This quote is a few days old now, but I've been mulling it over a bit, and I think there's a lot more in it than just another opportunity to examine the extent of Joe Lieberman's suckitude.
The depth of Mr. Lieberman’s alienation stuns many politicians and scholars. "It’s one thing to have a principled position on an issue at odds with that of your party," said Thomas E. Mann, a presidential scholar at the Brookings Institution. "It’s another to become the champion of the other party’s nominee in a presidential election."
There is much speculation that the Democrats will run Mr. Lieberman out of their caucus (he now sits with Democrats and votes with them on most issues not related to the war) if they widen their margin in the Senate after the November elections. But Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate Democratic leader, has pledged that he would not disown Mr. Lieberman under those circumstances and said he considered him a good friend.
A member of the Senate Democratic leadership, who insisted on not being identified, said: "The bloggers want us to get rid of him. It ain’t happening." He added: "We need every vote. He’s with us on everything but the war."
For most Democrats, however, that’s a pretty big "but."
Two things. One, "the bloggers."
Here's my rule -- and you can take it or leave it -- on referring to "the bloggers." You must keep in mind that blogs are communications tools, and that the people who use them aren't some new species from outer space. People who use blogs to communicate about politics are saying exactly the same things that they used to say, and that other people still say, to each other over the telephone, at the office water cooler, and over long lunches. This is just the first time that politicians and media types have ever had access to those conversations, because the tool we use puts them out there for them to see. (Yes, we are granting the media access to the minds of the voters. Where's the gratitude and groveling that politicians get when they grant access?)
So the bottom line is this: bloggers are just people who leave "paper" trails of their thoughts. If you have something to say about "the bloggers," try this simple exercise first to see if you might be talking out your ass: Substitute the word "telephone" for "blog." If your sentence still makes sense, you're onto something. If not, you're talking shit.
"The telephoners want us to get rid of him."
Well, that sounds a little dumb, really. But in this particular case, Senator
Schumer Anonymous is probably onto something. Democrats who own or use telephones really do want to get rid of Lieberman, and in large numbers.
So that would be something of a confusing example. Yet it both makes a strong point and hews closely to the rule.
Thing two, and this is the big one:
"He's with us on everything but the war."
Yes, it's a pretty big "but." Here's another one, and obviously it's entirely attributable to his position on the war, but here it is: He's not with us on putting a Democrat in the White House in 2008.
That's more than a big "but." That's everything there is.
Remember where we are, not just on the war, but on almost everything. Everything Democrats could be doing, should be doing, wish we were doing, is always evaluated in light of how it will affect a Democrat's chances of winning the White House.
Every vote in the 110th Congress is being considered in light of whether or not it will make winning the White House in 2008 harder or easier, and almost no other criterion matters. Whether or not to fund the war. Whether or not, and how aggressively, to pursue the oversight that was promised as central to a Democratic takeover of Congress in 2006. And yes, whether or not even talking about impeachment could be countenanced.
Now, given the formulation that Congressional Dems have agreed to adopt that effectively vests all power in the executive (whether because they believe it, or just because "we don't have the votes"), this is not an unsound criterion. There's still room to question whether or not they should have acceded to total executive supremacy, but they did, and once done, betting everything on the presidency is the only thing that makes any sense.
Congress has no independent powers of its own that it's currently willing or able to enforce, if it's agenda is opposed by a determined president. It's legislation can be voided, its subpoenas ignored, its appropriations rescrambled after the fact. None of which abominations can be effectively challenged, for fear of damaging our chances at the White House. Which is why we're today witnessing the choreography of an elaborate dance surrounding the certain passage of the next multi-billion dollar round of funding for the occupation we all (including the choreographers) oppose:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is rapidly pulling together a carefully orchestrated plan for what looks to be the last Iraq war supplemental before November’s election: Let Democrats take separate, conscience-clearing votes on troop withdrawal timelines and economic stimulus proposals, then negotiate a deal with the Senate and the White House that would combine money for the war with some modest domestic spending.
Someone may be interested, by the way, in checking the math on Iraq appropriations made by the Republican Congresses from 2003 through 2006, and the Democratic 110th, just to see who'll own the majority stake in this occupation come November.
The key takeaway from this is that Congressional Democrats are convinced that the only responsible path, even for those who oppose the occupation, is to fund it, because the president is determined to defy Congress and keep the troops in Iraq even without funding, and let them suffer as sitting ducks in order to punish Democrats politically if they dare stop the flow of funds. This, in turn, means that Democrats acknowledge that: 1)George W. Bush is actually insane; 2) the only way Democrats can effectively end the occupation is to win the presidency themselves, and; 3) no political action that puts #2 at risk can be tolerated, even when the president eventually admits to having ordered the violation of the first, fourth, fifth, sixth, and eigth amendments.
But that just serves to underscore the fact that Lieberman's campaigning for the other side for the presidency can only mean he's left the Democratic Party -- according to Congressional Democrats' own definition. The one and only inviolable directive, and the sole underlying principle common to all Democratic Congressional decision making, has been the drive for the White House.
And yet, "it ain't happening." Will wonders never cease?
The next mystery to ponder: How, given these arguments, we ended up getting stuck with the worst of both worlds -- Lieberman, who opposes the Democrats' drive for the White House, and the embarrassment of paying for the war we oppose so as to preserve our best chances of winning the White House?
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