Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Barack Obama and Harry Reid

discuss Holy Joe Lieberman’s long-term future.

I love this scene: the gunsel holding two massive guns is the actually the least powerful one in the room, while the smart, fast-on-his-feet Sam Spade effortlessly exercises real power even while surrounded by mortal enemies, because he understands exactly how the real world works.

Which is why when I read something like this --
Obama Supports Keeping Lieberman in Democratic Caucus

By Paul Kane
President-elect Barack Obama has endorsed keeping Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) in the Democratic caucus, suggesting to leadership that the two sides reach a compromise in the conflict over the former Democratic vice presidential nominee's future, sources said today.

In a phone conversation last week with Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), Obama said that expulsion of Lieberman for his support of the Republican presidential ticket would send the wrong signal after Obama's promises to set partisanship aside, according to a Senate Democratic aide familiar with the conversation.

Aides to Obama and Reid declined comment on the specifics of the conversation between the two party leaders. Obama's camp insisted the president-elect did not make any specific suggestions about how to resolve the situation, but did say that Obama wants Lieberman to remain with the Democrats.

"President-elect Obama looks forward to working with anyone to move the country forward," Obama transition spokesperson Stephanie Cutter said in a statement issued today. "We'd be happy to have Sen. Lieberman caucus with the Democrats. We don't hold any grudges."
-- I shake my head and smile.

Of course I believe

Lieberman Must Go.

But I also know, as Hunter S. Thompson once said, "Politics is the art of controlling your environment" and to this Chicagoan’s eyes, it sure looks like my President Elect is getting ready extend his control over his environment by gelding The Last Honest Man and fitting him with a collar.

Shorn of the sound and fury, the fact is Lieberman will be in the Senate for four more years (Thanks again, Connecticut!), and during the next two of those years the Senate is going to be Wingnut Central Command.

Right now, Joe is a joke, a disgrace and a failure. But he also has no conscience, an ego the size of Mount Sinai, no capacity for self-reflection, and has been drunk on his own ersatz piety since forever. And after 2-3 months angrily rebreathing his own sanctimony farts, I can easily imagine the corrupt Connecticut Manqué in King Dubya’s Court -- now a Joementum in Exile -- completely convincing himself that he needs to lead the charge against anything and everything the Marxist, Hamas-loving Obama Administration puts forward.

For the good of the country, of course.

And the children.

And stuff.

Before a President is sworn in, his influence is necessarily indirect. His available political capital can rise or fall only by proxy; by whom he appoints, whom he exiles, by the issues on which he stands firm, and on which he stands mute.

In Big Time Politics, every move has a price and a value, and the winners know how to buy low and sell high. And while driving Holy Joe into the political wilderness would certainly slake some of my thirst for righteous fucking payback, I also recognize it’s a poor bargain. It would perhaps gain the President Elect the further admiration of people who are already with him, but it wouldn't increase his stock of political capital one dime, and would come at the cost of potentially turning a derelict into a fanatic and creating an enemy who will be the tip of the spear used to poke him in the eye for the next two years.

It is also be a definitive act, one that can’t be undone and would necessarily foreclose the possibility that Joe Lieberman’s political carcass would be available as a flotation device in the future.

On the other hand, keeping Lieberman inside the tent and on double-secret probation opens up the possibility of running a subtler, reverse-Sister Souljah bit of jujitsu: in a move that would cost him essentially nothing, President Elect Obama would get to show the world his maverick independence from the Dirty Fucking Hippies, and while he demonstrated public magnanimity, he can also privately put Lieberman’s balls in a vice for the rest of his term.

If Lieberman shuts the fuck up, geeks on command and shits Tiffany cuff links, it's a win.

If Lieberman sets one foot off the reservation, the Obama crew can quietly make things so fucking awful that he bolts the Party, at which point the Party has its fall guy, and President Obama's Press Secretary can announce in his or her best more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger voice that although the President gave Holy Joe every chance to redeem himself for his many, many betrayals, it is obvious now that Joe is incorrigibly bent and can never be trusted.

We in Chicago remember another smart, articulate, Progressive African-American leader. One who defied the predestinational impulses of the City Machine Political Womb from whence he came, rose to power on the promise of reform during very turbulent times, only to have his legs cut out from under him during much of his first term by a united front of proudly intransigent, racist thugs.

