Yesterday I wrote about some lessons from Robert Caro’s biography of LBJ’s years in the Senate, Master of the Senate, especially as they regard to the health care reform fight and Harry Reid’s failures of leadership. I wrote:
One thing that Caro’s coverage of LBJ’s Senate tenure makes clear, segregation was preserved and civil rights were delayed for upwards of half a century because of the dominance of conservative Southerners over liberals when it came to understanding the rules and procedures of the Senate. Time after time, liberals were out maneuvered in the civil rights fight. Often their troubles came from an inability to properly count their votes; other times they simply were outsmarted by the master legislators of the South who knew Senate procedure cold. The South had to know how to use the rules to their advantage and they had to know how to count their votes, because they did not control the majority on civil rights and they hadn’t for decades.
Well today it looks like liberals have a golden opportunity to show whether or not we learn our lessons from LBJ or from our liberal predecessors who repeatedly lost civil rights fights in the first 60 years of the last century. Joe Lieberman has come out with a half step in the right direction:
Lieberman said he was “inclined to let the motion to proceed” (or cloture) go forward, but “I haven’t decided yet.”
So he’s saying he might not vote against cloture, but he hasn’t decided. Sadly, my friend Jonathan Singer at MyDD thinks this is equivalent to Lieberman “walk[ing] back his threat” to oppose health care reform. Sorry Jonathan, but this is exactly the sort of vote counting mistake liberals of LBJ’s era made.
I’m much more inclined to take a page from LBJ and not put Holy Joe in our column until we definitively know how he is voting on cloture. As there is still doubt, he should remain in the Nay column.
Lieberman is someone who loves being the center of attention. He loves being the deciding vote. His statement to the New Haven Register today, which shows that he is open to voting for cloture on a bill he will ultimately oppose, is something that might get people to think he’s no longer relevant in the horse trading for cloture votes. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Lieberman wait while Nelson, Landrieu, and Bayh get their price and back off hard when his vote is finally the critical one. Remember, for Lieberman it is all about him, his ego, and his place as a Serious Bipartisan Gentleman. Everything else is the path to his increased importance.