I raised some ire among a few folks recently with my suggestion that Obama should demonstrate his magnanimity by welcoming Lieberman back into the fold. By 8pm on the evening in which I wrote the piece, the evening news had broken a story that Obama himself had let it be known to Harry Reid that Lieberman should be allowed to caucus with Democrats.
Having taken my stand and then having it reaffirmed by Obama, I would hasten to say that this does not mean that Lieberman should be welcomed back without having to accept some responsibility for the policy positions that he took during the campaign which are inconsistent with the visions of the new President. Lieberman has plenty of skills but on national/domestic security issues he has proven himself unworthy of the leadership roles that he previously held. Just as he should be welcomed back because we are better than those who would shun him. He should not be given a leadership position on national security because we are better than the vision that Senator Lieberman expounded in his support of the McCain ticket.
It is a matter of both accepting responsibility for his actions and acknowledging that his vision is inconsistent with that of our President-Elect.
But will Lieberman hold out for his old chairmanships to spite the new President irrespective of Obama’s olive branch? Perhaps. That’s why I would urge President Obama to offer a second olive branch to another Connecticut resident. Former Representative Christopher Shays. Representative Shays is a decent man who is widely respected as a moderate Republican. The first Republican to break with the shameful ethical practices of the disgraced Tom Delay, Shays was also the first Republican to call for a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq.
Shays would be an ideal member of Obama’s governing coalition in any one of a dozen possible positions – including national security. He would also, conveniently, be the ideal counterweight to Lieberman as the Republican most likely to be able to beat Lieberman out of his Senate seat in four years. By offering Shays a place in the Obama administration, President Obama gets a quality person with an independent spirit and creates added incentive for Lieberman to do the right thing.