The chief executive was

Mayor Harold Washington.

The opposition was the led by Ed Burke and the recently-convicted

“Fast” Eddie Vrdolyak.

And the period – from 1983 to 1986 – was known as Council Wars:

After the election of Harold Washington, the first black mayor of Chicago, in 1983, a group of 29 of the city's 50 aldermen led by "the Eddies"—Ed Vrdolyak and Ed Burke—fought the mayor at every turn. The block of 29, known as the Vrdolyak 29, consisted of 28 white councilmen and the body's only Hispanic member.

The Vrdolyak 29 would not only block the mayor's proposals, but would even block his appointments, a purely symbolic move as they were able to take places running city departments on an interim basis anyway. In their first session under the Washington administration, they voted themselves in charge of every single council committee. Some members even admitted that they blocked the mayor's proposals when they thought they had merit, because they claimed a good measure by Washington would be bad in the long run for the city because it would help prolong his mayorship.

Many believe the opposition was racially motivated. There certainly was grounds for believing that as the 1983 mayoral election which Washington won gained national headlines for its ugly and racially divisive nature.

The Vrdolyak 29 had a majority of votes, but not enough to override a mayoral veto, thus creating legislative gridlock. Chicago became known as "Beirut by the Lake."
Exactly the same elements -- an intractable opposition who believe blocking every fucking thing proposed by the Progressive African-American executive will accrue to their narrow, political advantage -- are now in play in the nation’s capitol, and some version of “Council Wars” on FoxNews and Hate Radio steroids is what the next two years could very well resemble.

Giving Lieberman an opening to leave in a self-righteous huff and storm dramatically into the waiting arms of Mitch McConnell hands your enemy another weapon.

Whereas making him your dancing monkey

takes that weapon off the table and keeps it available for your own future purposes.

Not saying that’s what should happen.

Not saying that’s what will happen.

Just saying that when big time politics is played by smart people, it looks a lot like this.


Blue Gal said...

Wonderful post. Obama looks for seventy five ways to win a battle, not just one. If he jettisons one so-called 'Democrat', especially one that will owe him big time forever, he cuts off one avenue to what he wants.

But I hate Lieberman. Just Hate Him.

Anonymous said...


I have seen your theory posited in several other places on the intertubes and, given Obama's track record so far, it certainly seems the palusible scenario.

I can see two problems:

1) Obama supported Joe the Weasel in his campaign against Ned Lamont, and Lieberman had no compunction whatever about stabbing him in the back while campaigning for McGrumpy. I hope the deal with Reid includes stripping him of Homeland Security Chair. Letting that sanctimonious little prick keep his subpoena power might turn out to be the dagger with which he stabs Obama(again).

2) I think there is some utility in showing the Blue Dogs and the Republicans that there is a price for crossing Obama, especially given the egregious nature of Lieberman's actions. I fear the co-opting and neutering Holy Joe may be too subtle for some of these knuckledraggers.

I hope I am wrong.


jurassicpork said...

I've been warning people since Obama's ascension that not all that glitters with this incoming administration is gold. Don't ask me why Obama wants Lieberman to stick around. Keeping your friends close and your enemies closer is one thing but this is ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

The past year has taught us all not to bet against Obama's political instincts. I just hope this is a better move than it looks.

Anonymous said...

Drifty, as one from ChiTown you have unique insights into ChiTown politics, politicians, and their methods and practices.

And I admit, I'm in awe, always, at the depth of info you have of your hometown's and home state's political machinations.

And here we the rest of us are, as a nation, having elected on of yer homeboys.

I think I'll keep my ears and frontal lobes opened to you and your voice of these things. You got the dirt, you got the inside track.

Nice post, great info shared. Yer a hoss.

Until Obama tosses me under the bus, I'm in his corner. It's gonna be INTERESTING, how he handles Reid, Pelosi, Lieberman and a multitude of issues at hand.

So far, I like his moves. Time will tell.

And what the fuck, there's a WEBSITE we can talk to him, if we don't like, or do like, what he's doing.

Life is different now, with Obama in charge, and it's still muy pinchey interesting.

No one sleeps, anymore.
Oughta be a law for that matter.
But ya can't regulate human motivation.

We've seen what happens when we sleep.

