Don't Misread The Lieberman Tea Leaves

As Jonathan notes below, Reid wouldn't find himself out on a limb if he stripped Lieberman of his chairmanship.

Stoller and Sargent are skeptical about this statement from Reid following today's meeting with Lieberman:

"No decisions have been made," Reid said, in a statement sent to us by his office. "While I understand that Senator Lieberman has voted with Democrats a majority of the time, his comments and actions have raised serious concerns among many in our Caucus."

"I expect there to be additional discussions in the days to come," Reid continued, "and Senator Lieberman and I will speak to our Caucus in two weeks to discuss further steps."

But to understand what's in motion, we've got to read carefully.

Earlier in the year, when asked about Lieberman's position in the caucus, Reid made statements like this (from June 5th):

"I think everybody should understand that Joe Lieberman has made a decision on issues relating to the war. And he's decided to back John McCain. But Joe Lieberman is an important vote for this caucus."

Then as Lieberman's attacks on Obama increased (and after Lieberman spoke at the GOP convention), Reid and his people started to indicate that consequences for Lieberman were possible, but wouldn't be examined until after the election:

Jim Manley, another Reid aide, told The Hill newspaper that "it's likely" the Democratic caucus will gather after the elections to determine a course on Lieberman.

But where Reid's statements about Lieberman used to imply no coming consequences, i.e. 'Joe's gone off the reservations sometimes, but...' - today's statement runs in the opposite direction: 'Joe's with us on some things, but....' Reid is obviously implying that Lieberman will be punished; just because the details weren't announced today doesn't mean nothing will happen. Rather, Reid is likely working through the Senate mechanisms behind-the-scenes: walking through the complex process of Chairmanship 'musical chairs' that Ari describes here, estimating how many Dems we'll actually have in our caucus, and speaking with all of Lieberman's allies in the Dem caucus so no one goes off the reservation when a decision is announced.

So don't misread the reality - Lieberman has very little leverage in this situation and nowhere to go. He angered Obama and Reid during the campaign, and his presidential candidate lost. So Reid is taking his time, but that shouldn't be misread as indecisiveness or inaction. It just proves how little power Lieberman now has.

Update [2008-11-6 16:7:53 by Josh Orton]: A little detail from today's meeting:

Bolstered by a newly expanded majority, Harry Reid met with Joe Lieberman on Thursday to sketch out the conditions by which the Connecticut independent could continue to caucus with Senate Democrats. But Lieberman did not accept Reid's initial offers, leaving his future in the caucus uncertain, and potentially setting off a campaign to pressure the Democratic steering committee to decide Lieberman's fate.

Reid offered Lieberman a deal to step down as chairman of the homeland security committee but take over the reins of another subcommittee, likely overseeing economic or small business issues officials said.

Look, Lieberman is flopping around like a fish out of water. In the end, he has nowhere to go.

Tags: Harry Reid, Joe Lieberman (all tags)

Comments

15 Comments

Lieberman Tea Leaves

If they punish him, will the Republicans allow him to sit with them? If in the off-chance they don't, where will get a committee assignment?

by RandyMI 2008-11-06 10:35AM | 0 recs
but why wait?

I don't understand why Reid didn't bring down the hammer today. What's Lieberman got to negotiate with? Why would Reid say no decisions have been made yet?

by desmoinesdem 2008-11-06 10:38AM | 0 recs
Re: but why wait?

Is there a way to apply pressure on Reid and other senator? Can someone organize something we can all join?

by Pravin 2008-11-06 10:39AM | 0 recs
by Kagro X 2008-11-06 11:01AM | 0 recs
Re: Don't Misread The Lieberman Tea Leaves
Let us be blunt. There are valid reasons to get rid of Joe even if we do not talk about the obvious ones.
By getting rid of Joe, the Democratic leadership will make sure no blackmailing shenanigans will take place in the future. You must run a tight ship if you want to get respect. By letting a chronic malcontent like Lieberman whining from time to time, you are going to lose that respect. The guy is quite simply not a team player. The guy has gone on record saying he doesn't like the Dems getting a filibuster proof majority. And you do not need to appease him for the filibuster proof majority on a given issue. On issues like the war, he is not going to vote with us anyway. And on issues he is in synch with us, this will be a chance for the Dems to challenge him whether he votes on principle or spite.  
by Pravin 2008-11-06 10:38AM | 0 recs
Re: Don't Misread The Tea Leaves

MSNBC showed the clip of Lieberman's public statement regarding his meeting with Reid today. Nora O'Donnell laughed and asked the news correspondent she was talking to about it, "What was THAT supposed to mean???"

