Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Joe Lieberman, in the 111th Congress, Sucked

I agree with everything Robert Farley said in response to Ezra Klein's oddly mixed retrospect of Joe Lieberman's performance over the past two years. To review, Lieberman's three main accomplishments in 2009 and 2010 were:
  • Spiking a public option compromise that would have enabled individuals to buy into Medicare, which would have been easy to message in an election, popular, and sound public policy, not to mention a policy Lieberman once professed to support.
  • Working with John Kerry and Lindsay Graham to produce some sort of bipartisan energy bill, initially a cap-and-trade bill, and then something else, all of which was dead on arrival in the Senate. Note that said work included sabotaging the work of Maria Cantwell and Olympia Snowe, who were engaged in some outside-the-box thinking to attract bipartisan support for a "cap-and-dividend" model (note that as in health care, we have establishment centrist Democrats with clunky compromises--Baucus, Kerry & Lieberman--sabotaging wonky centrist Democrat with more elegant solutions--Wyden, Cantwell.
  • Muscling through the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
We have to evaluate this in the context of replacing Joe Lieberman with a generic Connecticut Democrat. Considering Chris Dodd made statements supporting the addition of a public option through reconciliation, we have to believe that Ned Lamont, Susan Bysiewicz, Chris Murphy, or really anyone would have been more useful on health care than Lieberman. On DADT, given the number of Republicans who ultimately voted for cloture and, it seems unlikely that Lieberman can take credit for all of the votes. Chiefly, I suspect that Snowe, Collins and Brown would have zero chance at winning a general election had they voted to preserve DADT. On the Democratic side, there are enough donors who are chiefly motivated by gay rights issues, that another year with minimal progress would have damaged the party's finances.

Now, that said, in the context of Lieberman holding a Senate seat, Reid clearly made the correct decision not to punish Lieberman too harshly so as to keep him in the fold on a large number of issues. But this doesn't negate the fact that, on net, Joe Lieberman did more harm than his replacement would have done.

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