Obama Backs Lieberman

by: Matt Stoller

Wed Nov 12, 2008 at 17:58

One of the key players in fighting to strip Lieberman of his committee chairmanship is Dick Durbin, and Obama has just convinced him to let Lieberman keep his gavel.  Here's Howard Fineman:

But I`m now told after having gone through a horrible week or so, where he was mourning the death of his 40-year-old daughter to congenital heart disease, he`s come out of that and looked around and, also, heard what Barack Obama has had to say, and Durbin is now saying he`s willing to give Lieberman a chance.

I think that`s going to go to a vote next week but I bet that Lieberman gets to keep his committee chairmanship because Obama has signaled that he wants him to.

Matt Stoller :: Obama Backs Lieberman
It looks like Lieberman will be chair of the Homeland Security Committee and have subpoena power.  I had hoped the Senate would make its decision without pressure from the President-elect, since a supine Congressional delegation is a huge problem even when it's a Democrat in the White House.  But that is not to be, and our new President-elect has used political capital to help a very neoconservative Joe Lieberman remain both within the Democratic caucus and the chair of an important committee on national security.

It's worth noting that Reid was on the side of Democratic primary voters but that most Democrats in the Senate and President-elect Obama were not.  It's a choice, they made it, I hope the price they extracted from Lieberman was worth it.

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Not so certain (0.00 / 0)
I think the jury is still out.  

I think Obama's inside game could work (4.00 / 2)
I think Obama is playing to Joe's ego.  He is essentially saying, "Stay with us.  Get us over the hump (cloture) on a lot of issues you are comfortable with.  Make history, rehab your rep.  You can look good again.  Join the other guys, and you're nobody.  I like you, I'm the President, and you bask in my glow."

Joe gets his legacy as an Important American Politician.  Obama gets another D vote (except maybe on foreign policy, where other votes are there to negate Joe)

Obama sees Holy Joe as a pawn.  We should, too.  If Obama can pull off this sales job on Joe, we win.  If Joe is Satan and stabs Obama in the back (for what reason or benefit, I don't know) we lose.  

Joe's track record... (4.00 / 13)

  ...doesn't suggest he'll do anything BUT stab Obama in the back.

  But maybe he'll change his ways. It's only his seventeenth chance.  

"We judge ourselves by our ideals; others by their actions. It is a great convenience." -- Howard Zinn

[ Parent ]
Joe wants to be a star more than anything else (0.00 / 0)
He's a narcissist.

It's all about ego.  If Obama can deliver love and stardom to Joe, it will trump everything else.

[ Parent ]
That's not how narcissists work. (4.00 / 6)
When good things come to them, it is because they did it and they deserve it. When bad things come it is because someone else is doing it to them.

If Obama thinks he will be repaid with anything remotely like gratitude or loyalty, well let's just say he's in for an education.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
why do you think Obama cares about anything other than votes? (0.00 / 0)
Do you think Obama wants to be loved by Lieberman?  I don't. The guy is President.  But I do think Joe's desire is that simple.

And I have a BA in Psych, and I stand by my Frist-like diagnosis.  

Politicians are like cards, they can be played.  Money, fame, history, self-righteousness, whatever.  They have their buttons, and they can be pushed.

Or maybe everyone here on this thread knows for sure what Holy Joe will do.  The certainty is kinda funny.  

[ Parent ]
Votes are what I'm talking about. (0.00 / 0)
As far as Lieberman is concerned, he has won, and having "outwitted" Obama once,  (because that's how narcissists see these things) he is fully entitled to "outwit" him again in the future.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
he outwitted Obama in his last Presidency? (0.00 / 0)
when was that?  Everything this time is the same as the last time?  What has happened before must happen again, exactly?

[ Parent ]
Matt, this is Fineman (4.00 / 4)
speculating, and he may be right, but we shouldn't give up yet.

Particularly regarding Obama's position, other than the neutral statement released yesterday, we don't know how he stands regarding Lieberman keeping the committee chair.

