NO ‘PUNISHMENT’ WHATSOEVER…. Following up on the last item, at first blush, it seems Senate Democrats chose a minor and inconsequential punishment for Joe Lieberman, instead of a credible and reasonable one. But a closer look suggests Lieberman literally wasn’t “punished” at all.

Going into today, Lieberman chaired the Homeland Security Committee, and chaired subcommittees on the Environment and Public Works Committee and Armed Services Committee. Democrats decided to strip Lieberman of his EPW subcommittee chairmanship.

Sounds like a slap on the wrist, right? As it happens, it wasn’t even that — Lieberman told reporters this afternoon that the caucus changed the rules this morning so that no member can be chair a committee and two subcommittees at the same time. Lieberman keeps the two gavels he wanted, and loses the one he didn’t.

A few months ago, it seemed Lieberman’s role in the caucus was in jeopardy. After Lieberman dictated what he wanted, Senate Democrats decided not to “punish” him for his betrayals in any way.

I’m trying to get additional information about which Dems voted which way, but for now, the AP reports that Sens. Leahy (Vt.), Sanders (Vt.), and Merkeley (Ore.) spoke up against Lieberman during the closed-door meeting. Sens. Reid (Nev.), Durbin (Ill.), and Kerry (Mass.) were among Lieberman’s vocal supporters.

Kevin hit the note that’s been bugging me.

I guess they really showed him, didn’t they? No Democrat will ever dare to support a Republican candidate for president, speak at the Republican national convention in prime time, and bad mouth the Democratic Party’s candidate ever again.

If we put everything else aside, the precedent here really is startling. As I reported last week, in 1964, Rep. John Bell Williams (D) of Mississippi and Rep. Albert Watson (D) of South Carolina both endorsed Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign, and both were punished by losing their seniority. Four years later, Rep. John Rarick (D) of Louisiana endorsed George Wallace’s presidential campaign, and the party stripped him of his committee seniority, too.

Now, Lieberman endorsed McCain, spoke at the GOP convention, helped down-ballot Republicans, and smeared the Democratic nominee at every available opportunity, and the caucus decided to let him off the hook entirely.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.