On Lieberman and Stevens, Democrats and Republicans Took the Easy Way Out

Wrist-slaps and dodges on the Hill.

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Neither political party in the Senate earned any profiles in courage awards for actions last week. When it came time to deal with waywards, both wilted.

The Democrats told Sen. Joe Lieberman to go to his room for a timeout. That was his punishment for several betrayals of his party, of which he was open and blatant.

First, he spent most of the last year as a shirttail to Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee. At home and abroad, Lieberman was nearly always in the photo ops with that big smirk on his face. Several sources said McCain wanted to tap Joe as his running mate but was talked out of it.

At the GOP convention in St. Paul, Minn., Lieberman said he would only praise McCain and not criticize Barack Obama. Of course, he did so by calling him naive and unqualified to be commander in chief.

Lieberman went on the road briefly with Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, introducing her with flourishes and citing Obama's early life association with radical William Ayres as "fair game." He was a willing player in the guilt-by-association game played out by the Karl Rove-trained consultants.

Going another step, Lieberman got involved in the Minnesota Senate race between Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken. He praised Coleman's role in the Senate. That race is still unsettled and will be decided in a ballot-by-ballot count into December.

When the Democrats met last week on Lieberman's transgressions, it was decided to strip him of a minor subcommittee post but leave him as chairman of the important Homeland Security Committee. The vote was 42 to 13 after Obama gave his blessing to the minor slap.

So what? It was up to the senators to decide the issue.

Count me with the 13 who wanted more severe punishment for a man who knew exactly what he was doing. One question: Will Joe go running to McCain next year to tell him or others what the Democrats are doing behind closed doors?

On Meet the Press Sunday, Lieberman used the word "reconciliation" several times to explain how he was

looking ahead in the Democratic caucus. He said he regretted some of his words in the campaign. It wasn't an apology at all for a year full of stabs in the back.

As for the Republicans, they took a pass on voting to expel Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska from their caucus. Stevens had been convicted last month on seven counts of lying about a quarter-million dollars in gifts from home state pals.

The GOP senators, rather than give the boot to a convicted felon, delayed the decision for 48 hours. They had to know that Democratic candidate Mark Begich was picking up an insurmountable lead and had defeated Stevens' bid for re-election. The matter became moot, and the senators did not have to take a stand on their 85-year-old colleague.

The decisions in the two parties sent another message to voters: When it comes to dealing with their own in

Congress, members take the easy way out.

  • Click here to read more by John W. Mashek.
  • Click here to read more about Joe Lieberman.
  • Click here to read more about Ted Stevens.