In the GOP press release about Senator Kelly Ayotte that appears disguised as an objective news story in The Washington Post today, we're reminded of a fact that's been utterly ignored by the media since we learned about it a week ago. It concerns the man Ayotte seems to have replaced as John McCain and Lindsey Graham's Third Amigo, Joe Lieberman:
Lieberman has parted ways with his longtime friends on [Susan] Rice, indicating last week that he does not think the Benghazi incident should disqualify her from serving as secretary of state.I'm not sure why Lieberman has given up on his former full-time job of Democrat-bashing -- he must have an offer in the pipeline that's so sweet he's willing to forgo the Fox commenting gig he clearly could have for the asking.
But notice that the press has no interest whatsoever in Lieberman's deviation from Amigothink. Notice that he isn't being invited on Sunday show after Sunday show to explain his apostasy, much less to chide his former allies. Back when Lieberman was a full-time scold of the Democrats, every time he spoke the collective pulse of the Beltway press quickened, as if Sharon Stone had just sat down and crossed her legs. I'm sure the press insiders would have told us at the time that they considered Lieberman a veteran legislator with important ideas about foreign policy informed by years of experience and serious thought. Apparently, now that he's in agreement with the White House, that's no longer what he is. Who'da thunk?
The Ayotte profile ponders the question of whether Ayotte can attain full Amigohood:
Ayotte "can't be a Joe Lieberman," said Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who has been especially vocal in defending Rice. "She's not a Democrat or an independent, and she doesn't bring value in that way. It's just three Republicans standing there going off the deep end on a situation that is not based in fact."This is nonsense. Particularly after the last election, which turned Mitt Romney into a GOP unperson mere days after every Republican in America thought he was going to kick Obama's butt, the Beltway insiders are going to move the goalposts and declare that anyone outside the GOP's white male Bible Belt base is, by definition, a Democrat for the purposes of bipartisanship. Ayotte's a two-fer -- a New England Republican the way Romney once was, and a woman -- so she's practically a Democrat! The same goes for Senator-elect Ted Cruz of Texas: he may be a Soros-bashing, immigrant-bashing teabagger who thinks Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, but he's a Hispanic Republican, so he may the GOP's post-purist savior, according to the insiders. Ultimately, bipartisanship is going to be defined down so much -- for Republicans, though never for Democrats -- that if you deviate in even one tiny way from wingnut orthodoxy, you'll be an honorary moderate, or Democrat, or whatever suits the press's purposes.
But Ayotte does boast some bipartisan credentials. She was twice appointed attorney general in New Hampshire, first by a Republican and then by a Democrat. And McCain and Graham have traditionally been eager to work with Democrats on a wide variety of issues, and she may fit that mold in future years.
"If she's going to replace me, they've found somebody obviously more brilliant and more beautiful," Lieberman said. He praised Ayotte and another GOP first-term senator, Florida’s Marco Rubio, for sharing his "pro-democracy, pro-freedom, keep America strong in the world" principles.
But he counseled that McCain, Graham and Ayotte will need to pull in a Democrat to join their group if their work is to continue to carry weight in the next Congress.