Nevermore, I hope, people. Nevermore we sleep and let the rust creep.

-Drifty Rocks

Joy said...

Drifty, you made me spit my Tiffany cufflinks all over the keyboard.

anna missed said...

I'm ok with Lieberman remaining, as long as they make him wear a little red tunic and cap.
Very insightful analysis, by the way.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

Interesting theory, DriftAss. This bit made me laugh my motherfucking ass off!!

It is also be a definitive act, one that can’t be undone and would necessarily foreclose the possibility that Joe Lieberman’s political carcass would be available as a flotation device in the future.

For certain, Obama is not stupid enough to think he will ever have that shitbag's loyalty, so if he does pull levers to keep him inside the Party, it will be for some calculated reason such as you describe.

US Blues said...

Geez, a guy who grew up on Al Capone running the White House as a Dem. Too much!

Punkster said...

Thanks for this. I am like the above commenter - I'm gonna just keep my mouth shut and watch for a while. This guy's political instincts are a damned wonder so far, and since he seems to be able to rewrite the books, I think I'm better off just sitting by and getting schooled for a while.

Anonymous said...

"If Lieberman shuts the fuck up, geeks on command and shits Tiffany cuff links, it's a win."

Whatd'ya say we get together and buy a giant bottle of Goldschlager for the man?

KnaveRupe said...

A few points:

1) In 2006, we needed Lieberman in the caucus to gain control of the Senate. In 2008, we control the Senate with or without Lieberman.

2) Even if we get 58 Democratic Senators plus Bernie Sanders and Holy Joe, we won't have a filibuster-proof majority. There are enough Blue dog Dems, holdovers from the gang of 14, who will join a Republican filibuster to block any meaningful progressive reforms. Keeping Joe doesn't prevent gridlock.

3) Keeping Joe in control of the Homeland Security Committee is dangerous. If Joe decides to start a political witch hunt against the Obama administration, it will be politically difficult to remove him, and Joe can do that math. It INCREASES the likelihood he will go after Obama, just to protect his Chairmanship, IMHO.

I say, the politically smart position for Obama is to assure Joe that he will do everything he can to keep him there (including voting for him to keep his chairmanship), but acknowledging that the President-elect doesn't control the Senate. If Reid and Durbin and Schumer can get the votes to strip him of his chairmanship, even though Obama and Biden lobbied hard to keep him, well, that's not Obama's fault, right?

rotten mcdonald said...

like many others, I want to see Lieberman shaved, painted in orange and blue stripes, and thrown from the top of the Washington Monument at a small target painted below. The Lieberman Drop.

But after reading this, I think I agree with you on the politics. Holy Joe is trying like hell to present a strong face, but knows he doesn't have much of a hole card to play.

He's already proven himself to be treacherous, and deserves no quarter. But as Drifty points out, there's not much percentage in giving him a greater level of sanctimony driving his efforts. I can see pulling him from Homeland Sec and putting him in another chair (someone mentioned Small Bidness. Well, crap, I AM a small bidness, and I don't want Holy Joe running things on my behalf, I get screwed often enough. But then, considering how badly small bidnesses have been getting screwed for 8 years, I'm not sure it could be worse).

Washington has been running on fealty and petty revenge for a few years now, it would be nice to see some other motivation in play. Not saying this is rainbow sparkle pony magical underwear bi-partisanship and pizza, but it's a different calculation than kneecapping the other guy because you had to sit in the back of the plane, and that may be a good thing.

But really, not as satisfying as kneecapping Joe would be.

Myrtle June said...

Liarman is a victim. He wants to keep this country in the victim mentality and why in hell should Obama help him do that!!!! No fucking way should Obama weigh in further than he has already. He's absolutly picking his battles here. He did it in the campaign and, well, that worked out ok. The man has instincts!! More than that he has patience. Nothing would be more satisfying, and predictable under the old rules, than for Obama and Reid to oust him. I agree with Obama totally on this. Why should he spend his capital on that pig. As a rule, bad guys show themselves out sooner or later. Besides, Obama is studying the lay of the land from a different perspective. How in hell can do that if he's cutting off sources of info and getting their real in depth picture of just what the hell they've all been up to? He can't and he knows it. No, much as I'd like to see Liarman go down and hard, I also know Liarman WILL go down by his own hand. Just because Obama says keep him in the caucus, the caucus still has a vote and even if he stays it doesn't mean he'll be chairman of anything.... for long. I think doing what's unexpected on Obama's part is brilliant! Throws them off. Takes away their victimship.

