Huffpost Politics

Bayh: Lieberman Should Apologize For Obama Attacks, Keep Key Chairmanship

Posted: Updated:

Evan Bayh, appearing on the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC tonight, called for Joe Lieberman to apologize for attacking Barack Obama, a move which would, Bayh said, allow him to retain his chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee:

Bayh said that Lieberman must first issue a "sincere apology" for campaign attacks warning of the perils of an Obama presidency and a large Democratic majority in Congress. He said Democrats should allow him to keep his chairmanship on the condition that he would not use his subpoena power and influence as chairman to undermine Obama's presidency. Otherwise, Democrats would take away his gavel at any point next Congress, Bayh warned.

Bayh said Democrats should tell Lieberman sternly, "Look, we're giving you a chance here, but if you don't do the right things as chairman, and we see any continuation of this kind of behavior ...the game is up at that point."

Watch Bayh's interview with Maddow.

MADDOW: Joining us now is Indiana's Democratic Senator Evan Bayh.
Senator Bayh, thank you so much for coming on the show tonight. It's
great to have you here.

BAYH: Good to be with you, Rachel.

MADDOW: You have been outspoken of Senator Lieberman keeping his
role as chair of Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Why do you
think he's the best Democrat for that job at this point?

BAYH: I don't think this is about Joe Lieberman, Rachel. I think
this is about maximizing our chances of making the changes that we need
in America, maximizing the chances that President-elect Obama will meet
those expectations you referred to by addressing the challenges that we
face that you also reported on just a few moments ago.

And let me explain to you what I mean. If this was just about Joe
Lieberman and the things he said in the campaign, well, I'd say we'll
let it go. I mean, if people want to settle scores, fine. I mean, he's
a big guy, he can live with the consequences of his actions.

But one of two things will be likely to happen if we were to kick
him out of his chairmanship. No. 1, he might very well decide to just
resign from the Senate. You know, he probably would not want to be a
person without a home, wandering the hallways without any influence of
any kind. And Connecticut has a Republican governor, who would appoint
a pure Republican to that seat, who would vote against the wishes of the
president-elect and the Democratic caucus, you know, the vast, vast
majority of the time. That's No. 1.

No. 2, Lieberman, Joe Lieberman might decide to stay and be
embittered. And what would happen there would be from time to time, we
have close votes. You've been reporting on the Alaska race and the
Minnesota race and the Georgia race. We could be at 58, 59, maybe even
60 votes. Every two or three or four months, there's going to be a
critically important vote, very close, every vote will count. And it
might come down to one vote.

Now, if Senator Lieberman has a strong view, he'll vote his
conscience, but if he's conflicted, frankly, you know, doesn't really
know what to do, and we've exacted revenge on him, I suspect we could
probably expect the same in return. That's really not where we want to
go. Let's see if we can move this in a better direction.

And the final thing I'd say is, if he does retain his chairmanship,
we still exert oversight over him and control over him. He doesn't have
the ability to just do whatever he wants. The caucus still has the
right to remove him from that position at any time if he starts going
off on some kind of tangent.

So I simply think it maximizes the chances of getting progressive
policies a better outcome if we have a Joe Lieberman, who is a little
reticent, who apologizes for the things that he said that were way over
the line, and instead is trying to do the right thing, instead of a
embittered Joe Lieberman or a Republican replacement who will not be
with us any of the time.

MADDOW: Is it not setting a strange precedent, though, for somebody
to have not only campaigned against the nominee of his party, but also
to have campaigned against other Democratic Senate candidates and for
Republicans, and to have honestly not only campaigned for his friend
John McCain, but also really deliberately against Barack Obama -- as you
said, going, I think, quite over the line in terms of some of his criticism.

Is it not setting a strange precedent that he essentially gets to
set the terms on which he stays in the caucus? He's said he will bolt
the caucus if he doesn't get to hold on to his chairmanship. It seems
weird that he should be the guy driving the bargain at this point,
particularly when he's sort of politicized homeland security in order to
make political points this year.

BAYH: Well, it is unusual territory. And you know, I was on
another national show, one of the Sunday programs sitting right next to
him when he basically said that Barack Obama was for defeat in Iraq.
And I had to cut him off and say, Joe, that's not true. I mean, he said
things that were simply unacceptable, and I think he needs to apologize
for that.

And the question for us, then, Rachel, is how do we move on from
here and maximize the chances of us getting good things done for the
country, for your viewers. And I think the best way to do that is to
look to the future rather than to just exact revenge for the past.

Now, at the same time, you have got to expect an apology, a sincere
apology, and you have got to keep -- to tell him, look, we're going to
give you a chance here. But if you don't do the right things as
chairman, if you know, we see any continuation of this kind of behavior,
well, then, at that point, you know, the game is up at that point.

MADDOW: But the game would be up in the sense that he would get
stripped of his leadership positions?

BAYH: Of the chairmanship, yes. You've got to remember, we have
the right to change chairmen at any time during the session, and you
know, we would expect him to conduct himself in that capacity, as
someone who was supportive of the administration and did not certainly
conduct himself in a way that reflected some of those comments, which I
strongly disagreed with at the time, and still do disagree with.

MADDOW: Senator Bayh, do you think that there are going to be major
issues -- major divisions within the Democratic caucus on issues of
national security and homeland security moving forward? I mean, one of
the things about Joe Lieberman's chairmanship is that he, in the past
couple of years, has been a real contrast with his colleague in the
House, his counterpart in the House, Henry Waxman, who heads the
Government Affairs Committee there, in terms of what he's been willing
to investigate. Joe Lieberman didn't investigate the government's
response to Katrina or the Blackwater shootings in Iraq or anything like
that. Are there going to be real interparty divisions on security
issues, or do you see a united front going forward?

BAYH: Well, I would hope we would have a united front. And you
know, if the caucus and the committee feels that there are areas worthy
of investigation -- and you mentioned two that I think would warrant
investigation -- then there should -- one would need to go forward,
regardless of what the chairman happen to think. And we have the power
to demand that sort of thing.

But I do hope, Rachel, we have just come through a tough campaign.
We have major issues that we face, real challenges -- health care,
education, the environment, getting out of Iraq -- a lot of things that
we need to do. I would hope we would have the maximum amount of unity
addressing those things.

And I honestly think -- you know, look, we can take away his
chairmanship. That's something we have the right to do. What you will
have at that point is either someone who may very well resign or someone
who's embittered, and if, you know, all else being equal, might not be
with us on some of these key votes. I honestly think we have a better
chance to get unity for the kind of policies that you would probably
support, most Democrats would probably support, if we try and have some
reconciliation here rather than resorting to revenge right off the bat.
You always have that option if things don't seem to be working out very
well.

MADDOW: You're giving me a great prompt to ask Senator Lieberman to
come deliver that apology on this show. So thank you for that. And
thank you for -- sorry, go ahead.

BAYH: Issue the invitation. And by the way, congratulations on
being number 7. In the United States Senate -- in the United States
Senate, that would be right up there.

MADDOW: I would be fighting it out with Lieberman at this point, I
know. Democratic Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, thank you for your time
tonight, sir. I really appreciate it.

BAYH: Thank you, Rachel. Good luck.

MADDOW: Thanks.

Register To Vote