Failing to Heed: Lieberman, GOP Corruption and a Nation Lost and Adrift

Crossposted from DailyKos and to BelowBoston.


There have been plenty of signs along the way -- bright, gaudy, glaring signs to some of us, which only now stand out to others in hindsight. Joe Lieberman is a former Democratic leader, now compromised by his claims of faux bi-partisanship and blatant support of Republican candidates, policies and talking points.

Scott In NJ's diary Harry Reid can't strip Lieberman of his committee assignments and Steve Singiser's diary Senator Reid: Show Me Something. Expel Lieberman Tomorrow. both wrangle with the issue. A brief blurb I put up over on ePluribus Media 2.0 provides a short collection of some of the signs, portents and their meanings.

What does it all mean? Has this all been avoidable, or are we as a nation perpetually stuck watching a Congressional rendition of kabuki theatre in a Potempkin village,1 hoping in vain for our broken system of government to fix itself and justify our efforts to get our nation back to some semblance of a true Democracy?

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The 2006 race between Joe Lieberman and Ned Lamont in Connecticut provided a first-glimpse of several portent-quality signs indicating the coming trouble with Joe Lieberman's loyalties, including a surprising tip of the hand by the GOP that hinted at the importance of Lieberman's role in helping them retain power and avoid investigation (and likely prosecution).

Here's a short list of some of the articles published over on ePluribus Media that related to Lieberman's "Loyalties" and the potential coming problems:

  1. Sealed with a Kiss: Lieberman's "Roving" Independence?
  2. Sealed with a KISS: Strange Bedfellows, Joe Lieberman and the GOP
  3. Joe Lieberman Filibusters Our Troops
  4. A Canticle for Lieberman
  5. Gates, McCain and Lieberman: Praying the Course in Iraq

[...snip...]

USA Kevin Ryan's case dismissed - why?

With such potential for heading off a potential problem at the pass, it was surprising that Lieberman won the support of key Democratic sponsors. People then started to call for Harry Reid to strip Joe of his committee assignments. As we can see from the recent diaries, that isn't as easy as it sounds. We heard similar explanations back then, too. Scott in NJ isn't the first one to point out that Reid can't outright strip Lieberman of his assignments. Reid Can't Strip Lieberman of Committees. Here's Why by BigDog04 also provided that information to us way back when Lieberman was running against Ned Lamont and we urged the Democratic leadership to support Lamont over Lieberman. As the Lieberman/Lamont primaries kicked into gear, we got a clear sign of just how important a Lieberman victory was to the Bush White House and their GOP enablers -- Karl Rove called Lieberman, promising their help and support.

That, alone, should have been a major gotcha for our Democratic leadership, but it was overlooked.

Now, we're apparently stuck with Joe until 2009.

Here's part of an analysis of the advantages Joe's committee leadership provided the GOP, from the ePluribus Media piece Sealed with a KISS: Strange Bedfellows, Joe Lieberman and the GOP. (It's a long excerpt, but relevant.):

Environment & Public Works

Senator Lieberman is a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, which is responsible for protecting the nation's natural environment, including its air, water and wildlife. The Committee also regulates nonmilitary nuclear power and oversees the nation's surface transportation infrastructure.

Let's see -- protecting the nation's natural environment -- would that mean input into discussion and evaluation of ANWR? Or perhaps oversight of some of Mr. Pombo's numerous and nature-unfriendly activities? Non-military nuclear power -- as in, perhaps one of the new Cheney Energy Task Force initiatives? And hmmmm...surface transportation infrastructure. Could the Texas/NAFTA Transportation Corridor fall into this category? A "Republican-friendly" Democrat could be an ace in the hole on such a committee during close votes.

Homeland Security and Government Affairs

Under the chairmanship of Senator Lieberman in 2001 and 2002, the Governmental Affairs Committee focused on the nation's homeland security, corporate accountability, and the Bush Administration's weakening of environmental regulations. Committee legislation enacted into law under Senator Lieberman's leadership includes laws creating the Homeland Security Department, establishing an independent commission to examine the causes of the September 11th attack, and facilitating the transition to electronic government, by requiring the federal government to make more information and services available to the public online.

With many in agreement that our nation is not more secure, and with corporate scandals still rocking the financial world while environmental regulations are further weakened by the Bush Administration, this would appear to be a committee where one could get things done. Or, not.