Lieberman read from a prepared statement in a halting, almost beginner reading level way. It was really strange, didn't make much (clear) sense, and Lieberman himself looked a bit shaken and off his game.

I'm sure something more than either Lieberman or Reid are letting on occurred in that meeting, and it wasn't what Joe wanted to hear.

by phoenixdreamz 2008-11-06 10:44AM | 0 recs
Re: Don't Misread The Tea Leaves

I totally agree that Lieberman looked very shaken and upset.  My guess is Lieberman just didnt think something like this could happen and he really believes his bullshit about how he is above it all and some important washington wiseman.  IMHO he can only do one of two things.  Join the GOP who will never accept him or stay with the dems but have his ball cut off.

If he joins the GOP he will have no say in anything that happens in the next 4 years and his funding for his staff will be cut in half.  If he stays with us he is on notice that he is now a girly man with no say and if he jumps the reservation agian he will be kicked out.

david

by giusd 2008-11-06 03:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Don't Misread The Lieberman Tea Leaves

Thanks for this analysis. It helped me understand what may be going on re Lieberman's future position with the Democrats.

by royce 2008-11-06 10:46AM | 0 recs
Re: Don't Misread The Lieberman Tea Leaves

Joe Lieberman?

Fuck him.

jfrankesq

by jfrankesq 2008-11-06 11:46AM | 0 recs
Re: Don't Misread The Lieberman Tea Leaves

There is exactly one good reason for keeping Sen. Lieberman as chair of HSGAC: Chairman Akaka.  I'm not suggesting that Sen. Akaka is a bad Democrat--I'm not sufficiently familiar with his voting record to make judgments about his party loyalty.  However, as a Democrat that has worked for committees on which he serves--and attended several other committees' hearings that he appeared at--I can safely say that he is one of the least attentive, least curious, slackest senators I have ever seen.  I've never seen the man ask a follow-up question, or even pretend to have read anything about the subject at hand before going to a hearing.  My personal favorite Akaka story...

There was a hearing about the technological clusterfuck that is the US-Mexican border fence.  The name of that project is the Secure Border Initiative Network, also called SBInet.  Sen. Akaka's opening statement had been handed out to people attending the hearing.  Sen. Akaka, introducing the subject says,"The Secure Border Initiative, or SB.....long pause...One net.."  He confused the I with the 1.  Simple mistake, except that he'd never even heard of the project that he was supposed to be holding a hearing on.  Lieberman is a lousy Democrat, but he's at least marginally competent at what he does.  Sen. Akaka should not be in charge of the security of the SS Minnow.

by williestark 2008-11-06 12:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Don't Misread

So i fact i know the senator Akaka and he has been to my home and i trained one of his grandsons.  He is a very good man and i think what you are seeing is his age.  He is a totally committed democrat and he has a super staff.

He will be a huge improvement of "i am the most importatn wiseman in Washtington" lieberman.

david

by giusd 2008-11-06 03:07PM | 0 recs
Akaka

Well, I'm glad to hear your endorsement of Akaka.  Inouye is a total loser.  2010 can't come fast enough.

by Mauimom 2008-11-06 07:52PM | 0 recs
"In the end, he has nowhere to go."

He's already gone. He has twice chosen the Republicans over the Democrats for his own political expediency. I can understand why the Republicans might not take him, but the Democrats really don't have any reason to accept him unless he comes in with a very public apology and starts over with no seniority.

by freelunch 2008-11-06 12:43PM | 0 recs
Re: "In the end, he has nowhere to go."

Well we can be assured that there wont be an apology. Did you see the way he is still spinning it like he has some leverage? His mere presence in the caucus wont be enough to prevent a filubuster proof majority. He has to actually go along with the Democrats on important issues. What is the guarantee he will stick with the Democrats on anything that has to do with the war?

by Pravin 2008-11-06 02:45PM | 0 recs
Re: Don't Misread The Lieberman Tea Leaves

*"Reid offered Lieberman a deal to step down as chairman of the homeland security committee but take over the reins of another subcommittee, likely overseeing economic or small business issues officials said."*

Could someone please tell me WHY the f*** Reid has to give Joe ANYTHING??

In addition to his "bad behavior" [treason] on the election, he can't be relied on in Senate votes.

And he's an "Independent."  What's he doing hanging out around the Democratic caucus anyway?

by Mauimom 2008-11-06 07:50PM | 0 recs

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