Regarding Durbin, this is Fineman -- we don't know who his source is or how reliable.  Maybe so, and I am pessimistic as well, but let's see what happens next.

-- Stu

Yuck. (4.00 / 1)
   I see the progressive "I told-you-sos" will not be coming to an end any time soon.

John McCain lets lobbyists shape his economic policy

Why should they? (4.00 / 2)
"Progressives" know where they stand; the best they can hope for is to exclude fascists from government while the "grow liberalism".

That doesn't mean we need to be happy about it.

[ Parent ]
They've agreed on a secret ballot... (4.00 / 4)

...not to avoid pissing off Lieberman (just imagine what he would do!), but to avoid being accountable to US.

Dovetails nicely with Bill Clinton stumping in Connecticut for the guy who torpedoed his second term.

One wonders what deep psychological problems one must have to be a Democratic officeholder. "Battered-spouse syndrome" is just TOO tame.


"We judge ourselves by our ideals; others by their actions. It is a great convenience." -- Howard Zinn

Why couldn't the secret ballot work against Lieberman? (4.00 / 3)
It's easy to say anything you like in public and then secretly vote against someone by ballot, just watch a single episode of "Survivor."

I'm thinking the secret ballot is actually useful here as a couple of high profile members such as Durbin and Dodd can say all conciliatory thingys for Joe's ego but then work to defeat him below board.  Afterward, they can say how sorry they are, blame it on all the newbies in the caucus and try to smooth talk him into staying in the caucus.

Or not...

[ Parent ]
no, Rachel just reported the opposite (4.00 / 4)
She said she asked Fineman and he said he no information on the chairmanship.

Bayh is all for it though.

New Jersey politics at Blue Jersey.

Bayh (4.00 / 5)

 I don't know if I should be glad Obama didn't pick Bayh as his VP, or appalled that he considered him. What a total, dead loss he is.

 We still have a lot of work to do to expunge self-hating Dems from the party.  

"We judge ourselves by our ideals; others by their actions. It is a great convenience." -- Howard Zinn

[ Parent ]
Someone needs to remind (4.00 / 4)
him that he represents a blue state now.

-- Stu

[ Parent ]
Great point (4.00 / 2)
Its funny, no longer can he pull the "well, I have to do this, I represent Indiana for Pete's sake."

Saxby Chambliss  

[ Parent ]
Evan Bayh on Maddow re Lieberman (0.00 / 0)
He wants to give Lieberman one more chance but if he doesn't go along with what leadership wants him to do as committee chair, he'd be stripped of that chair.

"You always have that option if things don't seem to be working out very well." That was a direct quote.

In Obama's spirit of reconciliation, I can go along with that.  

So what evidence is there... (0.00 / 0)

  ...that Lieberman WILL cooperate with the party leadership?

  He never has.  

"We judge ourselves by our ideals; others by their actions. It is a great convenience." -- Howard Zinn

[ Parent ]
Well (0.00 / 0)
One could say it is in his best interests, given that opposing Obama would be the quickest path to electoral defeat for him in 2012. But you could also say the same thing about him backing the Republican Presidential candidate in '08, so that makes this sort of analysis pretty questonable.

[ Parent ]
HoJo will be defeated in 2012 anyway (0.00 / 0)
One could say it is in his best interests, given that opposing Obama would be the quickest path to electoral defeat for him in 2012.

[ Parent ]
Better to cut Lieberman's head off now (4.00 / 9)
than risk a power struggle in what would likely be a highly volatile environment politically if he were to be stripped sometime in the future.  

Somebody please tell me, beyond appearing to be a "conciliator above the fray," where is the effective political advantage in placating this mealy-mouthed backstabber?  

[ Parent ]
Very Public Apology (4.00 / 1)
That's what I hear from Bayh as the necessary condition for Joe keeping his precious. I would like to see that from Joe before Tuesday's vote, and then see his colleagues still strip him of his precious.

Or not.

