It’s funny how quickly the Washington establishment consensus can change. Just last Fall James Comey was the most vilified and despicable man in DC…the man whom Hilary Clinton blamed personally for her electoral defeat. Congressional Democrats were outraged by his decision to publicly announce the reopening of an investigation into Clinton’s email fiasco, and widely called for his dismissal.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) accused Comey of playing partisan politics, suggesting, “I am writing to inform you that my office has determined that these actions may violate the Hatch Act, which bars FBI officials from using their official authority to influence an election…through your partisan actions, you may have broken the law.”
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His House counterpart Nancy Pelosi was equally irate, noting, “Maybe he’s not in the right job…I think that we have to just get through this election and just see what the casualties are along the way,” while California firebrand Maxine Waters proclaimed, “The FBI director has no credibility.”
So six months ago Comey was a threat to democracy, a maniac attempting to throw an election to the Republicans. Now that Trump has fired him, Comey is a paragon of wisdom and virtue, an innocent lamb sacrificed on the altar of Donald Trump‘s presumed (but entirely unproven) Russian collusion.
Regardless of the outcome of the FBI’s counter-intelligence investigation into alleged Russian interference, it is of paramount importance that Trump appoint someone to head the FBI who is respected ethically, personally, and politically, on both sides of the aisle.
In today’s increasingly divided political scene, that may appear to be damn near impossible. But if anyone could step up to the plate, former Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, a pick from completely out of left field, might fit the bill.
However, his path to confirmation may be more perilous than the cakewalk Donald Trump may have expected, if a recent Politico story, in which several Senate Democrats expressed their reservations, is any indication. Their main critique of Lieberman, is the need for a non-partisan figure with a law enforcement background.
Lieberman is likely unfamiliar to an international audience, and is perhaps best remembered for his condemnation of Bill Clinton’s moral failings during his 1998 impeachment trial, and for teaming with Al Gore in a 2000 presidential bid that left him just a few hanging chads shy of the vice presidency.
Joe Lieberman is neither flashy, nor an attention grubber, but he is someone with a wealth of knowledge and experience in government who could reasonably be expected to inspire sufficient confidence in the wake of Trump’s Russia-related inquisitions, to restore credibility to the key institution.
His path to the Senate was aided by an unlikely ally: National Review head honcho and conservative icon, Bill Buckley, who endorsed Lieberman over liberal Republican Lowell Weicker in the 1988 Connecticut election. Lieberman squeaked out a narrow victory, and served in the Senate from 1989 to 2013, where he became an influential member of the moderate, pro-business wing of the Democratic Party, assuming key roles in the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), the flagship vehicle for the new “moderate” brand of “New Democrats” championed by Bill Clinton.
But during Clinton’s second term, he publicly incurred Lieberman’s wrath, who in the wake of infidelity and perjury, publicly took to the Senate floor to chastise the president:
“I was disappointed because the president of the United States had just confessed to engaging in an extramarital affair with a young woman in his employ and to willfully deceiving the nation about his conduct…I was personally angry because President Clinton had, by his disgraceful behavior, jeopardized his administration’s historic record of accomplishment, much of which grew out of the principles and programs that he and I and many others had worked on together in the new Democratic movement.”
Despite his break with Clinton, he was sufficiently popular to be chosen by Al Gore as his 2000 running mate. The ticket narrowly lost to George W. Bush, winning the popular vote, but losing the pivotal state of Florida and thus the electoral college.
Staking out moderate, pro-business positions, and lining up more with the Republicans on foreign policy, he soon found himself on the outs with the increasingly left-wing of base of the Democratic Party both in his home state, and on a national level. He was narrowly defeated in the 2006 Senate primary, but went on to win as an independent.
In 2008 he endorsed his longtime friend and Senate colleague John McCain in the presidential election, alienating many in his party, and cementing his status as bogeyman of Democrat hard-left activists. In 2012, with polls showing him unpopular in his increasingly left-leaning state, he declined to run for reelection.
Regardless, Lieberman remains one of the most respected figures on both sides of the aisle. He projects an image of sensibility, moderation, and reason. He is in many respects, an anti-Trump. But as Texas Senator John Cornyn noted, Joe Lieberman might be the only political figure in the country who could get 100 votes in the Senate.
He will not be without his detractors. First, his age. He is already 75, and he’s being appointed to a 10 year term. Second, he is filling a position that is rarely led by career politicians. Third (and the most serious complication) is that he has been serving as senior counsel at Kasowitz, Benson, Torres, and Friedman, a law firm closely tied to Donald Trump.
Yet, if Lieberman is nominated today, as is expected, he will likely face a comfortable margin of victory in the Senate. The only question remains: how many of his former Senate Democrat colleagues will vote against him?