieberman should keep his chairmanship (a chairmanship that will allow Lieberman to investigate an Obama administration) - so in that sense, it suggests the possibility of a change (ie. Lieberman being removed from his chairmanship). But as the article notes, Lieberman has said he will leave the Senate Democratic caucus if he is stripped of his chairmanship, meaning Obama is effectively endorsing him staying in the chairmanship. That's not change we can believe in - that's changeiness.

UPDATE: Just as a quick follow up, Josh Marshall reports that Bill Clinton is now making calls on behalf of Lieberman - effectively insisting that Democrats allow Lieberman to retain the subpoena power to investigate an Obama administration. Change or changeiness? I'd say the latter.  

David Sirota :: Changeiness Watch - Obama Backs Lieberman

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This isn't a surprise, really... (4.00 / 1)
...Most people predicted that Obama would try to prevent retribution...

But, there is an old saying... keep your friends close and your enemies closer...  

I don't know... I say let him join the GOP... that's where his real heart is, anyways...

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!


No (4.00 / 6)
Look, this is the right position to stake out. Lieberman is going to get kicked off his chair. He'll then go on all the networks and talk about how intolerant liberal democrats kicked him out. What Obama wants to be able to say is not that we kicked him out of the caucus but that we picked someone else for the chair and then Lieberman, in a fit of bitterness and spite decided to quit the Party.

This isn't an endorsement of Lieberman, this is positioning so we can win a Lieberman news cycle.


Jack I hope you are right (4.00 / 6)
because right now I am really pissed !

[ Parent ]
Yup. (4.00 / 1)
I think jack is right. There is no need to flame out in this series of chess moves.

That said, my deep fear is that Obama may think that his election, an African American in the White House, is change enough. As important and beautiful as it is, it's only a start. This is only my fear and so far Obama has been way out in front of my expectations. Let's give it time.


[ Parent ]
I hope (0.00 / 0)
you are right.  I guess we'll see in the coming days.  FWIW, I don't claim to have any idea of whether this is good strategery as you suggest, or changeiness.  

[ Parent ]
I had hoped Bill Clinton would disappear (0.00 / 0)
but in this case it IS changeiness........

with Terry Mc running for Gov. the DLC is still gasping ...I thought they would have been finished.


If there is ANYONE who should feel no loyalty to Lieberman, (4.00 / 12)
you would think it would be Bill Clinton.  He has now tried to undermine one Democratic Presidency, and has campaigned against a second.  What the hell makes Obama, or anyone, think that Joe is going to be helpful this time around?

Hope (0.00 / 0)


"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."


[ Parent ]
Maybe a little of both? (0.00 / 0)


"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."


[ Parent ]
The best way to advance a progressive agenda... (4.00 / 2)
...is to repair relations with Joe Lieberman.

Lieberman has shown himself to be petty.  If he loses his gavel or is booted from the caucus, he will be far more likely to obstruct a progressive agenda if he is the subject of retribution.

What is to be gained from punishing Lieberman?  Not much, and we could lose a crucial 60th vote on many matters of import.  Obama understands this -- he is taking the long view.  Health care and climate change matter more than punishing Lieberman.


The second that he feels that Obama's not being sufficently (4.00 / 3)
Hawkish in the middle east, or over Cuba or whatever, though, Lieberman is going to go and be all disruptive.  I'd feel a lot better about the caucus having some sort of stick ready to use in addition to the carrot of his committee.  

Once again, he made a huge deal about Lewinsky; he built up Bush in advance of the war; he ignored the results of a Democratic primary, thereby undermining the Democratic brand in CT; and he was perhaps the most aggressive advocate in John McCain's favor (not to mention all of the censorship crap from the '80s to today).  If someone is willing to elucidate what, beyond what he's already done, will be going too far, and what will be done when he does go too far, then perhaps I will think it might be a good idea to keep him where he is.

Because, from where I sit, he's already gone way, way, way too far.


