What if Republicans win 49 Senate seats -- and Joe Lieberman wins?
That's the scenario you have to keep in mind when weighing responses to Lieberman's independent bid -- because under those circumstances, Lieberman is free to declare that he'll caucus with the Republicans, thus allowing them to keep a majority (50 senators plus the constitutionally designated Senate president, VP Cheney, as a tiebreaker).
And the Republicans are free to offer him all sorts of juicy entitlements (e.g., choice committee posts, perhaps including a chairmanship) to get him to do just that.
And he has every motivation to accept such offers if Democrats follow through on this:
...If he continues to alienate his colleagues, Lieberman could be stripped of his seniority within the Democratic caucus should he defeat Democrat Ned Lamont in the general election this November, according to some senior Democratic aides....
Yes, that article (from The Hill) goes on to note that Lieberman
would slot Lieberman to take over as chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the panel primarily responsible for investigating the executive branch.
That wouldn't be good -- but I'd rather have Lieberman there and Democrats in charge of all the other committees than continued GOP control of all the committees.
Don't tell me flatly, "Lamont's gonna win." Not when there's been one poll and Joe leads. And don't tell me he's promised to stick with the Democrats. He'll sell any switch as a "purge." (Maybe he'll even say, "I didn't leave the Democratic Party; the Democratic Party left me.")
Or maybe he'll see no point in taking his Senate seat at all, and take the long-rumored Cabinet position from a grateful Bush administration. (Hugh Hewitt, who might actually reflect administration thinking, proposes Joe for secretary of transportation -- all right-wingers still hate Norman Mineta.* No, Joe won't replace Rumsfeld, who's going to hang on till the bitter end.) And if Lieberman steps down, GOP governor Jodi Rell picks his successor until a special election is held.
I want Lieberman to lose, but I want to keep the lines of communication open. Let me invoke LBJ: I'd rather have Lieberman inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in.
And remember: His treatment at the hands of Democrats will be compared to Arlen Specter's treatment at the hands of the GOP -- and he got to be Judiciary Committee chair.
*(UPDATE: Yeah, I know -- Mineta's now resigned. But click the Hewitt link -- wingnuts still think of the DoT as polluted by Mineta cooties. See also, e.g., Michelle Malkin.)