That kept Lieberman in the fold, and after Arlen Specter switched parties and Al Franken won his election, gave Democrats the 60 votes they needed to break a Republican filibuster against health-care reform. Lieberman’s behavior during the debate was often erratic and seemingly unprincipled. Among other things, he skipped the meetings where Democrats were trying to work out a compromise on the public option, and then he killed the Medicare buy-in proposal they’d developed — despite endorsing that exact proposal months before. In doing so, he doomed a great piece of policy, and by doing it at the last minute, endangered the rest of the bill, too. But the reality is that the legislation simply wouldn’t have passed without his vote. And after extracting his pound of flesh, he voted “aye.”
That wasn’t Lieberman’s only moment as a good soldier for the Democrats: He was one of the key senators behind the effort to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He was also one of the three lawmakers involved in the most credible of the efforts to pass a cap-and-trade bill. The legislation failed, but if it had succeeded, it would’ve been in no small part due to his hard work. And Lieberman was loyal to his party in other ways, too. He was Harry Reid’s single largest donor in the Senate, for instance.
Today, Lieberman announced that he’ll retire in 2012. I imagine there are plenty in his caucus breathing a sigh of relief, and more than a few who will miss him. For the Democrats, Lieberman was the best of friends, and also the worst.
We can agree that the decision to keep Joe Lieberman in the fold ended up as a net positive for the Democrats, and should be counted as one of the better moves by Obama and Reid. However, what Ezra describes here is behavior that is slightly below the minimal acceptable standards for a Democratic Senator in the 111th Congress. It’s quite above the Expected Joe Lieberman Value standard, but this merely acknowledges that the EJLV was staggeringly low. It would be better to say that Joe Lieberman performed substantially below (his leadership on DADT notwithstanding) what we would have expected from Senator Lamont. This is to say that if Ned Lamont had behaved in such a fashion, we would have been surprised, disappointed, and angered.
Joe ain’t all that, and we should be glad that he’s heading for retirement.