Joe Lieberman knows the ways of the Senate.
He knows that there are votes that matter -- and votes that don't.
There are cheap ways to mug a President of one's own party, much like House Democrats did to Bill Clinton during his presidency rejecting "fast track trade authority" because they were ticked off about welfare reform and wanted to send Clinton a message on a bill that wasn't all that popular anyway.
However, there are also cheap ways to applaud a President and to deceive a public.
Along these lines, Senator Lieberman decided to play "fluffer" for the Republican leadership and Bush with his statement today in the New York Daily News that he has flip-flopped on Bolton and would now support his confirmation as US Ambassador to the UN.
Lieberman knows that after the next election, when there is a lame duck session of Congress called, all of the controls on party discipline come off.
Some Senators will be on their way out -- some will be planning to move in. While Lieberman might vote for Bolton in a new game plan, several Republican Senators are so irritated by the confirmation that has been kicked to near death twice that they won't save it and may even kick it to definitive death to help reach out to progressives they may need to "kiss and make up to" after the election.
Lieberman just used a false stilt to prop himself up before some of Connecticut's pugnacious isolationist Republicans.
What Lieberman doesn't understand is that Bolton's confirmation has been killed twice by Republicans -- not just by Voinovich, Thune, and Chafee but by many behind the scenes. Bolton represents a wing of anti-internationalist Republicans and that's all. And this wing is small.
Most Connecticut Republicans are MODERATES and are decent people who want confident and admirable stewardship of American interests at the United Nations. Lieberman hopefully just ticked off a whole lot of them.
I have hesitated pounding too hard on Senator Lieberman who has been a great advocate of advanced technology development in this country and has been (until the Iraq war) a generally sensible voice on national security issues -- particularly at home. But to quote George Soros, "Lieberman has gone off the rails."
Soros said in a public speech in Tokyo this Monday at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan that "now that Lieberman is out of the picture, he'd support any Democratic candidate for President -- just to get balance back into the system."
This snuggle-snuggle with John Bolton by the newly Indepent Joseph Lieberman really is something that deserves to be put under a big spotlight.
Moving into the pro-Bolton camp is a desperate move and places Lieberman no longer in the "Zell Miller-lite caucus" but rather with the "Neocon-heavy cabal."
-- Steve Clemons is Senior Fellow and Director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation and publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note