There's a giant gray area in how the United States Senate operates and, as someone who covers that body, I'm aware of that and try not to react too quickly when I see something I don't like. Maybe my proximity has made me too sympathetic, but I'm aware that there's very often more than meets the eye when something happens in the Senate that people on my side of the political divide may not like.
But this thing with Joe Lieberman is different and I'll tell you why.
When it comes to Lieberman, I've really tried to understand. I even did a brief study in early September in which I set out to discern what good Lieberman actually did do the Democratic caucus in the 110th Congress, by looking for the number of votes where Lieberman's presence on our side of the aisle actually made a difference. And I admit, my dislike for Lieberman is so deep that I truly wanted to find that his membership in the Democratic caucus made no difference and that Senate Democrats could have kicked his butt to the other side of the aisle after his reelection over Ned Lamont in 2006 with little or no consequence.
As much as I hated it, that wasn't what I discovered.
Instead, I found that of 638, 110th-Congress votes through July 31, 2008, 36 of those came down to a tie or were decided by only one vote and, of those, Lieberman voted with the Democrats 31 times -- and on most of those 31, Democrats prevailed based on Lieberman's vote.
I didn't like seeing that, but the results were real and they made me conclude that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was right to not push for Traitor Joe's ouster two years ago and that, like it or not, Democrats actually did need him on their side, at least some of the time.
So I get it. I've learned about nuance and I've learned that the party leader's job in the Senate is a lonely one, fraught with political peril and no-win situations.
Despite all of that, I was as aghast and disgusted as anyone yesterday when Reid and most of the Democratic caucus, let Lieberman off scot free for his repulsive and disloyal actions in 2008. Even with my eyes filled with the gray that is Senate life, I believe Lieberman should have not only been stripped of his Homeland Security chairmanship, but he should have been removed from the caucus entirely.
We all know the conventional wisdom why: He spoke at the Republican National Convention. He smeared Barack Obama for things like allegedly voting to take money from combat troops in Iraq, despite knowing damn good and well that he was incredibly misleading tens of millions of conventions viewers on Obama's record. And he hit the campaign trail with John McCain and Sarah Palin, participating in hideous personal attacks on Obama and sharing the stage with those calling the president-elect everything from a terrorist to a Marxist.
But as I mulled a stomach made queasy over what took place yesterday, it suddenly struck me that Lieberman's main breach was far more general than any of that and it comes down to this: Joe Lieberman seriously wanted John McCain to be the next president -- and he worked damn hard to make that happen.
So it goes way beyond Lieberman's personal loyalty to a GOP Senator and some nasty comments about his own caucus's guy and becomes a startling view of what Lieberman would actually have liked to see over the next four to eight years -- and there's nothing in it that even remotely resembles being a Democrat or having the right to remain in their Senate delegation.
Because in wanting so desperately to have John McCain taking the oath of office on January 20th instead of Barack Obama, Lieberman wanted the following:
So, yes, Lieberman said terrible things about Barack Obama and stabbed every Democrat in the back in making allegations about Obama that would by extension also apply to most of them. And he deserved to have his ass kicked to the Republican side of the aisle -- or at least have his committee Chairmanship revoked for that alone.
But what's even more telling is that deep down, underneath all the words and speeches and photo opportunities with the McCain-Palin ticket, what Lieberman was really after was four to eight more years of neo-conservative Republican rule. At least four more years of the same leadership that made 80 percent of Americans believe the country was on the wrong track. And up to eight, 12 or even 16 more years of the same policies that have driven the United States to the point of social, economic and political ruin.
Beyond every outward thing Joe Lieberman did in 2008, he finally came out and admitted through his actions that he is exactly what we've always known he is -- a Republican.
That alone disqualifies him from leading a committee in a Democratic Senate or, for that matter, even sitting in the same room with the Democratic caucus.
And, for dismissing all of that, 42 Senate Democrats should be profoundly ashamed.
You can read more from Bob at BobGeiger.com.