[ Parent ]
Lieberman has been disruptive because (4.00 / 1)
he was personally offended that the DFHs voted for Lamont and because his friends in the Democratic Party endorsed Lamont.  He is a petty, selfish man.  That is why he needs to be co-opted.

An angry, oppositional Lieberman will be far more damaging to Democrats on far more issues than a placated Lieberman who whines about Iraq or Iran every so often.

Healthcare reform matters far more than what happened in the campaigns of '06 or even '08.  This could be the best chance we'll ever get for progressive change.  There's no need for counterproductive gestures that could get in the way of such change.


[ Parent ]
He won't be quietly co-opted (0.00 / 0)
if he gets his chair, he's going to be a disruptive jackass from it.  If you want to give him a committee chair on one of the issues where he's actually good, that's fine.  If you give him a lot of productive work to keep him busy and not focused on foreign policy, that's great.

But with the Homeland Security chair, he's just going to be counterproductive, combative, and disruptive.  Once again, what stick are we going to have to keep him from demanding an invasion of Iran, or oppose a withdrawal from iraq?  

Healthcare reform is important, and sure, he could screw it up, but he's far more capable of screwing up very critical foreign policy decisions from his current seat than he would be to disrupt ANYTHING whilst outside of the caucus.  


[ Parent ]
Lieberman as Small Business chair? (0.00 / 0)
I saw a rumor on TalkLeft and maybe elsewhere that Reid would like to move Lieberman to Small Business chair, which would be vacated by Kerry as he is presumably taking over Biden's role as chair of the Foreign Relations committee (or taking a position in the Obama administration).

[ Parent ]
I could live with that (0.00 / 0)
Lieberman gets to save face, and also work in a place where can actually advance a progressive agenda.  If the calculation is that he's going to create a giant rukus, Coburn-style, if he is kicked out, then that is a liveable compromise.  

[ Parent ]
Does Homeland Security chair really have that much power? (0.00 / 0)
I am asking, because I don't really know.

My impression is that the president reigns supreme over foreign policy (as evidenced by the past two years).  If Lieberman alone called for war with Iran, it wouldn't matter.  The president decides what to do there.

But the president desperately needs congressional support to pass domestic policy.  And any plausible plan to achieve universal healthcare or cap-and-trade includes Joe Lieberman as one of 60 votes.

Lieberman has been humiliated and his influence has diminished.  That's punishment enough.  So throw him a bone, let him keep the chair, and make sure he's on our side for all of the important domestic issues.  Universal healthcare and cap-and-trade are far, far more important than punishing Lieberman.


[ Parent ]
It certainly has a whole lot of departments under it (0.00 / 0)
And if there is an immigration reform bill coming, it's going to come out of Homeland Security.  There is enough overlap with Intelligence, at the minimum, that he could cause a decent disruption if he were so inclined.  

The FISA fiasco alone should show us how much chaos can be caused by having multiple versions of a bill coming out of committee.

I can live with him retaining a chairmanship of something like Environment or Small Business or whatever.  He has, in my opinion, forfeited any influence over foreign policy by campaigning for an explicitly Republican version of foreign policy.


[ Parent ]
So you think we should live in fear of an 'angry' Lieberman? (0.00 / 0)
Let him run the place [again] -- You think giving into him will stop him setting up, say, a new Gang of 14?  Taking come of his Israel homeland rather than the US.  Dream on.  You are feeding him power. The guy should be shunned for what he's done.

If he can't be trusted to do the 'right' thing then let him fester in his own petty revenge.  Don't enable his type of blackmail.


[ Parent ]
Cancel didn't work (0.00 / 0)
"..Taking care of his Israel homeland rather than the US..."



[ Parent ]
Are you a battered spouse by any chance? (4.00 / 1)
Keep appeasing the abuser. THIS time it will work....

[ Parent ]
Hmm still have questions? (4.00 / 1)
From the Huffingtonpost piece:

:...President-elect Barack Obama has informed party officials that he wants Joe Lieberman to continue caucusing with the Democrats in the 111th Congress, Senate aides tell the Huffington Post.

