An appropiate punishment

Only two weeks ago, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sat in a Review-Journal conference room and defended independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, even though the former Democrat had accepted an invitation to speak at the Republican National Convention in support of GOP presidential candidate John McCain.

The Democratic Party's far-left base, which failed to oust Sen. Lieberman from office two years ago over his support for the occupation of Iraq, was already demanding its pound of flesh for another perceived betrayal. They wanted Sen. Lieberman, the party's vice presidential nominee in 2000, stripped of his committee positions.

Sen. Reid said he would stand firm against the crowd.

"All my close votes, he's always with me, whether it's the budget or energy issues," the Nevada Democrat said Aug. 20. "No matter what it is, he's always with us. He just does not vote right on Iraq. ... Why would I want to throw away a good vote?"

But oh, how things can change in just 16 days. To borrow one of Sen. Reid's favorite explanations of political expedience: That was then, this is now.

Sen. Lieberman leveled legitimate, devastating criticisms of Sen. Obama during this week's Republican convention, stating that "eloquence is no substitute for a record," and that Sen. Obama "has not reached across party lines to accomplish anything significant."

So Sen. Reid now assumes his role as the gloomy godfather of the congressional majority. Through his spokesman, Sen. Reid whispered Wednesday that he was "disappointed" with Sen. Lieberman and would decide on an appropriate punishment after November's election.

Sen. Lieberman, you see, is still of some use to Don Harry. Democrats hold only a 51-49 majority in the upper house, and there might yet be a few votes where the Connecticut lawmaker's assistance is required.

But after Nov. 4, when Democrats are expected to pick up a half-dozen seats, Sen. Lieberman will be expendable.

And all those years of friendship and loyalty to the pliable Sen. Reid and the Democratic Party won't be worth a red cent -- or the promise Sen. Reid made only 16 days ago.