Wednesday, November 08, 2006

On Lieberman's Future -- updated and bumped

As I write this, it looks very much like the Republicans have lost the Senate. Of course, as recounts in Montana and Virginia proceed, it's conceivable that either Conrad Burns or George Allen will pull out a win, and give the Senate back to the GOP.

For that reason, this is the perfect time for Joe Lieberman to switch parties - if he's going to. If he switches today (or simply announces his intent to back a Republican for Majority Leader), he could name his price - Chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, or whatever else he might want. If he waits for things to become clearer in Montana and Virginia, it might be that Republicans do keep the Senate, and his support won't be worth as much.

I no longer think Lieberman will do it, but it seems to me that it is absolutely the right play for him. And while he has given assurances in the last week that he would stay with the Democrats, he could certainly finesse his change of heart. He might say that he is concerned that the prospect of Democratic control of both the House and Senate - which was unexpected just 24 hours ago - could seriously undermine the conduct of the War on Terror, and it requires him to vote for a Republican for Majority Leader of the Senate.

I heard Lieberman on Imus this morning, and when Imus told him to take revenge on the Democrats who betrayed him, Lieberman answered 'Well, revenge is a dish best served cold.' That could certainly be read to indicate that he was about to stab his 'fellow Democrats' in the back, but I assume he did not intend to imply that.

Update: Lieberman seems committed to showing the Democrats more loyalty than they showed him; he apparently gave assurances that he would stay with them. The only caveat is the question of whether Frank Lautenberg will win support for his challenge to Lieberman's seniority.

Note too, that I am not the only one questioning the wisdom of this course of action. New America's Steve Clemons wonders:

Joe Lieberman's victory creates complexities in the Senate becaue I take him at his word that he is finished with organized corralling of his voting. He will stay with the Dem caucus in order to maintain his seniority -- but I think that the days that he is a "trusted" member of the Dem team are over -- and Lieberman and Dems need to see whether trust and common purpose can be rebuilt and whether that effort would be worthwhile.

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