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Obama backs Lieberman, irks bloggers
Question of the Day
The liberal blogosphere that helped elect President-elect Barack Obama has erupted in fury over his successful push to let Sen. Joe Lieberman stay as chairman of a key committee despite the Connecticut independent’s active support for Mr. Obama’s opponent during the presidential campaign.
Many in the “netroots” — the Web-based movement of progressive bloggers and activists — had insisted that Senate Democrats strip Mr. Lieberman of his chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and howled in protest when he was not.
“Apparently, the American people didn’t vote for change,” complained Markos Moulitsas, founder of dailykos.com, in an entry posted on his site that was laced with angry sarcasm.
To calm the waters, Obama ally Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee and one of the first politicians to harness the power of the “netroots,” did four separate conference calls with liberal bloggers within hours of the Senate’s Tuesday vote allowing Mr. Lieberman to retain his chairmanship.
On one call in particular, Mr. Dean faced an angry audience.
“With all due respect, Governor Dean, we were all just told to go screw ourselves,” said Jane Hamsher, the top writer at firedoglake.com, a widely read liberal blog, according to a transcript of the call with Mr. Dean that was posted on her site.
“We were told to go ‘Cheney’ ourselves,” she said, referring to the vice president’s famous 2004 use of an expletive directed at a Democratic senator.
The episode served as a warning to the future Obama administration. Although the blogosphere has been used to rouse and mobilize passionate supporters, those supporters can be fickle.
Mr. Dean, the former Vermont governor who has been known himself for an uncompromising style of politics, said that his instinct had been to punish Mr. Lieberman for campaigning and speaking on behalf of Republican Sen. John McCain’s presidential bid.
“People of my generation think, ‘Yeah, damn right we should,’” he said on the call. “But in the new spirit of reconciliation, which is why I think Barack Obama got elected by 66 percent of the under-35 vote, maybe it’s not the way.”
Mr. Obama had encouraged Democratic senators not to seek retribution against Mr. Lieberman, and said he hoped the senator would still caucus with Democrats.
“I’m sure that the sentiment online is one of outrage. But I would line up with Barack,” Mr. Dean said.
“I don’t think you were told to go screw yourselves at all,” Mr. Dean said. “I think [Mr. Obama] has now got to practice what he preached during two years of campaigns, that he wants to bring America together.”
A spokesman for the Obama transition team declined to comment.
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