Obama's decision could tie the hands of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has been negotiating to remove Lieberman as chair of the Homeland Security and Government Reform committee while keeping him within the caucus. Lieberman has insisted that he will split from the Democrats if his homeland security position is stripped.

Aides to the president-elect did not return requests for comment. Senate officials were unclear whether Obama would be comfortable with Lieberman maintaining his current committee post...

This type of reporting brings back memories [Marshall Wittmann]! And lookie here -- we now are hearing DLC Bill Clinton is sticking his nose in and also pushing the meme to keep Lieberman in?  

Who are these anonymous Senate aide shit-stir*ers?  I want some names...?


so tell me about these "progressives" you mention.... (0.00 / 0)
one of the most ludicrous parts of this article:
If Democratic leadership were to keep Lieberman on homeland security but impede any chance of ascending to these other posts, that may be enough to placate progressive activists demanding punishment while keeping the Connecticut Senator in the caucus.

uh, hi, unnamed author? did you actually talk to any progressives? do you even know who they are? or could it might just possibly be that you are passing on verbatim the conclusions of your unnamed sources? HuffPo, meet WaPo.

not everything worth doing is profitable. not everything profitable is worth doing.

[ Parent ]
Sorry... I get it now. (0.00 / 0)
Yes... it did seem a bit of a plant...

Also, I noticed Huffington was a bit suspect with it's:

Obama 'DEMANDS' Action From Bush...

"DEMANDS"?  Totally not Obama's style!

That type of headliner is going to go down real well with Bush's transition team.  NOT.

Whose side is Huffingtonpost on?


[ Parent ]
David, I disagree with one of your conclusions (4.00 / 2)
But as the article notes, Lieberman has said he will leave the Senate Democratic caucus if he is stripped of his chairmanship, meaning Obama is effectively endorsing him staying in the chairmanship.

If Lieberman is stripped of his chairmanship, it is still his choice whether or not he leaves the D caucus.

The question is whether Obama believes Lieberman's "threat" to leave.

If so, then perhaps your conclusion is correct, that Obama wants Lieberman to retain his chairmanship.

But I don't believe Lieberman. If he leaves, he can either become an "I I" - an independent cacusing with nobody - I assume with no committee positions

- or he can become a junior R. Based on what we're hearing of the R offer, he wouldn't even become a ranking member of any committee. (that obviously can change)

He can do more to promote himself politically - even as a #2 on the majority side on some major committee, than as a junior R. So his threat makes no sense, even from a Lieberman is "only out for himself" point of view.


source? (0.00 / 0)
The source of this comment is anonymous Senate aides. I'm not saying the story isn't true because of this, but I think it warrants at least in a little caution in attributing statements to Obama that have relatively weak attribution.

Second, there is no reason to believe that Lieberman will in fact leave the caucus if he is stripped of his committee chair. If he wants to run for reelection in 2012, he has to remain in the Democratic caucus (even then, he'll probably lose, but if he caucuses with the Republicans he will definitely lose). So is it really clear that if the Dems strip him of his chair (but don't otherwise kick him out of the caucus) that he'll storm off in a huff and give up any chance of reelection, or will he try to mend fences with CT voters? After all, at least in the past Lieberman has been a reliable Democrat on domestic policy issues, and those are likely to dominate Senate votes (Obama doesn't need Senate approval to withdraw troops from Iraq).

So I guess I read this news as basically not changing anything. The best course of action is still to lobby Democratic Senators to vote to strip Lieberman of his committee chair, and I see nothing in this article or any of the other rumors flying around that would suggest that Obama (or Dodd, or Reid, or whoever else has been quoted lately on this issue) would necessarily try too hard to stop that action. I don't know, maybe I'm reading it wrong and am still too optimistic from the campaign. But that is my take.


Will he really lose (0.00 / 0)
if he caucuses with Republicans, runs for reelection on the CFL ticket (where he doesn't need to primary), and the Republicans do the same thing they did last time, and implicitly endorse him by only running nominal opposition?  

I don't understand CT politics very well, and the demise of Chris Shays is probably a very good sign, but Lieberman still does have a machine and everything, ya?


