Goodbye, Chuck. Hello, Joe.
The Senate is about to become a revolving door as both Chuck Hagel (R-Ambitious Cuss) and Joe Lieberman (D-Persecuted One) threaten to bolt their respective parties over the war issue.
Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut told the Politico on Thursday that he has no immediate plans to switch parties but suggested that Democratic opposition to funding the war in Iraq might change his mind.
Lieberman, a self-styled independent who caucuses with the Democrats, has been among the strongest supporters of the war and President Bushâ€™s plan to send an additional 21,500 combat troops into Iraq to help quell the violence there.
“I have no desire to change parties,” Lieberman said in a telephone interview. “If that ever happens, it is because I feel the majority of Democrats have gone in a direction that I don’t feel comfortable with.”
Asked whether that hasn’t already happened with Iraq, Lieberman said: “We will see how that plays out in the coming months,” specifically how the party approaches the issue of continued funding for the war.
Time says the possibility of Lieberman pulling a switcheroo is remote:
Lieberman says leaving the Democratic Party is a “very remote possibility.” But even that slight ambiguity â€” and all his cross-aisle flirtation â€” has proved more than enough to position Lieberman as the Senate’s one-man tipping point. If he were to jump ship, the ensuing shift of power to Republicans would scramble the politics of the war in Iraq, undercut the Democrats’ national agenda and potentially weaken their hopes for the White House in 2008. Those stakes are high enough to give Lieberman leverage with both parties no matter how slim the chance of his crossing the aisle. Which means Senate leaders aren’t worrying only about whether Joe Lieberman will switch parties. They’re wondering what, if anything, he plans to do with the power that comes from keeping that possibility alive.
I actually think it’s not very likely that Lieberman will cross the aisle. The Republicans don’t have much to offer him in the way of Committee Chairs – unless one of the senior Republicans were to give up the Chairmanship of Foreign Affairs (Dick Lugar) or Homeland Security (John Sununu). Would Lieberman jump the Democratic ship for anything less?
And I don’t think Lieberman is all that comfortable with the GOP’s economic or trade policies either, although that would be a minor factor in any decision he might make to leave the Democrats. He would go from being too conservative for his own party to being too liberal for the GOP. Either way, he would be in a distinct and uncomfortable minority.
No, Joe is a classic liberal – perhaps the last of what used to be called the internationalist wing of the Democratic party. Strong on national defense, friendly to unions, generous to the welfare state, but an overall belief in the goodness of America and a supporter of an activist foreign policy.
They’re mostly gone now. The Humphreys, the Nunns, the Bentsens. Like Lieberman, they shared an abiding faith that America should stand against the bullies, the thugs, and even a nuclear armed superpower to promote freedom around the world. Also like Lieberman, they were courtly in manner, generous to their foes, reasonable in debate, and when push came to shove, supported Republican Presidents when they sent our military into harms way.
If Lieberman does bolt the Democratic party, would Chuck Hagel cross over and keep the Dems in the majority? Hagel is the most likely of the moderate Republicans to turn. And the Democrats probably have more to offer him in Committee assignments than the GOP could offer Lieberman.
But Hagel should take note of what the netnuts have done to Lieberman before he thinks of crossing over to the other side. The first vote he would cast reflecting his conservative Nebraska roots would set the screaming meanies of the internet off on him and make his life miserable. Besides, Chuck wants to be President and it doesn’t look like there’s much of a chance for that if he would run as a Democrat. A third party run is more in the cards for Hagel.
In the end, unless the Democratic slow bleed the troops plan succeeds in the House, I expect Lieberman will stay right where he is. Chances of that happening are probably not quite as good today as they were last week before Murtha told the world exactly how he was going to undermine the Pentagon and the President of the United States. Such things are best done in the dark of night when no one is looking and the knife can be applied to just the right place in the small of the back so that the victim never knew what hit him. Now that Democrats have to stand up in the light of day and actually face the American people with their cowardly and immoral plan, I would guess that some Democrats who may have been inclined to vote for Murtha’s betrayal as long as it was being done below the radar of public perception are now having second thoughts.
Anything is possible in Washington. And the emotions that are roiling the capitol as a result of our involvement in Iraq are only going to get more intense the closer we get to the 2008 election.
By any stretch of the imagination, we are in for a very rough, very interesting campaign.