Joe Strikes Back

When last we checked in with Joe Lieberman, an Obama aide was telling Newsweek that the talking to Obama gave Lieberman on the senate floor last week was about Lieberman’s “personal attacks and his half-hearted denials of the false rumors that Obama is a Muslim.” But now Joe’s crew is pushing back, telling National Review Online that Newsweek didn’t ask for a response from Lieberman and that the characterization is “entirely false and fabricated,” in the words of Lieberman spokesman Marshall Wittman.

An anonymous Lieberman aide ups the ante with Mark Halperin of The Page, telling him: “If the Obama campaign thinks they are going to intimidate Joe Lieberman with these sleazy tactics then they are sorely mistaken.”

Now, it’s not clear to me what they’re calling ‘sleazy tactics’ — the initial talking-to or the allegedly false characterization of the conversation. I should also be clear, along the lines of disclosure, that while I’ve only met Lieberman maybe once or twice, I consider two of his top people, Dan Gerstein and Marshall Wittman friends, though I haven’t talked to either of them about this in many months or in Marshall’s case years.

What does seem clear to me is that Lieberman’s days in the Democratic caucus, or more specifically, his days with a committee chairmanship courtesy of the Democratic caucus are numbered in months.

My assumption is that after the November election, regardless of the outcome of the presidential campaign, Joe will be stripped of his chairmanship. (This seems even more certain to me if Obama wins the general, but I suspect it will happen regardless.) Whether he’ll actually be expelled from the caucus I don’t know and probably doesn’t really matter. Once he’s stripped of the benefits he gains from it, presumably he’ll leave himself and become an actual non-caucusing independent or, more likely, start caucusing with the Republicans.

What that tells me is that Lieberman has no incentive not to make the maximum amount of trouble over the next five months both for his senate colleagues and for Sen. Obama.