[ Parent ]
my sense (4.00 / 1)
is that Lieberman won last time basically by convincing a substantial fraction of Democrats that he'd still basically be a Democrat, although obviously someone closer to the race would probably have better insight.

I am basing my claim that Lieberman would lose in 2012 if he caucused with the Republicans on this poll from R2K/Daily Kos in 2007, which shows that Lamont would have won in a rematch in 2007 48-40-10. I can't imagine that Lieberman has improved his standing in the past year, and I can't imagine he could improve it in a Democratic state like CT if he spent 4 years caucusing with the Republicans (unless Obama does a terrible job and the Democratic brand is trashed in 2012, but if that happens we'll have a lot more to worry about than Lieberman's fate).


[ Parent ]
Yes, but (0.00 / 0)
I agree with Atrios too...except for the stuff that Obama is already doing, like, say, telling Senators to keep Lieberman.

[ Parent ]
Not to mention that, (0.00 / 0)
as Chris has said repeatedly, NOW is the time to do the agenda setting.  Presidents are usually at their most popular, and therefore, their most powerful, during the first 100 days of their administration.

If we are going to push Obama to give us the policy we want, we need to e doing it NOW, because he'll be at his most effective if he hits the ground running.  And if he hits it running in the wrong direction, progressives are going to be screwed...


[ Parent ]
this is what (4.00 / 1)
pres elect obama promised on the campaign trail, change from politics as usual, to now criticize him for not retaliating because we have a different agenda is counter productive.
there is much to be done in the coming months and our pres elect doesn't have time to waste on revenge when the american people are waiting for their lives to be changed for the better.
we were supposed to be getting a uniter in 2000, we have one now and with all he has to do turning the other cheek when possible seems like the mature and presidential thing to do, especially since the voters are tired of the wash gotcha that has prevented the congress from doing the peoples work and the people are tired of it.
let the gop continue down the road of retribution and obama will keep them in political minority status until hell freezes over.  

This IS politics as usual (0.00 / 0)
The Republicans play hardball, and the Democrats let the conservative half of their caucus run wild and undermine everything.  When have Democrats EVER done anything to people running around acting like this?  

Because we can go back as far as Phil Gramm to find examples where Lieberesque behavior went completely unpunished.  This 'a pox on both their houses' argument completely ignores how the Republicans and Democrats have acted completely differently post-Reagan.


[ Parent ]
When? Lyndon Johnson (4.00 / 2)
Lyndon Johnson pushed out a Democratic Senator from VA in a primary.  The man not only went against LBJ but bad mouthed Lady Bird.  Dead meat.

Of course FDR basically supported numerous candidates against southern Democrats opposed to the New Deal when he was at his peak politically.  And one of them (who obviously learned the lesson) was a kid named Lyndon Johnson.  The line was that the new candidate would have a friend in the White House.  

I suspect Kennedy probably operated the same way but I can't think of an example right off hand.


[ Parent ]
So now we're raging against the 1960-1965 period (0.00 / 0)
back when the Democrats got almost every important piece of legislation that they wanted?  

Shouldn't that be the sort of thing that Obama WANTS?  That's a stronger argument about why Lieberman needs to be put into his place than I could otherwise think of.


[ Parent ]
Obama has proven… (0.00 / 0)
...quite the long-term strategist thus far, so his stance on Lieberman seems in line with the work the president-elect knows he's gonna have to get done in his first term. I'm all for retribution--Lieberman's gotten away with far too much B.S. these past years--but the truth is that in the absence of a decisive Senate majority, the best way to keep him voting with Democrats would seem to be to keep him caucusing with them. I probably wouldn't get too comfortable if I was him, though...he's gotta know he's in the ejection seat.

"This ain't for the underground. This here is for the sun." -Saul Williams

Six votes plus Biden's tiebreaker isn't decisive? (0.00 / 0)
The only way that that math makes sense is if you start counting Ben Nelson & Co as half votes or something

[ Parent ]
indulge his treachery to keep him loyal? (0.00 / 0)
Having 60 dems in the Senate is no magic number unless they all vote in lockstep, which they don't. Jettisoning Lieberman wouldn't be so much about retribution as a warning to others.

