According to an article in the Huffington Post, President-elect Obama has informed party leaders that he’d rather not see Joe Lieberman exiled to Republican ranks:
President-elect Barack Obama has informed party officials that he wants Joe Lieberman to continue caucusing with the Democrats in the 111th Congress, Senate aides tell the Huffington Post.
Obama’s decision could tie the hands of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has been negotiating to remove Lieberman as chair of the Homeland Security and Government Reform committee while keeping him within the caucus. Lieberman has insisted that he will split from the Democrats if his homeland security position is stripped.
It’s not clear right now whether Obama wants Lieberman to lose his chairmanship.
Just as when Dodd came out in favor of forgiveness, Democrats who ground their teeth to fine points watching Lieberman deliver a speech at the RNC in September are not happy.
However, this is not a bad move by Obama, if indeed these reports are true. He gets to look magnanimous in extending the hand of friendship and forgiveness to Lieberman, while not committing on the real sticking point–which is Lieberman’s committee chairmanship. There were two issues at work in Lieberman’s possible defection to the GOP. One was the chairmanship of the homeland security committee, and the other was that Democrats didn’t want him around. Well, now the biggest Democrat of all, the guy who was theoretically the victim of Lieberman’s treachery, wants him to stay. So much for that.
All that leaves is the chairmanship. It’s looking more and more likely that Lieberman will be re-assigned to the chairmanship of another committee, which is still not a bad deal. He won’t get anything better by leaving, obviously, and he could find his life is a lot harder should he decide to go. If he does defect after Obama indicated that he wanted him to stay, and after Democrats provided him with only a kind of lateral demotion instead of stripping him of any possible leadership position, he’ll look like a sore loser.
The thing is, Lieberman knew what he was getting himself into when he started down this road. He can’t expect there to be zero consequences for it. He can either take his medicine like a man and move on, or throw a fit and run to the other party–where his career will end in ruins.
Obama is wise to play the adult here. If the scenario above plays out, he’ll be allowing Lieberman to hang himself if he so chooses, rather than simply calling for his head. Lieberman would be wise to back away from the edge–especially if he’s thinking about 2012 in any way.
Pitney, Nico and Sam Stein. “Obama Wants Lieberman To Remain In Democratic Caucus.” Huffington Post 10 November, 2008.