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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Friends of Joe Lieberman

Run over in the middle of the road
On Capitol Hill, Joe Lieberman's plan for a bipartisan love-in goes astray.

By Michael Scherer

Sep. 13, 2006 | Tuesday was supposed to be a day of political self-affirmation for Joe Lieberman. The junior senator from Connecticut, who still sits on the Democratic side of the room but is on November's ballot as an independent, was appearing at a series of events that were meant to promote his message of compromise and nonpartisan governance. It's a message that he hopes will resonate with enough voters that he will defeat the nominee of his own party, Ned Lamont. But Tuesday didn't turn out quite as Lieberman planned.

...............Sen. Charles Schumer, the New York senator who is leading Democratic 2006 election efforts, took the opportunity to warn against a continuation of the Bush administration's "grossly mismanaged and underfunded" efforts to protect the nation against terrorist threats.

"This past week everyone has been asking, are we safe?" Schumer announced in a press release handed out to reporters. "Well, if you look at the area of port security, the answer is a resounding no." He proposed an amendment to require a four-year timetable for every cargo container entering the United States to receive a scan for nuclear materials. The proposal had all the trappings of a political gambit. By proposing a strict timeline for 100 percent screening, Schumer and other Democrats could paint Republicans who opposed the amendment as soft on homeland security in the coming election. Under the current bill, as co-written by Lieberman, 100 percent nuclear scanning of overseas cargo would be installed as soon as it was "possible" and "practical," and no timeline is set.

Republicans, for their part, were ready to fight back. Maine Sen. Susan Collins, who chairs the Homeland Security committee and works closely with Lieberman, had sent her staff to circulate an opposition press release to reporters attacking Schumer's amendment. "100% Scanning of Cargo Containers Is a Red Herring,"

But the issues aside, by 10:15 a.m., Lieberman was already losing control of the day's message.............. When it came his turn, Lautenberg began reading Collins' release into the record, implicitly attacking the chairwoman for making such claims on official committee stationery. "If we inspected one out of 20 people going into the White House or coming into this place, would we feel secure?" Lautenberg asked, rhetorically, as Lieberman listened. "I don't think so."

When asked if he thought the Homeland Security committee had been an oasis of bipartisanship, as Lieberman suggested, Lautenberg chuckled. "I mean, come on," he said. "There is a mind-set here that says do it our way or no way." As an example, he pointed to a debate last year over the formula for homeland security grant funding, when Lieberman had sided with the Republican leadership. "Sometimes the best of us err ... Sen. Lieberman agreed with Sen. Collins," Lautenberg complained. "It's hard when there is such harmony in the [committee] leadership."


Though it was not yet lunchtime, Lieberman found himself in the middle of a partisan Catch-22, forced to choose between the compromise bill he had brokered with his Republican partners, and a Democratic proposal that seemed designed to paint Republicans as soft on homeland security. "There is a real confusion on terminology here," Lieberman said of the Schumer proposal.

By the time lunch ended, any semblance of bipartisan cooperation had long since dissipated. Over on the House side of the Capitol, Republican Majority Leader John Boehner had speculated to a reporter that Democrats are "more interested in protecting the terrorists than the American people," a quote that was repeated by reporters for the reactions of senators in the hallway. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada appeared before the television cameras to denounce President Bush's Monday night speech commemorating Sept. 11 as partisan "finger pointing." "We had a wonderful opportunity last night to listen to the president bring people together," Reid said. "He didn't do that."

Note that Schumer and Lautenberg did this to make Lieberman look like shit. Ned Lamont now has another issue to hammer Joe over the head with.

They're throwing him under the bus.

posted by Steve @ 8:21:00 AM

8:21:00 AM

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