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Posted by on Nov 10, 2008 in Politics | 7 comments

Obama Sends Message: Lieberman Should Caucus With Democrats

The Huffington Post reports that President Elect Barack Obama has made it known that he wants to continue to let Connecticut Independent Senator Joe Lieberman caucus with the Democrats, despite a clamor from some progressive to have Lieberman stripped of his committee chairmanship and basically shunned due to his active and vocal support of losing presidential candidate Republican Sen. John McCain:

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.

Aides to the president-elect did not return requests for comment. Senate officials were unclear whether Obama would be comfortable with Lieberman maintaining his current committee post.

Obama will get a lot of criticism for this from progressives, since Lieberman didn’t only support McCain but joined in the GOP’s medley of insinuations that Obama wasn’t really totally patriotic, didn’t really want to see American troops win in Iraq, was a risk in terms of terrorism and if he wasn’t actually a socialist, then he acted like one.

As noted here earlier, Obama had several choices.

By not going to the mat on the Lieberman controversy, he can wipe the slate clean and begin with a new tone and show that he is forgiving. On the other hand, he runs the risk that his foes (inside and outside of his party) could think that he’s easily pushed around and that there are no political consequences. The latter is apparently a risk Obama is willing to take. The Huffington Post again:

A Democrat close to Lieberman, meanwhile, said he thought that keeping Lieberman in the fold “would be a good move for Obama as a way to make real his promise of new politics, a less partisan Washington and more unity. He would do so at some risk. Obviously there is a liberal wing of the party that wants Joe punished…

And could there also be here an element of deferred consequences? Connecticut went overwhelmingly for Obama. Lieberman’s approval ratings in his state are not what they used to be. Could part of this also be a decision to not fight this battle now, but to hang in there until Lieberman is up for re-election and let Connecticut voters do the rest on a future election day?

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