However the Tuesday vote goes, I certainly look forward to seeing Joe state publicly, soon, how sorry he is for having made a complete douchebag of himself, betrayed his party, embarrassed the president-to-be, but is now willing to grovel for everyone's forgiveness to keep his precious.

Really, that's the least that should happen.  

[ Parent ]
how bad would it look (4.00 / 6)
for Democrats to remove Lieberman after Joe opens a bunch of investigations on the Obama administration?

Then it will stink of a cover-up.

The time to ditch him is now. He supported the other party's presidential nominee.

Join the Iowa progressive community at Bleeding Heartland.

[ Parent ]
question (0.00 / 0)
If Lieberman is the chair of the committee but commits asshattery can the Democrats just remove him later? Or is it a now or never thing?

Bayh just claimed they could (4.00 / 9)
But of course I have to say

A. If they won't do it now, what would make them do it then?

B. If Lieberman launches an investigation, then Dems will be pressured not to derail it.  

I think these guys are really bad negotiators. No wonder Bush played them so many times.

New Jersey politics at Blue Jersey.

[ Parent ]
A. If they won't do it now, what would make them do it then? (4.00 / 1)
I just touched on this in my comment below. How important is that chairmanship to Lieberman? Important enough to compel him to be a good caucus-member and keep his bulls-eye off Obama's back? Have their been explicit or implicit threats made towards Lieberman about how he is expected to behave?

Lieberman can go die in the woods with the other Republicans, or he can do as he is told and keep his power, living to fight another day. If you were a soulless career politician, which road would you take?

"Don't hate the media, become the media" -Jello Biafra

[ Parent ]
B. If Lieberman launches an investigation, then Dems will be pressured not to derail it. (4.00 / 4)
This is what worries me the most about Lieberman staying in his current seat.

If he stays and starts acting all squirrelly, and it looks like the Dems might jettison him after all, his best defense would be an active offense- start an investigation (even a specious one) on the administration which forces the Dems to either remove him in the middle of the investigation, opening up a world of accusations of cover-up and manipulation or leave him in place even stronger than before holding all the cards.

Drop him now, I say, but I'm not sure who's listening...

[ Parent ]
Jumping to conclusions is fun (4.00 / 1)
In fact, it is the latest fad. But I do wonder what power Reid (et al) have to remove Lieberman from his chairmanship at a later date. Is Lieberman holding the Dem caucus hostage, or are they holding him? This is a question I would love to see tackled.

My real point is this - the criticism so far towards Obama has been derived from taking every word and action from the Obama camp at face value. Do we really think Obama believes Lieberman is a changed man and deserves a second chance? That seems to be the accusation. Or does it make more sense to assume that Obama and Co have their reasons for coming to Lieberman's defense? I think the later explanation is more likely, and I think it is worth examining. Let's try to take a closer look at the motivations behind Obama's maneuvering and less time chastising him for not making every single action a bold, clear, unequivocal call to arms for progressivism.  

"Don't hate the media, become the media" -Jello Biafra

Honestly... (4.00 / 3)

 ...can ANYBODY explain the odd deference by established senators to the vile, loathsome, filthy, self-serving individual known as Joe Lieberman?

 Has this man ever made a positive contribution to the Democratic Party, at any level? Has this man ever done anything good for the country? Ever? What, exactly, do the Democrats gain by once again appeasing this jackass? Especially when he has NO leverage over them?

 The whole thing reeks.


"We judge ourselves by our ideals; others by their actions. It is a great convenience." -- Howard Zinn

right. but that doesn't matter (4.00 / 1)
you're caught in your own desire to crush lieberman.

I despise him also.  But if there is a way to play him, at least for 4 years, why not?  Has Obama not proven that he generally gets this "politics" thing?

Think long-term, not from your own desires for retribution.

Worst case scenario, he loses in '10.  

[ Parent ]
It's not about retribution (4.00 / 2)
The question is whether it's in the interest of the new administration, and the party generally, for Lieberman to have subpoena power over the White House.

[ Parent ]
uh, if he abuses his power, he's toast (0.00 / 0)
if he's given a cookie by the big boss, can't that cookie be taken away if little boy joey is bad?

