Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How can Senate Dems deny Russ Feingold's cred for Foreign Relations while even thinking about letting Holy Joe keep stinking up Homeland Security?


How great would it be to have Russ Feingold (seen here speaking at his home-state University of Wisconsin in March) chairing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee? Of course, not everyone thinks so.

by Ken

I hope I'm worrying unnecessarily, but when I heard that President-elect Obama is supposed to have told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that he would really like Holy Joe Lieberman to continue caucusing with the Democrats, I interpreted that to mean that he would really like Holy Joe Lieberman to continue caucusing with the Democrats.

What I'm hearing, in other words, is that if the majority leader is of a mind to grant the president-elect his wish, then the wish is that he "make it so," as Captain Jean-Luc Picard used to say on the bridge of the Enterprise. Meaning that, if His Holiness's condition for continuing to caucus with the Democrats is that he be allowed to hold onto his Homeland Security chairmanship, then Senator Reid's maneuvering room has shrunk to near-zero -- again, provided that he's of a mind to make the new president's wish come true. (In the past, Democratic congressional leaders have frequently made it clear that they don't take marching orders even from a president of their own party.)


Actually, my favorite solution to the Holy Joe Problem (which Howie reviewed just yesterday) comes from my upstate New York colleague Andrew White, and it strikes me as simple, logical, comprehensive -- and elegant.

Andrew, himself an active toiler in the trenches of Democratic Party warfare, accepts that our Joe may now be experiencing yet another change of heart. He just wants to be sure that Joe understands there are consequences to the series of choices he has previously made, which added up to abandoning his old party. Those choices include ignoring the result of the Democratic primary when he ran for reelection to his Connecticut Senate seat in 2006, then becoming a centerpiece of the 2008 Republican presidential attack machine (generously sliming the Democratic nominee at what sure seemed like every opportunity), while also campaigning actively for Republicans including Senators Norm Coleman and Susan Collins.

If our Joe chooses now to rejoin the Democratic fold, Andrew says, "I would personally be tempted to reject him but would have no objections to accepting his humble request to caucus with Democrats." Just with certain understandings, based on all those choices Senator Lieberman has made in the past. His new choice can be accommodated just as soon as all the newly elected Democratic senators have been incorporated into the caucus and assigned their seniority rankings. No doubt the leadership will be able to find some sort of open committee assignments for their junior-most member, once all the more senior Democrats -- people who actually ran and were elected as Democrats, after all -- are accommodated.

Andrew stresses that he has no wish to couch this as "punishment" or "revenge." It's just a matter of our Joe having made choices, of his own free will -- and then establishing that choices have consequences. His plan strikes me as perfect from a conceptual standpoint, and by happy coincidence it winds up fucking His Holiness.

(Note, though, that if I'm right and everyone else is wrong about what the president-elect is wishing for, then this option is off the table.)

Right now I'm thinking about Holy Joe's situation with particular reference to the contrast with the developing controversy over Russ Feingold's possible accession to the chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The possibility, you'll recall, comes into play with the election of current chairman Joe Biden to the vice presidency, and the stated intention of next-in-line Chris Dodd to stick with his chairmanship of the Banking Committee in view of the gravity of the tasks facing it, and now the growing chatter about next-in-line John Kerry being in line to become secretary of state. Nextest-in-line is . . . none other than our Russ.

Now you or I might say, "And who better for the job? Who has a better record for being right about foreign affairs over, say, the last eight years (to pick a random time frame)?"

Needless to say, though, that isn't what a certain number of Senate Dems, not to mention the Obama transition team, seem to be saying.

As the Washington Post's Al Kamen reports on this "Uncomfortable State of Affairs" in today's "In the Loop":
[Senator Feingold] tends to approach foreign policy and related matters from, let’s say, a leftward direction. Feingold was the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act and is the leading advocate of pulling out of Iraq. That means the Obama administration, in addition to getting smacked around from the right on foreign policy matters, could find itself hammered from the left as well.

Can’t wait.

Now, the reality is that Russ as chairman of Foreign Relations isn't going to be able to do anything he can't line up the votes for. There would unquestionably be a difference, though, in the way foreign policy choices are framed among committee Democrats -- a difference that, again, sounds perfectly swell to me. Not that I necessarily expect the Obama administration to be making such a proposition, but it would be a lot harder to ram through the next crack-brained war plan cooked up by some think-tank crackpot.

