You’d think from what we’re hearing this week from Republicans all over the country that Joseph Lieberman is indeed the Bush Lite politician that his Democratic detractors insist he is. Virtually every major national Republican pol has weighed in with crocodile tears for Lieberman’s narrow primary loss. And in a really odd development, Senate Republican candidates have begun endorsing Lieberman’s indie run in Connecticut. I can’t imagine that these hugs and kisses are any more welcome in Liebermanland than was Bush’s famous “kiss” at State of the Union Address. It’s not like Joe needs Republican help in Connecticut; in the absence of a viable GOP candidate in the race, there’s not a whole lot of doubt that Nutmeg State Republicans would overwhelmingly prefer Lieberman over Lamont in November without any encouragement from on high. And all the love directed at the incumbent from national Republicans could seriously erode his support among Democrats and independents. But here’s what I really want to know: are all these national Republicans embracing Joe Lieberman willing to support anything he stands for other than his position on Iraq, which they claim crazy lefties have illegitimately targeted him for? Will they suddenly develop an interest in dealing with global climate change? Will they agree that labor laws need to be revised to make it easier for workers to organize unions? Are they on board with Lieberman’s ambitious proposal for a federally funded National Center for Cures to speed new medical treatments? Will they take a serious look at Joe’s 2004 tax proposal, that would have made income tax rates actually more progressive than they were before the Bush tax cuts? Will they push for a systematic attack on corporate subsidies in the federal budget and tax code? Not hardly. But don’t expect any honest disclosures that their professed Joemania is about as genuine as Meat Loaf’s vow of eternal love in the classic rock song Paradise by the Dashboard Lights. The GOP’s love for Lieberman is just for one night. And he should inform them to go home and grow up.
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By Ed Kilgore
This year’s big media narrative has been the confirmation saga of Neera Tanden, Biden’s nominee for director of the Office of Management and Budget. At New York I wrote about how over-heated the talk surrounding Tanden has become.
Okay, folks, this is getting ridiculous. When a vote in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on the nomination of Neera Tanden was postponed earlier this week, you would have thought it presented an existential threat to the Biden presidency. “Scrutiny over Tanden’s selection has continued to build as the story over her uneven reception on Capitol Hill stretched through the week,” said one Washington Post story. Politico Playbook suggested that if Tanden didn’t recover, the brouhaha “has the potential to be what Biden might call a BFD.” There’s been all sorts of unintentionally funny speculation about whether the White House is playing some sort of “three-dimensional chess” in its handling of the confirmation, disguising a nefarious plan B or C.
Perhaps it reflects the law of supply and demand, which requires the inflation of any bit of trouble for Biden into a crisis. After all, his Cabinet nominees have been approved by the Senate with a minimum of 56 votes; the second-lowest level of support was 64 votes. One nominee who was the subject of all sorts of initial shrieking, Tom Vilsack, was confirmed with 92 Senate votes. Meanwhile, Congress is on track to approve the largest package of legislation moved by any president since at least the Reagan budget of 1981, with a lot of the work on it being conducted quietly in both chambers. Maybe if the bill hits some sort of roadblock, or if Republican fury at HHS nominee Xavier Becerra (whose confirmation has predictably become the big fundraising and mobilization vehicle for the GOP’s very loud anti-abortion constituency) reaches a certain decibel level, Tanden can get out of the spotlight for a bit.
But what’s really unfair — and beyond that, surreal — is the extent to which this confirmation is being treated as more important than all the others combined, or indeed, as a make-or-break moment for a presidency that has barely begun. It’s not. If Tanden cannot get confirmed, the Biden administration won’t miss a beat, and I am reasonably sure she will still have a distinguished future in public affairs (though perhaps one without much of a social-media presence). And if she is confirmed, we’ll all forget about the brouhaha and begin focusing on how she does the job, which she is, by all accounts, qualified to perform.