Come on, now....  

[ Parent ]
How? (4.00 / 1)
If he abuses his power, then it's too late to do anything about it. The Democrats can't remove him from his chairmanship after he's started actually using it to investigate the Obama administration.

I don't see any way that leaving Lieberman as chair isn't leaving a time bomb for the administration later in the term.

That said, I don't think we should be taking Howard Fineman as gospel. Since when do we do that?

[ Parent ]
jeebus. (0.00 / 0)
who said we should listen to Fineman? That we are actually listening to him?  Why would Lieberman investigate the admin? Or that he could do it unilaterally?   You are jumping at phantoms.  You and others are just assuming the worst.  

Relax.  Either Obama plays Lieberman and we get his vote when we need it on things like health care, or Lieberman is done. His power can be taken away.  

The apoplexy on this thread is way, way over the top.  

Lieberman will almost certainly lose in '12 no matter what happens here.  

And if Begich wins, that helps, too.  Just chill.  

[ Parent ]
Not unilaterally (4.00 / 1)
I wasn't accusing you of listening to Fineman. It's Stoller and the others who are willing to believe anything he says about Obama as long as it fits their storyline, though they were wisely skeptical about things he said that fit the Republican storyline.

I stand by the idea that Lieberman as chair is a time bomb. Committee chairs are significant, and there are plenty of Republicans on the committee with him to vote along with whatever idiocy he wants. He did nothing with the committee during the Bush years, but his behavior during the Clinton years gives no reason to believe he'll do anything but stab a Democratic president at the first opportunity. Give him a committee that handles a subject where he's actually a Democrat, not one where he's a Republican.

I don't understand what you think there is to gain from caving to Lieberman. It shows incredible weakness. It encourages other Democrats to misbehave if there are no consequences for even the most grievous betrayal of the party. Lieberman has shown repeatedly that he cannot be trusted, so what could he possibly say this time to make anyone believe him? Lieberman will vote as a Republican on foreign policy, national security, and few other issues and as a Democrat on abortion, the environments, economics, and the rest, regardless of whether he's allowed to keep the chair.

[ Parent ]
You've got a short memory (4.00 / 1)
"Why would Lieberman investigate the admin? Or that he could do it unilaterally?   You are jumping at phantoms.  You and others are just assuming the worst."

Why would Janet Reno appoint a special counsel to investigate Whitewater, either?  Sure, no harm in that.  And we see how that worked out.

Sorry, I think the downside risk with Lieberman is just too high to have him in a position of that kind of power.  Let's remember, he got primaried and lost, so he's got lots of motive for retribution of his own.

Look, if we are dead set on keeping him in the caucus, give him another plum chairmanship.  But not the one that has the authority to investigate the executive branch.  Not to the guy who has motive to be an obstructionist.

Joe is not useful to us.  The need for 60 votes solely within the Democratic caucus is a myth.  If we only get 58 or 59, I would much rather negotiate for that 60th vote with a Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, Bob Corker, or any centrist Republican looking at a tough fight for his seat in '10 than the untrustworthy Lieberman.

I have not seen Obama get the politics of a situation wrong yet.  I may be wrong, but I think he's just stroking Joe's ego here.  Fineman's prognostications aside, I don't think he has the votes to keep his chairmanship, and I am really hoping for that.

[ Parent ]
i don't disagree - i think whatever shakes out will be OK (0.00 / 0)
i just think that this could be played in a lot of ways, and that it's possible for joe's pot to be sweetened enough that he'll behave.  it's never been done before.

but regardless, if he gets booted i'm fine with that, too

especially with begich

[ Parent ]
I don't get it (0.00 / 0)
Why would the Obama administration be afraid of a legal subpoena?

The concern sounds strangely Republican.

[ Parent ]
Here's what to be afraid of (4.00 / 1)
Whitewater was just a decade-old failed land deal in which the Clintons did nothing wrong.  So Janet Reno saw nothing wrong with appointing a special counsel to investigate it.  Subpoena power is a fickle thing.

