Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Joe Lieberman: The Senate's Zelig is back

Attaboy, Joe. ( Lieberman, not the plumber.)

The always-evolving Independent senator from Connecticut seems forever inspired by his own smarmy political pieties and will again cross the congressional Rubicon to support a Republican filibuster against an opt-out health care reform bill. Joe has been a master of such happy-face gamesmanship on the Hill, pretending that he is holding a full house against the other side's four-card flush. So with his characteristic rubbery smile and reassuring bedside manner, Joe has again set himself up as the conscience of those honorable pols who rise to the defense of the nation (except, of course, those souls who have no health insurance.)

As a hawkish senator who avoided military service himself, he was once a Democrat who then charged into his friend John McCain's presidential campaign with spear and shield to wipe out Iraq, help the Republican candidate with Jewish voters and perhaps get a tidy vice presidential nod from the GOP. Having failed on all counts, Joe proudly retained his independence, but deftly played his hollow hand to literally blackmail unthinking Democrats into allowing him to caucus with the victorious party - a party, by the way, that mindlessly counted on his vote to override any Republican filibusters in the Senate! (How ironic!) They gave him his very own committee chairmanship and sheepishly said nice things about him.(Democrats may not be the party of sleeve-worn religion, but they do turn the other cheek to their own peril. )

His mercurial tactics may drive his old party to despair but it has made him one of Fox News iconic foster children, for whom he once described his political philosophy. Get this:

"I'm a Harry Truman, JFK, Scoop Jackson, Bill Clinton Democrat."

That there were varying degrees of difference among that quartet illustrate Lieberman's own warmed-over waffles, depending upon the moment. Let it be said that Lieberman's bizarre political initiatives are not totally ideological - not when he has received more than $1.6 million from the health care industry, including the invasive well-provided pharmaceuticals. He's been family-deep in the hands of health reform opponents. His wife Hadassah was on the lobbying payroll of companies for which Lieberman has bartered his soul. That's the short version.

Benignly concerned Joe is now in the front of the line, hardly as an independent thinker but as the leading teeter-totter in the Senate - a former Democrat, a happy-go-lucky cheerleader of the Republican presidential candidate, and now an Independent with a Democratic chairmanship and a valued Republican ear. For a Zelig of his skill, you can't do much better than that.

Attaboy, Joe. You can even boast to friends and family that you had been the Democratic vice presidential candidate in 2000, albeit again on the losing side. When the painful filibuster debate arrives, you may even be offered your own show on Fox News. Keep smiling.

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