The cloud hanging over the Democratic heads of state contains the implicit threat from Sen. Joe Lieberman to leave the party. So leave, we say casually. Good riddance.
Not so fast. If Lieberman officially crosses the aisle, the Democrats stand to lose not just their party majority. In essence, it would mean that all the committee chairs now in the hands of ranking majority members, i.e., Democrats, can go right back to their predecessors. The chairmanship is the enabling power that allows the Senate to open investigations and hold the hearings we’re starting to see on Capitol Hill. That includes subpoena power – a force to reckon with.
A Lieberman defection means that investigations now in the works in the Senate will never see the light of day. And the more investigations, even if impeachment is off the table, the less power Bush has and the more Republicans will cut and run. That’s the Democratic strategy we see in place now. Should grounds for impeachment be embedded in any of the upcoming hearings, then the Democrats will get bipartisan support; it will be too obvious for even the Party regulars to ignore.
The sad part is that the Democrats wouldn’t be in such a tenuous position were it not for their former pal in Connecticut. The Democratic Party ought to be confessing to their supporters, with a red face, that “mistakes were made.” It’s hard to see how the Democrats didn’t see it coming.
When offering himself as a Democratic Party presidential candidate, running in the primaries in ‘03, Lieberman said: “I'm running for President because I love America - and hate the direction George W. Bush is taking us. … I'm an independent-minded Democrat, and I'm running for President to restore security and prosperity to America and integrity and fairness to the White House.”
[ Quoted by Project Vote Smart: http://www.vote-smart.org/npat.php?old=true&can_id=S0141103&npatform_id=326#Result] Square that with his current support for Bush policy in Iraq (and by default the Middle East, which is where his interests lie). When most people talk about the “direction of the country” they are referring to foreign policy and the Iraq War in particular. Not so with Joe, apparently. He has been lockstep with this Administration, waving the flag with the Iraq invasion and voting against the recent nonbinding resolution that expressed opposition to the policy.
Lieberman is independent all right. As soon as he lost the primary, he rushed out and formed his own “independent” Party. It was obvious that Lieberman, like his fellow Republicans, is a sore loser. He knew what he was doing and where the power was stored; it was his own security Lieberman wanted secured. Lieberman has been W’s greatest supporter ever since, giving credence to the canard that the Republicans are interested in bipartisanship and are willing to cross the aisle. It looks like Lieberman has become the frog prince.
When Ned Lamont won the Democratic primary, the Democrats were careful not to go all out and support Lieberman, but they didn’t support Lamont as their Party’s candidate either. That Lieberman had to form his own Party in order to hold on to his seat says a lot, but more telling was that the Democrats refused to throw their weight behind the people’s candidate of choice. Most Democrats stayed out of it completely, preferring the safety of silence, guaranteeing Lamont’s loss in the process. In effect, Lamont got zero in real support from his own Party.
The Democrats’ tepid request to Lieberman to bow out was treated like a lose IED after he quickly maneuvered to run on his own. The Democrats could have filed suit to contest Lieberman’s third party, but didn’t. They had to abide by the election outcome, so what did they do? The Party accused of cutting and running, cut and ran from candidate Lamont. While feigning support, they withheld funding and then blamed Lamont for losing. It was politics and finesse at its best and serves to show why the Democrats are having trouble getting traction for a singular message. They split their party, abandoned the little guy even when the people voted for him, and then expected everyone to stay in line. That happens in Republican circles, but not so fast in the Democratic lane. Oh, and in case no one noticed, Lieberman lists himself as an Independent/Democrat; his “Connecticut for Lieberman” Party was abandoned after the election. His dual party listing indicates he can go whatever way the wind blows—and he will.
The dirty tricksters came out in force in support of their newly found hero, and Lieberman did nothing to repudiate them. Lieberman’s own website blog during the campaign showed on its August 8, 2006 post a photo of Osama bin Laden with a Ned Lamont campaign bumper sticker on his turban and a headline that read: “Ned Lamont Loves Terrorists.” [http://liebermania.blogspot.com/] Lieberman had the money and the support of the bigwigs in the Republican Party. Contributions by Republicans to his newly formed “Connecticut for Lieberman” Party campaign exceeded the funds he received from these sources in the primary by 80 percent. In fact, Lieberman received more campaign money from Republicans than from Democrats. All the usual suspects endorsed and supported his campaign: Jack Kemp, Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Tom Delay, Bill Kristol, William Buckley. This cross-dressing allowed the right-wing to use Lieberman as evidence that they don’t really hate Democrats – just their ideas (which Lieberman doesn’t support anyway). Also weighing in on Lieberman’s endorsement were Gingrich, Cheney, and Rove. Lieberman is loving his new-found popularity and is lapping up the new power.
Also remember that the Republicans refused to support their own candidate in that race, throwing all their weight behind their new pal Joey so that he would now be in just this position. While they didn’t predict that he would be their swing vote, they assumed he would come out swinging. There is nothing that is not planned by the Republicans – their chess game always is at least three moves ahead of any Democratic strategists. The Democrats are playing checkers, cornering the king perhaps, but there is no checkmate in their game. With Lamont instead of Lieberman in the Senate, they would have had a better chance at changing the game. The Democrats have no one to blame but themselves for this mess.
So now, the Democrats’ power in the Senate hangs by a thread, sown by those who either trusted foolishly, or were deceived, or perhaps had some loyalties or scores of their own to settle, or they simply miscalculated. The reasons are irrelevant. Lamont lost by a 10 percent margin, with only 10 percent of the vote going to the unknown Republican candidate, demonstrating the effectiveness of the Republican campaign for Lieberman. Lieberman carried 70 percent of the Republican vote. If the Democrats had supported their own candidate and not simply sat on the sidelines, the odds are good that we would have a solid Democrat in that Senate seat. We would not be kowtowing to a renegade who is now using his powerful position to threaten his colleagues should they dare to try to impeach those who helped him switch alliances.
And yes, he has implied that he would switch. "I have no desire to change parties," Lieberman said in a telephone interview with Politico, February 22, 2007. "If that ever happens, it is because I feel the majority of Democrats have gone in a direction that I don't feel comfortable with." [http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0207/2865.html]
This is the teaser; it allows him to get what he wants because he knows the Democrats will fold. And they have. They have managed to tie themselves in knots: they can’t stand up to Lieberman because he’ll tip the Senate out of their hands; they can’t stand up for Iraq withdrawal because they’ll be painted as unpatriotic or unsupportive of the troops (and Lieberman might bolt); they can’t stand up to dumping the tax giveaways to the rich because they might lose some campaign contributions. The list goes on. And then they wonder why the label of weak on defense seems to stick—they can’t even defend their own principles.
© 2007 Lynne Glasner