[ Parent ]
Wow (0.00 / 0)
First, there isn't any independent prosecutor law.  There aren't roving investigators with no other purpose than to follow every crazy rumor about people in the administration.

Second, how could Lieberman get a subpoena out of the Homeland Security Committee for something like, say, Rezko?  It doesn't seem to be the right jurisdiction.  

Third, the reality is that people in power are subject to corruption.  There is a role for oversight.  

Fourth, the problem with the Whitewater matter and all the other phony Clintongates wasn't that the questions were raised, or documents subpoenaed, but that the media made it out to be front page news.  

I don't like Lieberman either.  I think there probably should be consequences for campaigning for the Republican candidate.  But being afraid of Lieberman being a one-man Ken Starr is tinfoil hat speculation.

[ Parent ]
no on joe (0.00 / 0)
If the dem senate lets joe keep his chairmanship i will be very very upset but this post is based upon a 24 hour old rumour that has already been debated and debunked elsewhere. need more and better info before we jump to conclusions....btw staying in the caucus is fine with me but they must punish the guy.

driftglass on keeping Lieberman (4.00 / 1)
An interesting take by driftglass:


New Jersey politics at Blue Jersey.

Thanks for the link, Hopeful (0.00 / 0)
I guess all we can do now is cross our fingers and hope Obama really is making the best political chess move here. The problem is that Holy Joe is such a low-down slippery back-stabbing shake-your-hand-while-he's-pissing-on-your-feet whack job, I sometimes wonder if the normal rules of political physics applies to him.

As many here have already stated, I'd feel better if the appearance of a "cover-up" weren't such a risk should he have to be dumped later down the line.

[ Parent ]
just so we are clear (4.00 / 6)
criticize General Petraeus and you get censured by the US Senate, call into question Obama's patriotism, and you get a Committee Chair.

When did Fineman become the expert on anything? (0.00 / 0)
I watched his comments on Olberman yesterday and did not get the impression that he was "in the know" at all.  

We have to realize that there are TWO things at play here. The first one is to want Lieberman to continue to caucus with Democrats.  I have to assume that most, including Obama, would want Lieberman to continue to caucus with us.  The second part is about the chairmanship, which is a lot trickier.  The comment Fineman made about the way Democrats will vote next week looks like pure guesswork.

This thread is  poorly researched, as it appears to mesh Fineman's definite comment about the first part with the guessing comments about the second part, and present it as one and the same instead of understanding the nuances between the two separate comments.  

It looks like Fineman knows crap:

1. "I think that's going to go to a vote next week"

No, Howard.  It is DEFINITELY going to go to a vote next week.  Try to keep up.

2. "I bet that Lieberman gets to keep..."

So, Howard is just speculating?  What does he base his "bet" on?  

3. "gets to keep his committee chairmanship because Obama has signaled that he wants him to."

He DID?  What has been out there does not make that case. Fineman appears to be assuming, reading tea leaves with the same info we all have.  Unless he has additional insider info (a la Bob Novak) he is just pulling stuff out of his behind.  

Let's do some math. (0.00 / 0)
If Begich, Franken and Martin all end up winning, I believe that puts dems at 59 without Lieberman.  I have no doubt that Joe would vote with Repubs on some issues.  However, I want as many roads to 60 as I can get.  Kicking Joe out on the curb takes away one path to 60.  There are several issues in the months and years to come that Obama will need 60 votes to get something through the Senate.  The more options there are to get to 60, the better.  In a perfect world, I would put a big red R on his forehead and let him try and win re-election in 2012.  

Stop it with the cool headed strategy, already (0.00 / 0)
Paths to 60? What's happening to this blog?  Your approach is far too calculated and strategic.  We must do what feels good to us wounded folks, right now, not fall prey to your spineless thoughtfulness and big picture thinking.    

