Joe Lieberman


At last, Minnesota’s long statewide nightmare is over.

Norm Coleman finally conceded his former U.S. Senate seat to Al Franken, who, as it turned out, won the seat by a mere 312 votes in the November 2008 election, 239 days ago. An entire NBA season was played between the election and its conclusion. (Actually, the NBA season started a week before the election, but you get my point — Minnesotans surely are relieved to hear they finally will have dual representation in the U.S. Senate again after an eight-month election recount battle.)

Coleman decided to throw in the towel  following the Minnesota Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in favor of Franken. This likely isn’t the last we’ve heard of Coleman, though; many political analysts expect him to run for the Minnesota governorship again. (He previously lost that race to former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, giving Coleman the distinction of losing political races to a former pro wrestler and a former comedian.)

The biggest significance of Franken’s victory is the Democrats now have a 60-seat supermajority capable of preventing Republican filibusters in the Senate — sort of. The Democrats actually have only 59 U.S. senators (Joe Lieberman is an independent who caucuses with the Democrats), and two of them (Robert Byrd and Ted Kennedy) are in poor health. Some other Democratic senators (members of the Moderate Dems Working Group come to mind) certainly are not rubber-stamp votes for all Democratic bills. Nonetheless, the Republicans still have only 40 senators, so the Democrats have no one to blame but themselves if they don’t pass the kinds of legislation they promised voters.

Norm Coleman before he adopted John Kerry's hairstyle

Norm Coleman before he adopted John Kerry's hairstyle

I generally try to ignore what Dick Cheney says these days, but I took notice Sunday when the former vice president said Colin Powell is no longer a Republican.

Here’s the gist of the matter, as reported on CNN’s Web site:

Appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Cheney was asked about a dispute between Powell — who was secretary of state in the Bush-Cheney administration — and radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh over the role each plays in the GOP.

“My take on it was Colin had already left the party,” Cheney said. “I didn’t know he was still a Republican.”

The former vice president noted that Powell endorsed then-Sen. Barack Obama in last year’s presidential race. “I assume that that’s some indication of his loyalty and his interests,” Cheney said.

Powell, in a speech last week, said “the Republican Party is in deep trouble” and said the GOP would be better off without Limbaugh, according to a report by the National Journal.

Limbaugh fired back on his program Wednesday, saying, “What Colin Powell needs to do is close the loop and become a Democrat instead of claiming to be a Republican interested in reforming the Republican Party.”

So Cheney and Limbaugh consider Powell a Democrat because he endorsed Obama for president? Does that mean they consider Joe Lieberman a Republican because he endorsed John McCain for president?

Interestingly, Cheney wants to boot Powell from the GOP but claims “there is room for moderates in the Republican Party” :

But, he added, “I don’t think the party ought to move dramatically to the left, for example, in order to try to redefine its base. We are what we are. We’re Republicans. We have certain things we believe in. And maintaining our loyalty and commitment to those principles is vital to our success.”

The next journalist who interviews Cheney needs to ask him for some examples of acceptable GOP moderates, because I’m curious who would be on that list.

Just as both major political parties have done when down in the past, the Republican Party will regain prominence — but first Republican leaders need to embrace moderate voices within their party. Unfortunately for them, tolerance of GOP moderates is hard to envision when vocal partisans like Cheney and Limbaugh are quick to expel any Republican who dares to disagree with them. The Republican Party needs vocal leaders who are more tolerant of true GOP moderates, and those vocal leaders must be able to out-shout Limbaugh and company. Until that time comes, it is likely the GOP will continue to struggle for relevancy on a national level.

“I can’t wait to begin to tell my side of the story and to address you guys and, most importantly, the people of Illinois. That’s who I’m dying to talk to.”

When I heard Blagojevich make that comment to reporters yesterday, my first thought was, You’re the governor, you can talk to the people of Illinois anytime you want.

Of course, I realize Blagojevich was “lawyering up” to avoid incriminating himself further while coming up with a defense against the vast corruption allegations he faces.

Nonetheless, Blagojevich may break his silence tomorrow, the 10th day since his arrest. I can’t wait to hear what excuse he came up with. A hint may have been dropped today by the governor’s lawyer, Ed Genson (who sounds eerily like Joe Lieberman, the independent U.S. senator from Connecticut), who claimed the federal wiretaps that recorded Blagojevich discussing pay-to-play schemes were obtained illegally.

I highly doubt U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and the FBI recorded Blagojevich illegally, but I suppose anything is possible when it comes to technicalities of the law as applied to the rich and powerful. “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is,” as former President Bill Clinton once said.

In any case, it is clear from the tapes that Blagojevich is in the wrong and deserves to be booted from office. What really ticks me off about him now is his steadfast refusal to resign and stop wasting taxpayer dollars. But obviously Blagojevich suddenly feels compelled to become a workaholic – probably so he can get paid to shred evidence and do some last-minute scheming. It wouldn’t surprise me if he is vigorously working on a plea agreement proposal, something outrageous like he will resign if charges aren’t brought against him. Blagojevich is probably just crazy enough to try something like that.

Today Blagojevich reportedly reviewed the clemency petitions of about 60 convicted felons. It probably is a priority for him to make sure he hands out “get out of jail free” cards to everyone whom he promised them, so nobody crooked comes after him with a pair of brass knuckles – or worse – after he inevitably leaves office.