Monday, December 20, 2010

Maybe Holy Joe's anti-DADT heroics were motivated strictly by principle. Or maybe not


Back in the fold? Might Holy Joe Lieberman have salvaged his mangy political hide with the DADT-repeal drive?

"'I think it's a separate event,' Lieberman said when asked whether Saturday's passage of the [DADT] repeal bill, of which Lieberman was a lead sponsor, might influence his decision on whether to retire or run for a fifth term."
-- Felicia Sonmez, on's "The Fix" blog

by Ken

It pains me to give "Holy Joe" Lieberman credit for anything, since there are few figures in public life for whom I have a deeper loathing, but I'm inclined to give him a heap for the pulled-out-of-a-hat last-minute DADT repeal bill's passage. Certainly more credit than I can imagine giving the president. I think the president sincerely wanted it to happen, but as with many other things he seems sincerely to want, like Senate confirmation of some of the people he appoints to jobs that can only be filled by the president, he doesn't seem to have wanted it badly enough to, you know, do much of anything about it. He certainly doesn't seem to have been prepared to expend a milligram of political capital. That the White House clambered on board at the end seems to me well enough explained by the realization, in the wake of the 2010 elections, that the LGBT community could no longer be counted on to support the president, either at the polls or, perhaps more importantly, with the checkbook. In the minds of a lot of progressives, the only time the Obama administration pays any attention to progressives is when we put the fear of God in him with some old-fashioned tough love.

Holy Joe, however, after doing not much more than talking a good game through earlier stages of the DADT fight, really does seem to have gone to go to work once it looked as if the Senate filibuster of the defense authorization bill to which DADT repeal had been attached would be the last word on the subjectl in the 111th Congress, and for who knows how long after that. And I do think that his determined advocacy helped persuade some of those "centrist" senators of both parties who finally put the standalone bill he and Susan Collins engineered over the top. A scumbag he may be, but I'm not sure anyone else could have gotten this result.

Still and all, while His Holiness may insist up and down that there's no connection between DADT fight and the decision he's weighing as to whether to run for reelection (and if he so, how to run -- as a Democrat? an Independent? a Republican?), it seems to me pretty clear that just as with the president what it came down to a careful calculation of just what a fine political mess he's gotten himself in. Because without the DADT-repeal fight, I don't see any way he could have seriously hoped to hoodwink Connecticut voters again. As George W. Bush used to say, ""There's an old saying in Tennessee -- I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee -- that says, fool me once, shame on -- shame on you. Fool me -- you can't get fooled again." And Holy Joe is every bit as canny a pol as George W.

Here's what Felicia Sonmez had to say in that blogpost yesterday on's "The Fix" (for links check the onsite version):
Lieberman: Re-election decision separate from "don't ask, don't tell"

By Felicia Sonmez

Connecticut Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman told reporters on Saturday that his decision on whether to run for re-election in 2012 will be unrelated to the Senate's historic vote to repeal "don't ask, don't tell."

"I think it's a separate event," Lieberman said when asked whether Saturday's passage of the repeal bill, of which Lieberman was a lead sponsor, might influence his decision on whether to retire or run for a fifth term.

If he runs for re-election in 2012, Lieberman faces the question of whether to run again as an independent or possibly as a Democrat or Republican. Already, Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) has signaled that he's weighing a challenge against Lieberman.

On Friday, Lieberman said he'll "more likely" run as an independent, but on Saturday he told reporters that he hasn't made up his mind about his re-election bid and will make a decision "by sometime early in January."

(We argued on Thursday that running as an independent is Lieberman's best -- and probably only -- path to winning in 2012.)

Lieberman also dismissed reports that he's chatted with National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) about potentially running as a Republican.

"John Cornyn and I always exchange patter and banter, but nothing serious," Lieberman said.

The Thursday post cited concerning His Holiness's reelection prospects was by Fixmaster, Chris Cillizza himself, asking the question, "Could 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' save Joe Lieberman?" And what interests me most about it isn't what he has to say about the ins and outs of a Lieberman reelection decision and strategy (though for the record, his conclusion is: " but the very fact that he acknowledges how deep a hole the Joe-mentum man has dug for himself. This is a reality that, as far as I was aware, has never penetrated the Village consciousness. (And what is our Chris if not a ghostly projection of Village consciousness?)
Lieberman's apostasy is well worn narrative among Democrats.

His ardent support for the Iraq war led to his defeat in a 2006 Democratic primary at the hands of wealthy businessman Ned Lamont. His decision to pursue an independent general election bid further enraged Democratic partisans who insisted he was ignoring the will of the people. That he won made things even worse.

Lieberman seemed to revel in his victory and newfound status as a free-agent in the Senate. Although he caucused with Democrats, he not only endorsed the presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008 but even spoke at the Republican National Convention.

"It's too late," said Ed Peavy, a Connecticut-based Democratic consultant. "He lost the [2006] primary close but the McCain stuff is too hard to overcome." (Peavy has done consulting work for both Rep. Joe Courtney and Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz who are both considering challenges to Lieberman.)

Who knew that anyone in the Village knew any of this stuff? Why, our Chris even cites as a possible nail in Holy Joe's home-state Democratic coffin "the widespread belief among Democrats that he was responsible for tanking the public option on the health care bill." I wasn't aware that Village media nabobs were allowed even to mention such things as "tanking the public option." They sure as hell didn't dare touch it when it was a live political issue. For that matter, since when did Village consciousness allow for the possibility that a solid centrist like Holy Joe could one day pay a price for his support of the Iraq war, except among a few fringe malcontents? Especially now that it turns out we won that war?

Not surprisingly, I think Chris has missed the point.
What is clear is that Lieberman as the Democratic Senate nominee in 2012 is as unlikely in the wake of a possible "don't ask, don't tell" repeal as it was before it. Connecticut Democrats have long memories and aren't likely to forgive Lieberman anytime soon -- if ever.

I'm suggesting that the political calculation of Holy Joe's DADT-repeal crusade wasn't to turn a long shot into a likely winner. I'm suggesting that the idea was to turn something that was impossible into something that might just be manageable. Yes, some Connecticut Democrats have long memories. Even in 2006, it was all those free-floating Republican votes that enabled our Joe to squeak through the general election. But he still got a lot of Democratic votes, and is it really likely that voters who didn't remember Holy Joe's support for the Iraq war in 2006, when it had just happened and he had only just for the occasion started lying about it, now consider it a reelection deal-breaker? (Hey, I'm asking. Maybe it really is so. Maybe people for whom it didn't really register back then who and what Joe was have belatedly woken up.)

Nobody would get more pleasure than I would out of seeing His Holiness squashed like a bug in a reelection campaign, even knowing that if it happened, it would just free him and the lovely Hadassah to pocket all that K Street cash more openly. Still, in the wake of the DADT-repeal victory, I'm thinking that a Lieberman reelection might actually be possible. (Shudder!)

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