Thursday, November 6, 2008

What about Joe?

Not the VP-Elect - the other one, Joe Lieberman. Over at Slate, John Dickerson suggests a few symbolic ways Obama can quickly demonstrate his new brand of politics, one of which is to "embrace John McCain." I'm all for that, but it would surely be seen as nothing but a symbolic gesture. Here's a better idea: embrace Joe Lieberman.

It's been reported that Harry Reid and Joe are meeting to "discuss Lieberman's fate" with numerous Democrats determined to strip Joe of his committee chairmanship. Of course, that would surely mean that Joe would caucus with the GOP.

It now seems likely that Democrats will hold 57 Senate seats, counting Joe, and 56 without him. (Either way, come 2012, if he wants to run again at the age of 72, Joe will probably win reelection.) So why would Reid and company want to guarantee that Joe will vote against them more often by forcing him across the aisle?

There will be many issues -- a sweeping new health care program comes to mind, along with tax cuts/increases, among many others -- on which getting a majority or, when needed, a filibuster-proof super-majority for President Obama's highest priorities won't be all that easy, even with a six vote partisan edge. This should be a no-brainer and would be were it not for the Democrats' left wing, which wants to punish Joe.

Of course, Reid might well make the smart choice by himself. But Obama could earn himself a bit of credit for bringing "new politics" to Washington by letting it be known that he'd look kindly on keeping Joe on the same side of the aisle, the better to reach across it.

[UPDATE -- As of November 13, the Democrats definitely have 57, counting Joe and look good to win in either Alaska or Minnesota or both, with the run-off in Georgia more likely to be a Republican keep. And Obama let it be known that he'd just as soon have Joe in the Democratic caucus. The guy can count.]

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