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Richard Celeste
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Richard Celeste

A former governor and director of the Peace Corps, Ambassador Richard Celeste is President of Colorado College.

Ego over team-work

Although Joe Lieberman calls himself an independent, he welcomed the campaign support of Barack Obama during his tough reelection campaign. And he asked to retain his position as chair of the Homeland Security Committee as well as caucus with the Democrats. In my experience, when you accept a leadership position on behalf of a political party you have an obligation to support the party on key votes. What made Lieberman's position all the more deplorable was the fact that he reversed himself on a position (Medicare buy in) that he had advocated just a few months previously.

Yes, there are moments when any elected official must be guided by his conscience. But for those who have long labored to put together a coalition for meaningful health-care reform, Joe Lieberman seemed to put ego ahead of teamwork and, in my view, the public interest.

By Richard Celeste

 |  December 21, 2009; 1:43 PM ET
Category:  Political leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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It's not hard to understand why we liberals are fed up with Joe Lieberman. Just to name two, 1.) He lost the Democratic nomination for Senate but felt unconstrained by convention and protocol to lose gracefully, a show of massive egomania if ever there was one, and 2.) he supported John McCain. If the shoe was on the Republican foot, the screaming about his disloyalty would go to eleven.

Posted by: scmc | December 22, 2009 11:31 PM
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With not a single Republican senator voting for the bill, I am dumbfounded to see criticism of Democrats for expecting senators who have leadership positions to support important legislation. Given that he switched his positions on the very issues that were key, I can only wonder if he didn't understand the issues in the first place or bowed to some important donors' pressure. Neither possibility puts him in a good light.

Seems to me the Republicans had six years when they controlled both congress and the executive. The debt skyrocketed during that period with their spend and cut taxes approach. We also lost the respect of the rest of the world during this period of gross mismanagement.

Obama and his party are at least trying to place us on a level playing field with the rest of the advanced nations of the world who enjoy lower mortality rates AND lower per capita cost of care. As a nation, we can no longer afford the dysfunctional health care we receive and that serves only special interests well. They have also done excellent work at restoring our position of respect in the world.

Posted by: rsvaught | December 22, 2009 3:57 PM
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The problem with the Leiberman vote is that he consistently campaigned and supported the public option and early buy-in as essential to the health care bill. This pleased his constituents and helped get him reelected Then, as it appeared those options would really be included, he reversed himself, first on the public option and then on the 55 y.o. buy in, effectively gutting competition and the possibility of lower prices to the consumer (he also voted, along wth Chris Dodd) against buying cheaper U.S. approved canadian drugs. A decent bill became a gift to the insurance companies. JL hasn't even explained what it was that made him change his stance. He says its the deficit, but that was huge when he was supporting the public option as 'required'. The man's a liar, and thats why I'm criticizing him, He lied to me. What's so hard to understand?

Posted by: johnk8601 | December 22, 2009 3:09 PM
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I agree Bidalah. Lieber-pucky called Jane Hampshire "McCarthyite" for "targeting" his wife who sat (sits) on various boards of insurance companies and health groups who have written this bill. Joe should be called McCarthy for denying everyone else the righ to vote.

Posted by: libertyanne | December 22, 2009 1:39 PM
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This is ridiculous. Joseph Lieberman was not elected on Democratic ticket and infact the party did not even give him ticket. Still he was elected as the voters did not like the party's choice. He did not ask for any financial favor or funds like senators from Louisiana,Nebraska and other states. Does he not have choice to do what is good for the country's economy in his opinion ?. in 1996 just because of defection of one senator from Vermont the republican party became a minority. If that had not happened so many bills would have been defeated and the economy might have been different. The Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac scandals might have been averted. Who knows. The very fact that even his wife was targeted to make him change his vote was a shame. In the other defense bill many senators voted against the party (which included Jim Webb from VA. Why target only Lieberman who voted according to his conscience ?.If the party had such principles why did they allow Arlin Specter to defect though he was elected because of the former president Bush?. If everyone has to abide by party whip, there is no need for voting any bill. The bill can be unanimously approved. Further the party can always remove him from the chairmanship if it wants to. Why does it not do ?

Posted by: ganeshan | December 22, 2009 11:24 AM
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While I see some merit in the following statement: "When you accept a leadership position on behalf of a political party you have an obligation to support the party on key votes." Political leaders seem to forget that their ultimate obligation should be to the people who elected them.

Posted by: TKH2 | December 22, 2009 11:22 AM
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Leiberwocky has exhibited every trait you expect in a Federal Republican Politician with EGO being the largest and most obvious. He has opposed EVERY idea of progress , even his own, during this process and has tried to make sure that every GOOD thing that existed in the original legislation got ripped out - publicly and ugly.

He personally represents EVERYTHING electing constituents need to be informed about before voting.. LIES, personal bribes, personal ego which takes NONE of his state's inhabitants into account, voting record exactly the opposite of what he committed, etc..etc..etc.. Just what you should expect...

Good leader for a prison block....

Posted by: rbaldwin2 | December 22, 2009 9:46 AM
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I think the judgement day for Lieberman will come. Conventional wisdom has it that the Democrats are going to lose seats in the Senate next year. When the number 60 is not achievable with or without Lieberman I bet they will boot him from the Chairmanship if not the Caucus. Let him then show his true color.

Posted by: steviana | December 21, 2009 7:23 PM
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I don't fault Lieberman a bit for voting his conscience, and he can change his mind as much as he wants to. But there is a whole world of difference between casting your vote and denying every member of the political party you caucus with, the right to vote their conscience too. It is Lieberman determination to kill any Democratic bill that does not meet with his approval that should cost him his Chairmanship and his membership in the Democratic caucus.

Posted by: bidalah | December 21, 2009 6:26 PM
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