[ Parent ]
Lieberman has no place to go but to caucus with Democrats (0.00 / 0)
He has no home with the Republican party.  His voting history on anything but the war is not even moderate.  Why are so many of you confusing stripping Lieberschmuck off his Homeland sec. chairmanship with caucusing with the Democrats?   Keeping that post is not essential to Lieberman still  caucusing with us, which makes this "cool headed" comment and the one preceding it virtually invalid.  Don't let Lieberman's saber rattling fool you.  He will still caucus with us, with or without that chair.  The "path to 60" is still going to include the guy on virtually any matter important to us.  And, where he DID break ranks with us on the Iraq war don't expect a reversal of Lieberschmuck with or without keeping the Homeland chair in any case.  

[ Parent ]
Compromise (0.00 / 0)
In some ways the confusion could help. If the conventional wisdom is that there's a howling mob calling for him to be thrown out of the caucus, then just removing him from the Homeland Security chair (and possibly giving him something less dangerous) and allowing him to stay in the caucus could be viewed as a reasonable compromise (and if he leaves in a huff that's his decision). Let's hope so.

[ Parent ]
Public Apology (0.00 / 0)
I'm only cool with Lieberman staying with the dems and keeping his chairmanship if he publically apologizes to the dems and Obama.

An apology doesn't cut it...and misses the point. (0.00 / 0)
I no longer care about what Joementum said about Obama during the election campaign.  I no longer care that he spoke at the GOP convention.  And I no longer care that he might open up a bunch of "bipartisan" investigations on Obama's ass.

That's all on Obama.  If Obama doesn't have the self-respect to stand up for himself that is his problem not mine.  I am not going to waste any more energy trying to protect Dems from their own stupidity.

But I will point out that Lieberman's sins began and grew out of control long before Obama was a Senator, much less the President-elect.  Simply put, Obama has no right to accept an apology from Holy Joe on my behalf.

Lieberman has been a disaster as Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.  That Obama would even consider backing Lieberman to remain in the position causes me to seriously question Obama's commitment to seeing the committee be effective at all.  

[ Parent ]
No Apology Necessary (0.00 / 0)
Many have posted they want a public apology. I'm fine with this and don't even need that; but I do need to see one thing. I need to see Lieberman stand next to Obama (with Reid) at a press conference where Reid announces Lieberman will be keeping his committee chair and Obama affirms Lieberman's goodness. I don't need Lieberman to say a thing; in fact the less the better. Nothing will make clearer what a douche bag Lieberman is than to have this appearance make all the political gossip talk shows to be followed by endless chatted about how Lieberman campaigned for the other side, but Obama is helping him keep his seat. Lieberman's shallow opportunism, and new status as Obama puppet, will stand out for all to see. It will be completely humiliating. I love it.

Michael Bloomberg, prince of corporate welfare

Obama puppet? (4.00 / 2)
What about that would make him an Obama puppet? If you believe Lieberman will be an Obama puppet under any circumstances, you're going to be severely disappointed.

[ Parent ]
Seriously? (0.00 / 0)
I'm sure you saw the footage Fineman had of Obama saying this to Durbin... right?  Or you saw Fineman talking to Obama directly... No?  Ok, then it MUST have been Fineman Saying he heard directly from Obama and Durbin... OH RIGHT HE DIDN'T!!!

One Journalist, writing for a questionable magazine, who has proven ot have a so so track record on gossip like this.  

THAT'S WORTHY of a front page post.  

Quit the stupidity, continue writing Senators and stop assuming you know how it will play out.  One asshole reported this...  

Governing all up in the middle! (0.00 / 0)
Well, I don't really have to argue any more about where Obama will govern.  He has already indicated that he wants GOP politicos in his cabinet and now he is either defending a closeted one by inaction or action.  Either way, it proves what I have suspected all along.  The left thing was a pure sham.  

[ Parent ]
Obama Backs Lieberman (0.00 / 0)
While complaining about this issue to a very good progresive, she said:  "It's all about Israel.  Rahm is Israeli and an AIPAC advocate.  So is Lieberman.  Ditto for Harman.  Rahm will protect Lieberman."  The more things change, the more they stay the same...


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