Because it was a secret ballot in the Democratic Caucus of the United State Senate today we may never know which 13 Dems voted against allowing Senator Joe Lieberman (I. Conn.) to hold onto a couple of key chairmanships in the next Senate session. The vote behind closed doors to let Senator Lieberman off easy was 42-13.
Do you think we can assume that Senator-elect Jeff Merkley was in a forgiving mood?
From The Huffington Post:
"He did speak at the meeting," said Julie Edwards, Merkley's communications director. "He is someone who cheered for Joe Lieberman in 2000 and Lieberman's words and actions this year were profoundly hurtful to him... The committee chairmanship is a privilege and not a entitlement and Senator-elect Merkley believes that being a member of the leadership comes with certain responsibilities. But at this point he does look forward to putting this behind us."
The one Senator who we know voted to punish Lieberman for his full-throated support of John McCain was Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. That's because he said so afterwards. Who were the other 12?
Here are a couple of points to ponder:
It was the next President who urged his former Senate colleagues not to banish Lieberman. Is this the way they would have handled such a blatant betrayal in Chicago? Doubtful. But Obama's playing softball, not hardball these days.
Can we assume from the lack of consequences for Lieberman that those 43 Democratic Senators never really considered his support of McCain as consequential? No harm, no foul?
Is there an end game here that we can only guess at? I think the next President may want to keep his friends close....but his enemies closer.
What does Lieberman now owe the next President? His gratitude to Obama for calling off the dogs could become obvious soon. And if Obama had not publicly interceded, if he had left Lieberman "twisting in the wind", how might that have hurt the delicate balance in the Senate?
Does the new Administration and the Democratic caucus need Lieberman more than he needs them?
Would John McCain have been this magnanimous in victory had there been a Republican Senator (Chuck Hagel, let's say) who had spoken at the Democratic convention and called him erratic and unfit to serve?
I suspect Lieberman's apostasy will soon be forgotten. Sure, Senator-elect Merkley was "hurt" by what Lieberman did. He'll get over it. And as the war winds down most people will forget why Lieberman bolted.
And by this time next year President Obama will look pretty good for having looked the other way.