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Michael J.W. Stickings Headshot

Joe Lieberman Feels "Relevant" But Does He Have to Act Like a Republican Obstructionist?

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A lot of thought has gone into trying to figure out what drives Joe Lieberman.

Is he driven by old grudges and resentments, angry at his party for rejecting him in '04 and for turning against him during and after his battle with Ned Lamont, if not long before that? Is he angry that Obama, an apparent upstart without much of a record in Washington, beat his pal McCain last year? Is he a sincere independent who likes being a thorn in the sides of Democrats? Is he really a Republican? Is he a neocon sympathizer, if not one himself? Is he "addicted to media attention," a craver of the limelight? When it comes to health-care reform, is he in the deep pockets of the insurance industry, one of the leading industries in Connecticut, his home state?

I'm not sure what I think -- or, rather, I don't think anything conclusive. I suspect there's some truth to all of this. But I think what he told a group of Connecticut reporters on Friday is revealing:

I feel relevant. I've taken this position [on health-care reform] because I believe it.

He may very well believe his own misrepresentations (and lies), and he may very well believe that opposing the public option, and meaningful reform generally, is in the best interests of the country. But what are we to make of his apparent joy at feeling "relevant" again? Is this what truly drives him, being relevant, being at the center of attention, being important, being influential, being powerful?

Maybe so. Which makes you think that however much he may protest that he is, in fact, a dedicated man of principle who does what he thinks is right, and what is best for his constituents, and who puts the interests of country before the interests of party, he is really just all about himself, and always has been. Which explains, to a great extent, why he ran back to Obama and the Democrats earlier this year. Was it not to be relevant? To have his chairmanship, to caucus with the majority party, to have his Senate privileges? And, going back, does it not also explain why he so fervently supported McCain? He was relevant then, a McCain insider and likely a key player in a possible McCain presidency.

And now he wants to be relevant again. And how is he doing that? By situating himself between the parties as a key deal-maker, or -breaker, on health-care reform. Unlike other centrists like Olympia Snowe or Max Baucus, however, he doesn't seem remotely interested in getting anything done. They, at least, are trying, while he, like any good Republican, is playing the obstructionist, seeking only to attract the spotlight.

Every senator, every politician, wants to be relevant. With Lieberman, though, that desire, combined with all those grudges and resentments, seems to be all-consuming. (And Democrats, at least, should finally be done with him.)

Allow me to borrow a hilarious joke from Stewie Griffin (originally directed at Meg): In an attic somewhere, there's a portrait of Joe Lieberman getting prettier.

(Cross-posted from The Reaction.)