The rationale behind the ‘begging’

THE RATIONALE BEHIND THE ‘BEGGING’…. Not to belabor the point, but the exploits of Joe Lieberman have apparently led to some confusion, even among Democrats who should know better.

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) … said he disagreed with stripping Lieberman of his chair. “No, I don’t think there should be retribution,” he said. “I think reconciliation is in order, not revenge or retribution.”

Bayh suggested that Lieberman apologize and “let bygones be bygones.”

Let’s cut the nonsense. Reid offered Lieberman a chance to stay in the Democratic caucus, keep his seniority, and become the chairman of some other committee. Lieberman thinks that’s “unacceptable” and reportedly “begged” to stay on as chairman of Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Bayh thinks this is about “revenge or retribution.” It’s not. For that matter, it’s only partly about holding Lieberman accountable for his betrayals. This is actually about a specific power Lieberman is intent on keeping for a specific reason.

This seems to be routinely overlooked, but take a moment to consider what the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs actually does: it’s the committee principally responsible for oversight of the executive branch. It’s an accountability committee, charged with investigating the conduct of the White House and the president’s administration.

As chairman of this committee for the last two years, Lieberman decided not to pursue any accusations of wrongdoing against the Bush administration. Lieberman’s House counterpart — Rep. Henry Waxman’s Oversight Committee — was a vigilant watchdog, holding hearings, issuing subpoenas, and launching multiple investigations. Lieberman preferred to let his committee do no real work at all. It was arguably the most pathetic display of this Congress.

And yet, now Lieberman acts as if keeping this chairmanship is the single most important part of his public life. Why would he be so desperate to keep the gavel of a committee he hasn’t used? I’ll let you in on a secret: he wants to start using the power of this committee against Obama.

Lieberman didn’t want to hold Bush accountable, but he seems exceedingly anxious to keep the committee that would go after Obama with a vengeance, effectively becoming a Waxman-like figure — holding hearings, issuing subpoenas, and launching investigations against the Democratic president.

Lieberman doesn’t care about “reconciliation,” he cares about going after a Democratic administration. Why else would he fight diligently to be chairman of one committee instead of another?

In anticipation of Senate Dems deciding Lieberman’s fate, MyDD’s Josh Orton, AmericaBlog’s John Aravosis, and others, are getting organized, preparing to push the party to do what Harry Reid apparently wants to do. It’s a very worthwhile endeavor.

Update: It looks like David Sirota was thinking very much along the same lines.