I admit I find myself wondering, when was the last time a Democratic senator was passed over for a major committee chairmanship on the ground that he's too conservative? But even that isn't the issue. On the crucial issues of foreign policy, Russ has been right.

Still, I wonder how anyone can seriously consider allowing Joe Lieberman to continue the disastrously inept job he's done as Homeland Security chair -- at this point I'd have to say that he's as responsible as the Bush regime itself for making the very phrase homeland security a bad joke -- while campaigning to keep Russ out of the Foreign Relations chair.


Rachel Maddow had Smilin' Evan on her show tonight to explain. He did allow that Holy Joe "crossed a line," and "will have to apologize." (I do believe he actually stopped smiling for a moment. Hey, folks, this is serious.) But he insists it's important to have Democratic unity for the new president's agenda, and warns that if Joe is "punished" (this of course is exactly why Andrew White is so adamant that the matter not be framed as "punishment"), he's going to become "embittered," and he may then vote against the Democrats on critical votes just to get back at them, or might even quit the Senate altogether and be replaced by a "real Republican" appointed by Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell.

Since His Holiness's vote can never be counted on in the crunch, the first possibility doesn't worry me much, and as to the second, honestly I have a lot more faith in Governor Rell's judgment than in Holy Joe's. I can't help thinking that whoever she might appoint would be an upgrade over Holy Joe. After all, she would presumably hope that her appointee could have a fighting chance in the ensuing special election, where the Democrats would in any case be able to retake the seat in time for Year Three of the Obama administration.

Really and truly, Joe Lieberman is bad for democracy. It's been trying enough listening to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tell us for two years that His Holiness "votes with us most of the time," the one teensy exception being, you know, that unpleasantness in Iraq. But this past weekend Senator Reid upped the ante, going so far as to say, "Joe Lieberman is one of the most progressive people ever to come from the state of Connecticut."

Now this is just silly. Everyone in Connecticut knows that our Joe made his ascent in state politics by running to the right of not just every Democrat in sight, but even of state Republicans -- most famously bludgeoning his way into the Senate by red-baiting his far more liberal (not to mention decent) opponent, Republican Sen. Lowell Weicker.

Now the folks at ThinkProgress have taken a closer look at His Holiness's record, and concluded: "While Lieberman has supported progressive policies in the past, including advocating on behalf of the environment and civil rights, his recent record demonstrates that he’s a progressive no more."

Anyway, when Senator Bayh finished his "explanation," mostly I found myself breathing a sigh of relief that Joe Biden is the vice president-elect.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


At 7:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joe has been a pain in the ass for 10/11 years now. He was a key player in the Fla. recount...for the Bushies, he openly campaigned for the repugs candidate, he kissed the ring for Christ's sake and has done the devil's calling!! If the Dem's don't spank him in some way, I will have less respect for them than I do now, which is less and less all the time. I've been a Dem all my life, it just seems like the Washington Dems aren't like me anymore.

At 8:07 PM, Blogger DownWithTyranny said...

When Bayh told Rachel that he is worried that there will be close votes and that he worries that "Lieberman might not vote with us," I wished she knew that Lieberman actually votes more frequently-- slightly more frequently-- with the Democratic majority than Bayh does. Made me wonder wonder who ole Evan meant by "us."

At 11:34 PM, Blogger Timcanhear said...

Russ Feingold should have foreign relations and Lieberman should have the door. But in all reality, we should use him, as he did the voters of Connecticut.

At 6:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really don't think the Senate Dems realize just how spineless the rest of the world thinks them, even after all the polls about their popularity (or lack of same). If they did understand this, wouldn't they see Holy Joe's current committee chairmanship as a litmus test for willpower under a new administration?

At 7:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saw Bayh's comments on Maddow, and the only question that occurs to me is: why should Bayh, who is certainly not stupid, pass along so many remarkably ineffective and easily destroyed points in support of Holy Joe and the status quo?

At 9:49 AM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Thanks to all. It seems we're all in agreement!

I especially love the point made by Howie -- who's always got those numbers at his fingertips -- about Smilin' Evan's record of voting with "us" being even worse than Holy Joe's. This is some weird kind of street theater they play down in D.C.



Post a Comment

<< Home