It’s Not a Negotiation

November 7, 2008 11:30 a.m.

Joe Lieberman is putting out word that if the Democrats don’t allow him to keep his chairmanship, he’ll take up Mitch McConnell’s invitation to join the Republican caucus. I think the answer has to be, go for it.

Says a Lieberman staffer: “Senator Lieberman’s preference is to stay in the caucus, but he’s going to keep all his options open. McConnell has reached out to him and at this stage his position is he wants to remain in the caucus but losing the chairmanship is unacceptable.”

I think much of what Lieberman did over the last year was inexcusable. But magnanimity in victory is always a virtue and usually wise. So I don’t think it’s necessary to expel him from the caucus. And perhaps there are some perks of seniority he could be allowed to retain. But allowing him to keep his chairmanship is simply unacceptable. It’s a position the Democrats hold because of the joint efforts of Democrats across the country pulling together to support Democratic policies and ideals and elect Democratic candidates. For Lieberman to enjoy the fruits of that labor after working so hard to stymie that effort would be unconscionable.

Lieberman says his position was one of conscience. And out of generosity more than reason, I’m willing to believe that. But as he so often says, you have to take responsibility for your actions.

And the simple fact is the Democrats don’t need Joe Lieberman. He’s not in a position to call anything ‘unacceptable’. The Democrats didn’t get to 60 votes or at least it now seems highly unlikely — which was his only hope to have any continued relevance or position to bargain from. And the truth is that filibuster-busting votes are often made on an ad-hoc basis rather than on a party line. In any case, there’d be no more reason to trust he’d be there as a 60th vote as a Democrat than as a Republican.

Sen. Reid should take a cue from the one his fictional predecessor once heard in telling Lieberman how it’s going to be: “My offer is this. Nothing.”

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