I totally agree with Drifty. Beautifully put, Sir!!!! Although, anna missed's "red tunic and cap" is an option I'd like to see as well as a monkey leash.

Visible said...

Umm Hmmm. Well Done!!!

bjacques said...

Brilliant! When some of the posters mentioned a cap and tunic, I didn't think of a monkey's suit so much as of the San Benito that one had to wear following a friendly chat with the Holy Inquisition and preceding one's center-stage role in an auto-da-fe.

But that's just me.

Jenonymous said...

Drifty--crossposting this from GNB. The gentleman whom I watched the elections with @ the Beer Garden and I thought this up as the results came in and Joe's name got batted around:

Keep him, just strip him of any important postings. I like the idea of having him serve on the Urinal Cake Purchasing Subcommittee on the Committee of Congressional Restroom Management (East Wing). He can make bipartisan choices by boldly selecting a neutral citrus scent as opposed to divisive pine or floral scents. Or, he can prove his "green cred" by reaching across party lines and opting for the "bucket of ice dumped over the drain" option instead.

Anonymous said...

Why isn't this in the Washington Post, the New York Times or Salon!

Anonymous said...

two words...Rahm Emanuel

LandStander said...

Great post. A lot of interesting conjecture and food for thought. Obama's performance in the campaign has proven him to be a brilliant politician and it is hard to imagine him governing clumsily. Obama's handling of Lieberman - just like every political move he has ever made - is entirely deliberate.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant analysis, Driftglass. Per usual.

Anonymous said...


I'm having trouble reading the white letters against the light blue background in the center of the page.

Malacandra said...


White on black... what, is this 1998?

Seriously, it's really fatiguing to read white text on a dark background.

StonyPillow said...

An homage to Darkblack? Or foreshadowing of Fitzmas yet to come? (I am not the blog I was. I will not be the blog I must have been but for this intercourse.)

Expiring minds (and suffering eyes) need to know.

Oh, yeah. And eff effin' Lieberman.

Blue Gal said...

The overall look is very sexy, and the header is pure you, DG. There's probably a way to satisfy those who hate white on black without losing the sexy or the header....

redoubt said...

The Chicago Way strikes again. After the full-scale LBJ Treatment on the Senate floor back on June 4th, both of them know how this is going to end. "Are you going to preserve some dignity, or am I going to have to repeat June 4th again?"

Anonymous said...

Looks like something some body did whilst smoking pot in P&M's basement.

Andrea said...

It's the Chicago way if Reid, Durbin, et al bring a gun to this fight. Am torn between wanting them to tell Joe to beg for committee assignments from Mitch McConnell and taking away the Homeland Security gig. Hell, just get rid of that damned department.

Hmm, San Jose Sharks colors...

Bustednuckles said...

Wow Drifty!!
Snazzy dude!

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. I'll also want to point out John Scalzi's take of the situation in a similar vein:

What's Really Going On With Joe Lieberman

Bustednuckles said...

Oh yeah, while you are messing around with the format, I moved back to Blogger, Wordpress was pissing me off. Would you mind changing the link back?

You da man.



Michael Hart said...

Thanks, Driftglass. That post is yet another example why I pay serious munnies for my ringside seat here. The added bonus of the blogos' best commenters justifies it all the more.

Myrtle June is prescient, though; Joe the Lieberdick will crash & burn without any assistance. It's the way of the universe.

God knows I love blue circles, too; Nice header and new look. (The quoted text color is easier to read than the bright white copy; if you knock it down a few percent it will still look white and be much easier to read.)

rotten mcdonald said...

FWIW, another of my respected bloggers, The Rude Boy, agrees with you.

I'm becoming convinced.

Not that I still don't want to kneecap Joe, though, if only for his self-righteous stands on music and video games....

tanbark said...

Everything Drift said is true, and fraught with political smarts.

But after 8 years of this bloody fuckery, capped with Lieberman's perfidious whoring himself out to the GOP (as if his asshole wasn't AIPAC-stretched enough already...)

I have to say:

Tanbark hungry.

