That’s right. It seems Lieberman played a crucial role in talking several Republicans off the ledge, thereby vindicating President Obama’s refusal to be vindictive toward the Connecticut Senator, who had some nasty things to say about Obama and Democrats in general during the presidential campaign. Lieberman has always been a moderate-progressive on economic issues so his vote should not be a surprise–but his active lobbying for the bill has to be considered directly attributable to the grace with which Obama treated him. Those who wonder about the President’s efforts to be nice to Republicans–a singularly ungracious lot, cult-like in their devotion to failed economic policies past–should bear this particular example in mind as we go forward.
I’ll make several points here:
1) Homeland Security is one of the most graft-ridden, wasteful departments in the federal government with an annual budget of $56 billion and Joe Lieberman as chairman of that Senate committee won’t exercise any oversight. Taking away his gavel is not "vindictive," it would have been an important step in exerting "fiscal responsibility" and breaking up the nexus of contractor corruption in Washington (which is something Obama campaigned on).
2) Is Klein saying that Lieberman’s "active lobbying for the bill" was only something he did because Obama flattered him, and that in the absence of that, he would not have acted out of principle? I’m not sure that’s a compliment.
3) Anyone who looks to this as a shining example of how to deal with Republicans might consider that it was pretty much an epic fail, and they wound up cringing in the coat room and worrying about primary challenges from the Club for Growth should they stray from party orthodoxy. On the News Hour last night Christina Romer now claims the bill will save or add 3.5 million jobs (as opposed to the 4 million previously touted), so half a million jobs were axed from the bill to curry their favor. Even Rahm Emanuel says it was a mistake and the President will "shift from bipartisan overtures to outright mockery of his opposition." So I’m not sure what the point is.
4) Lieberman’s numbers in Connecticut are in the tank. In a head-to-head race, Dick Blumenthal would beat him 58% to 30%. His approval rating with Democrats in his own state is 21/70 — he has to get with the program or face an electoral wipeout in 2012. The Ryan Grim article Klein links to says he only came in at the end of the negotiations, in time to take credit and get his face before the camera (see video).
That’s the Lieberman you can count on.