Another note on Lieberman: the Jeffords precedent

Do yourself a favor and read Barton Gellman’s book Angler: the Cheney Vice Presidency, for all kinds of reasons. It has gotten a lot of good press and rightly so.

One passage that has been overlooked, however, concerns the debate within the Bush Administration about what to do with Jim Jeffords, whom we might think of as the Republicans’ Joe Lieberman. Jeffords threatened to leave the caucus, giving the Democrats control over the Senate, unless Bush acceeded to his demand for greater special education funding (which Bush had promised and remains the right thing to do).

Obviously, the Bush people were livid. It was Cheney who persuaded the President not to back down, and the result was Jeffords bolting to the Democrats. Like so much else about Cheney, his advice was bad. Had 9/11 not occurred, it could have kept Bush from unified control of Congress for the remainder of his term.

But the interesting position, as Gellman describes it, was taken by Karl Rove, who said something to the effect of: “give him what he wants now, and then we will screw him at a more opportune time.” What Rove meant by that, or what he was thinking, is not mentioned, mainly because it became moot.

But it might be worth thinking about ahead of time if, as I fear, Lieberman stays off the reservation.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.