Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Boo hiss: Democrats let Lieberman keep his committee chair

Kevin Drum isn't happy about this, and neither am I. How can the Democrats let someone who isn't even a Democrat and who actively campaigned against Obama keep a valuable committee chair that allows him to investigate the Obama administration? Shouldn't that chair go to an actual Democrat?

This action by the Democrats reaffirms the existence of the following incentive structure for politicians:
  1. Do something that pisses off the right, and the Republicans hammer you for it hard.
  2. Do something that pisses off the left, and Democrats let you get away with it even though it's well within their power to punish you for it.
...so why should we be surprised that politicians constantly drift to the right? Given that there is rarely a penalty for doing so, it only makes sense.

This just goes to show how the 2006 and 2008 elections have not really changed the political culture. The same people who never stood up to Bush in a meaningful way are still in control of Congress. There's still so much work to be done.

I think my fundamental disagreement with Obama is over this kind of issue: Obama is fundamentally a conciliator, and the netroots left (of which I am certainly a member) wants to see Republicanism crushed and discredited. Obama is just not interested in that project. So he's going to piss me off a lot. I hope Obama has the political skill and cunning necessary to get things done his way. It got him elected, so I'm fairly optimistic. But the Republicans are out to stop him, and no one loves getting attention by attacking Democrats more than Lieberman. And now he has a powerful committee chair from which to do so.


Anonymous Paul Dosh said...

I wonder if the Dems are holding off on punishing Lieberman on the off chance that they somehow secure a 60-seat hold on the Senate, under which circumstances keeping Lieberman happy would be valuable regardless of how much he should be thrown out of the caucus. Maybe Dem leaders are saying: "What's the rush. If we lose MN, etc, and have no shot at 60 seats, we can take away his chairmanship in 2009."

Even if they can only get 59 seats now, they might still make this argument, as fate/scandal/death (lots of old folks in the Senate) could unexpectedly open up a seat well before the 2010 Senate elections.

Nah, the Dems are probably just incapable of doing the obvious and publicly flaying Lieberman alive.


7:53 AM, November 19, 2008  
Blogger grishnash said...

The argument I've heard is that they allowed him to keep his seat only while privately berating him to hold to the condition that he has to support the caucus unconditionally, and use his influence to try to pick off a few of the moderate Republican votes. The theory is 58 loyal votes + Lieberman and 2 or 3 of his Republican pals = 61 or more votes.

Assuming this works, it's maybe not too bad a strategy. Though I'm wondering exactly who those moderate Republicans are supposed to be? Chafee's gone. Warner, gone. Smith, gone. DeWine, gone. OK, Snowe's still there, and then, who? McCain??

8:22 AM, November 19, 2008  
Blogger Zachary Drake said...

The "Moderate Republican Elected Official" will soon join the dodo, passenger pigeon, and marsupial wolf in the museum of extinct species.

To your list, I've heard Susan Collins, the other Maine Republican senator mentioned as a moderate. Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter always made a great number of squawking sounds before capitulating to the Bush administration's demands, so there may be some flexibility there.

Often, filibuster-ending cloture votes don't fall 100% on party lines. The Senate is very "clubby": people who have completely different ideologies do favors for each other and cover each other's asses all the time. So I think 60 isn't as magical a number as people make it out to be. Sure, it's better than 59. But it's not like some incredibly wonderful progressive utopia erupts spontaneously out of the Capitol building if we make it to 60.

8:55 AM, November 20, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...



1:00 PM, November 20, 2008  

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