Just after election night, I wrote that Joe Lieberman is the extremely weak link in the Democratic majority. In fact, I predicted that Republicans would pull out all the stops to bring him over to their side–and that he would go. I also wrote that his campaign promise to caucus with the Democrats was not worth very much especially in the longer term.
Today, the NY Times ran a story about Lieberman’s new found clout in the Democratic caucus including chairing the Homeland Security Committee. But my earlier alarm was confirmed by this:
Mr. Lieberman classifies himself as an “independent Democrat” and has said that recent events left him feeling “liberated” and “unshackled,” not exactly reassuring words to Democrats.
He stirred more anxiety Sunday, when in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” he refused to rule out becoming a Republican (while adding, “I hope I don’t get to that point”).
In brief remarks to reporters Tuesday, Mr. Lieberman said he had refused to rule out switching parties largely because Tim Russert, the show’s host, “kept pressing me on it.”
But Mr. Lieberman also said that while “most of my vote clearly came from independents and Republicans” in Connecticut, “it’s fair to say that I couldn’t have won without Democratic support.”
Mr. Lieberman restated that it was possible he could join Senate Republicans, but he added, “I’m not going to threaten on every issue to leave the caucus.”
Here is the transcript of his remarks:
Russert: Would you consider crossing across the—going across the aisle, and joining the Republicans, if they gave you the same chairmanship that you had, and respected your seniority?
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Yeah. Well, that’s a hypothetical, which I’m, I’m not going to deal with here…
MR. RUSSERT: Jim Jeffords of Vermont crossed over and joined the Democrats.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Yeah…
MR. RUSSERT: You’re, you’re not ruling that out at some future time?
SEN. LIEBERMAN: I’m not ruling it out, but I hope I don’t get to that point.
The Times article also makes clear how angry Lieberman is at the way his Democratic Senate colleagues treated him during the campaign by backing Ned Lamont (what would Lieberman have had them do–abandon the official Democratic candidate for his non-Democratic candidacy?). Joe Lieberman seems like someone who doesn’t forget when he’s been wronged (at least in his own mind). This is clearly a guy who’s going to leave the Party. It’s just a question of when rather than if. The Times reporter asked him if he likened himself to a moderate swing vote on the Supreme Court like Sandra Day O’Connor’s used to be. A much more apt and telling comparison could be made with Jim Jeffords who left the Republican Party to give the Democrats a 51-49 majority.
Think about it. What do the Democrats really have to offer Lieberman in the long term. He can’t run for president again without being laughed out of the box. He won’t be offered a Senate leadership post other than the chairmanship that he must be given due to seniority. He’d probably look good to John McCain as a vice presidential partner (though whether Lieberman has the stomach to try that again is an open question). I see his future, if he has any, with the Republicans. And I say this in sorrow because it will rip the hard won majority from Democratic hands.