Something David wrote a long time ago has always stuck with me: make a list of the biggest defectors in the party and push them out. Demonstrate to everyone that there is some baseline of loyalty that they can't go below if they wish to stay in the party.

Letting someone get away with unacceptable behavior does not co-opt them; it teaches them that you need them more than they need you.


[ Parent ]
clinton is undermining obama (4.00 / 2)
lieberman would be a thorn in obama's side and clinton feels he would benefit most for that dynamic, either through obama being weakened politically so that hillary can win in 2012 or 2016, or just that clinton will become more useful to obama as he is seen as a go between that can keep lieberman on the reservation.  

i could say how this pisses me off, but really its more important just to point how obvious and predictable all this is.  the interests of the clintons, the democratic party and america diverged a long time ago.  question is whether obama is going to play hardball right now or let clinton "own" another important beachhead in the coming war in washington over who to blame for the bankrutpting of america inc and how to restructure it.  


I agree... (4.00 / 2)
The DLC and neolibs haven't gone away because of the election.

Waxman Coup Worries Moderates
http://www.rollcall.com/issues...

These are the type of stories we should be watching.  Not just following every move 'Obama' makes.  



[ Parent ]
Waxman vs. Dingell (0.00 / 0)
...is far more consequential for the future of an Obama administration than Lieberman's fate.

It really is a choice between change and more of the same.


[ Parent ]
Clinton on the couch (4.00 / 2)
you could be right, or it could be more of what made Clinton a great Republican President: his insatiable need to please and be accepted by the opposition - strong Republican authority figures. This was always way more important to him than getting the support and approval of anyone in his own party. Talk about "Daddy" issues.

Of course, I'm guessing it's not an either/or situation, but more of a both/and dealio.


[ Parent ]
How about a chair trade - Boxer and Lieberman (0.00 / 0)
Boxer chairs Environment
Lieberman's positions on the Environment, if I remember right, are still excellent.

If Boxer were willing to trade with Lieberman, would honor (and other concerns) be satisfied?


Let's be careful with anonymous sources regarding both Obama and Clinton (4.00 / 1)
I would like to make one point regarding the allegation that Bill Clinton has been making phone calls urging that Liberman be permitted to keep his chairmanship:  All of the links are pointing to the same story on TPM.   This story is sourced only to "a high-level senate Democratic" source  and there is apparently no confirmation by a second source.   On the other hand, the Huffington Post story on Obama's support for Liberman has this update: "Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo writes that Bill Clinton has also been 'making calls on Sen. Lieberman's behalf,' something that the Huffington Post later heard from another Hill source.  But Matt McKenna, a spokesman for the former president, vehemently denies the report. "It's completely false, he says."  (Emphasis added). http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...

It seems to me that if Josh Marshall is planning on running a real journalistic enterprise (as opposed to a gossip sheet like Drudge), he needs to either rely on named sources or else he should have more than a single anonymous source for something like this.  

Plus, I see no reason for the quotes about Clinton on TPM or Obama in the Huffington Post to to be anonymous. Many newspapers print their rationale for granting anonymity, but there was no such explanation provided by Josh Marshall about the Clinton thing or by Huffington Post about the Obama thing.   If blogs want to have the same credibility as the traditional media, they need to have much higher standards, especially when a spokesperson has denied the accusation.  This is the sort of crappy thing Drudge would do.  I expected better from TPM.  


Or... (0.00 / 0)
...you might have one crop of 'aides' vs. another crop of 'aides' saying up yours two can play at that game?

just sayin'


[ Parent ]
This has nothing whatsoever to do with "change" (0.00 / 0)
Nor does it have anything to do with a lack of change.

When Obama ran on change, he was not referring to decisions such as whether Lieberman should remain a chairman or in the Democratic caucus.

Approve or deplore him for indicating Lieberman should not be punished, but don't equate that action with anything regarding change.


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