President-elect Obama likely picked up two new votes for his domestic agenda last night: Mark Begich (AK) and Joe Lieberman (FU). On Lieberman, partisans like me wanted vengeance but Obama continues to pursue his oh-so-annoying-because-it-makes-sense approach to ignoring slights in favour of his pursuit of The Prize. Savvy commentators have also pointed out why Lieberman so richly deserved to lose his chairmanship for policy reasons but also how Obama, as a poker player, can win in the end.
It's almost as if Obama knows the difference between strategy and tactics.
Obama wants to move a big agenda. He needs to have as close to 60 votes as possible in the Senate (paging Senators Collins and Snowe). He needs to have a White House staff and departmental leadership that can deliver on his ambitions for the country and the world. I believe a pattern is forming: Obama is forgiving enemies, securing votes and selecting many experienced, clever Clintonistas so that he can govern with maximum effectiveness. This is politik as policy more then politics. In the short term he might pay a political price in terms of complaints from his left flank on Lieberman and the embrace of the Clintons, in the long term his bet is that history will judge him not for what he did with Joe, Bill and Hillary but rather with the economy, national security, healthcare and climate change.