Why so cheery and forgiving after today’s kick to the groin when other liberals are sticking pins in their Joementum voodoo dolls? Because, for the moment, Liebs has him over a barrel and will need to be wooed unless and until Snowe or Collins changes her vote to become lucky number 60. As predicted, Reid’s benefiting momentarily from the distraction of a grand-scale Two Minutes Hate over Lieberman on the left (replete with threats of another Ned Lamont primary challenge, don’t you know), but read this smart piece by a lefty at HuffPo to grasp just what a huge strategic failure this was on Reid’s part.
When Reid made his happy announcement [yesterday], I assumed he had cut a deal with Lieberman to guarantee his vote on cloture, because it would be foolish beyond foolishness to abandon Snowe without knowing — knowing — that Lieberman’s vote was secure. And now we learn that Reid was foolish, and Lieberman’s vote was not secure, and health care reform may well be dead…
Lieberman must be bribed, not punished — as must Snowe and Collins and anyone else who can provide that 60th vote. Nor should we be mad at Obama, at least for this particular fiasco; in any case, he has at least three years left in office and must soldier on, hopefully wiser and a hell of a lot tougher.
Reid’s head, on the other hand, should roll for this. He did the right thing yesterday, but apparently without laying the necessary groundwork first. Even freshman Congressman Alan Grayson could see that Lieberman was dangerous, but the experienced Reid did not? That’s inexcusable. The post of Senate Majority Leader belongs to a cynic, not a naif. It should be held by a tough negotiator, not a lapdog. It calls for someone willing, in Howard Dean’s memorable phrase, to “use his majority so he doesn’t lose his majority.” It calls for a leader with the simple common sense, the simple worldly wisdom, not to trust Joe Lieberman with the most important policy initiative of the most important Democratic majority since FDR. And Harry Reid — as many have known all along — is not that leader.
Much more at the link, including praise for the GOP’s shrewdness in not alienating Snowe by beating up on her before Lieberman made his move. In Reid’s defense, given the razor’s-edge nature of the vote in the Senate, even if he had bought off Lieberman he’d probably be in this same position with Ben Nelson or Blanche Lincoln or Landrieu or Bayh or Pryor. Every centrist is potentially the 60th vote; every Blue Dog will have to be bought off or else one of the Maine twins won over, and maybe Reid realized that he simply didn’t have enough legislative goodies to make that happen. So, faced with a choice of offering a bill with no public option and watching the left turn against him or offering a bill with a public option which he knew Lieberman would vote against, why not choose the latter course and hope that Liebs draws most of the heat from progressives?
Exit question: Now that Snowe and Collins each stand to be the 60th vote, aren’t they faced with a major prisoner’s dilemma in being the first to strike a deal with Reid — possibly to become a Democrat or independent and receive all kinds of plum committee assignments — and thereby become the crucial tiebreaker? Assuming, that is, that he can keep the rest of the Democrats on board.