Tanbark want red meat. :o)

But let the honeymoon roll on, for now.

Maybe, as someone on Digby suggested, Reid and the dems could extract an open-dated letter of resignation from the party, from Lieberman...already signed. And if he TWITCHES wrong on a vote, then ENACT that fucker. :o)

cyrano said...

I want to believe, but my gut and every heretical synapse in my brain are telling me no. This is not deft political maneuvering. This is tactical inertia.

Holy Joe Lieberman is a cornered weasel. He knows that he won't last past 2012. So does everyone else. What's left for him? He has no use for get-me-elected political capital, since he'll never get elected again. He's no ideologue, either. That leaves money and prestige. If he loses his Homeland Security Committee chairmanship, there goes his prestige; clearly, he can't have that.

Now, Reid won't drum Lieberman out of the caucus (as you say, DG, it would profit the Democrats very little). So this fight is largely about the chairmanship. What might Joe Lieberman do to keep his chairmanship? What might he do that is consistent with his previous behavior? I'll tell you what I think - I think he gave Obama and Reid an ultimatum. He said something like this:

You take away my chairmanship, and it will be all-out war between us. I'll caucus with the Republicans, but that's not all. I'll scream, I'll kick, I'll go on Fox News every night, I'll tell everyone how my party left me behind (again), I'll write a very serious book about the very serious flaws in the Democrat Party, I'll media-blitz you, I'll suck Evan Bayh's dick to get him to vote against S-CHIP. I'll use every political connection I have left in this Congress to make your life miserable. What I did to you during the election will look like smooches and tickles compared to what's coming. You won't be able to get jack shit done until 2012, and by then it will be too late - the people who got you elected will turn on you, because you promised them change and you gave them nothing. Your "progressive mandate?" Gone. I'll burn this whole party to the ground behind me. I'm Crazy Joe Lieberman, bitches; cross me at your peril.

Or, on the other hand, you let me keep my chairmanship and I promise I won't use the power of subpoena inherent in that station to spin your administration into a litigative vertigo. Cross my heart and hope to die. Pinky swear! Naw, seriously, this time you can trust me. Just kick the football, Charlie Barack!

And the Democrats, including Obama, because they strongly dislike ripping band-aids off quickly, have opted instead to convince themselves, audaciously hoping against hope! that this time, Joe Lieberman can be trusted.

I think that's what we're seeing here. Lieberman has everyone in a bind because all the other Senators and the President have rules. Joe's the Joker - he's got no rules. That's why this stuff about putting Lieberman's balls in a vise just doesn't wash. What leverage do you really have over a man who wants nothing you can give him?

Anonymous said...

two words...Rahm Emanuel

Well, every Capone needs a Frank Nitti. It's the Chicago way.

Looking at the group shot after the Econ conference, I was struck by the image of Obama flanked by Biden and Emmanuel. It was perfect subliminal political theater: "here's what I want done about the economy, behind me are the smartest people in the world, and beside me are the arm-twisting, knee-capping bastards who are going to get it through Congress."

Like Big Al said, "You can get much farther with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone."

Anonymous said...

I am reminded of LBJ's comment about Walter Jenkins, following Jenkins arrest in a DC men's room..."I'd rather have him (Jenkins) in the tent pissing out...than outside the tent pissing in." So the question is, Can Rahm keeping JoeZell pissing out?

Anonymous said...

"in the caucus" ain't quite the same as Remaining Chairman...I guess the Turd is in Harry Reid's pocket, now...not very optimistic about that outcome

Myrtle June said...

Oh, and day one directive to the Obama gang.... the word "HOMELAND" to be replaced pronto!!!! Never again do I want to hear my country called a freakin' "HOMELAND".

Also, could take of of joe the ho's chairmanship .... he can remain, but the committee won't exist anymore so there ya go. Two birds, one stone. *shines fingernails on chest* ;-)

tanbark said...

Agreed, Myrtle. :o)

OT, am I the only one who's getting nauseated from reading about all the Goldman-Sachs honchos who are in charge of doling out the gigabucks?

I mean, it's ridiculous to have these assholes "regulating" anything to do with our economy.

Scrooge McDuck holds a press conference to introduce his new financial adviser team, The Beagle Boys...

cyrano said...

Welp, Joe got to keep his chairmanship. The vote went 42-13.