This particular committee has three current subcommittees:

Of the 3 current subcommittees, the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations is the oldest being created at the same time as the Committee on Government Operations in 1952. The Subcommittee on the Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia came into being after the creation of the Committee on Governmental Affairs in 1978. The Subcommittee on Financial Management, the Budget, and International Security was created at the beginning of the 108th Congress. (from Homeland Security and Government Affairs)

Together, these suggest some degree of accountability -- currently absent in the Bush Administration's tenure -- actually existed somewhere in American government. While failures of these committees to force accountability can't be arbitrarily heaped upon Senator Lieberman, his presence on such potentially powerful committees could play an important role in enforcing oversight that mustn't be overlooked -- particularly as we cast an eye toward the possible future that the upcoming November elections may bring.

In the meantime, Lieberman claims on his website that his work on "Intelligence Reform and Prevention" as well as the "Hurricane Katrina Investigation" are examples of his worth -- somehow, the efforts appear to be lacking in accomplishment. (See this DailyKos story regarding what Lamont had to say about Joe's Katrina accomplishments.)

Armed Services

Senator Lieberman is a member of the Armed Services Committee, where he is Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on AirLand Forces and sits on the Subcommittees on Emerging Threats and Capabilities and Seapower. The Senate Armed Services Committee is responsible for all matters relating to defense policy of the United States, including oversight of the Department of Defense and the nation's armed forces.

This committee has a pivotal role in our preparation for and execution of war, as well as our capacity to engage in the "Global War on Terror" that the President has unilaterally declared. Taken together, the three committees represent a trifecta of focal points that could finally force the Bush Administration to be accountable, responsible and effective.

Or, as mentioned before, not so much.

Lieberman's presence on these committees -- particularly if under GOP influence -- may be the crucial part of the power struggle that will likely ensue in Congress after the November elections. His presence could also prove pivotal in any potential decision to participate in a new conflict, like Iran.

Many Democrats have called upon Harry Reid to yank Lieberman's committee posts since his decision to run as a petitioning candidate against a Democratic primary winner. That, however, that isn't feasible -- and even if the Democrats take control of the Senate, it may not be possible. In the recent DailyKos diary "Reid Can't Strip Lieberman of Committees. Here's Why" by BigDog04, we're informed about a little-known aspect of Senate procedure that the diarist culled from an article by Bob Geiger. Here's the excerpt cited with the pertinent and meaty tidbit:

while many of the calls for harsh action from Reid may be righteous, bloggers castigating him for not stripping Lieberman of his committee assignments and urging their readers to call Reid's office to harangue him about this, are simply wrong and not reporting accurately on what is or is not within Reid's authority.

Based on the way the Senate works procedurally, this is simply not something that Reid even has the authority to do.

The membership in Senate committees is decided at the start of every Congress with a haggled-out thing called an "organizing resolution." The entire Senate votes on it

To give Joe his well-deserved comeuppance by taking him off committees and effectively making him the most junior member of the Senate, Reid would have to formally propose an amendment to the current organizing resolution, manage to get it to a vote and then get every Democrat and a handful of Republicans to vote for a new committee organization sans Lieberman.

Reid's hands are tied, and will likely remain so -- unless Lieberman loses the November election. The suspect loyalty of Joe Lieberman makes his loss in November critical in order to guarantee that a "real" Democrat can be put onto the committees that Joe currently serves.

Would a Lieberman loss have let the Democrats set up a new Dem leader for those key committee assignments, or would the rules regarding the change of majority in the Senate have left the GOP in an equally but more obviously powerful leadership position?

Regardless, I feel that "the Lieberman situation" is one example of many where we, the netroots, have brought serious and significant concerns to light that coulda / woulda / shoulda (and, in some instances, have) made significant strides toward correcting the course of this nation over the past seven years of abuse and malfeasance.

Our nation doesn't need to be in the position it finds itself in today, if only our leadership -- our leadership, the progressive and patriotic leadership -- took heed. If the Democratic party (or any progressive party) wants to find itself in a position of growing power and support, the formula is simple: listen to the people.

Keep us informed.

Protect our methods of communication, including our privacy and our capacity to share equally and freely in the use of the internet.

Heed our thoughts, our words and our advice, and we'll support you.

United, we stand.

Together, we'll make a difference.

Divided, we fall...
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1. "kabuki theatre in a Potempkin village" is a term I coined a while back to describe my perceptions of the actions within the Beltway, particularly and usually focused on the antics of the Bush Administration and the GOP members of Congress but all-too-applicable to the Congress, DoJ and Executive Branch operations in general for this day and age -- regardless of party lines and affiliations.

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we need to continue to be learners. I am so tired of the "running on empty" feeling.

national retention level -- this "scandal fatigue" thing is simply munging together all sorts of things that would otherwise stand out on their own.