Dennis Prager managed to interview Senator Lieberman yesterday, on the subject of the proposed bail-out.
Prager: Let’s begin with this: Were you surprised? The public is being told a deal was made and then torpedoed by House Republicans. Is that the fact?
Lieberman: This is not the fact. There was not a deal. There was an agreement, let’s say, among some members of the Senate Banking Committee and the Democrats in the House side of the House Financial Services Committee. They went out and announced it. Frankly, I think they announced it prematurely, because the normal course is to take those agreements back to the four caucuses. So, there never was an agreement. It was clear the House Republicans are very much against the Paulson plan. I was in the Senate Democratic caucus with Paulson the other night—one of my rare appearances these days, Dennis, at Senate Democratic…
Prager: I was thinking that.
Lieberman: And there was a lot of really emotional challenging of Paulson. [It was the same among] Senate Republicans. So no deal, and then Senator McCain came back to try to put one together. I think he’s in a position now as the titular leader of the Republican Party to have a special ability to bring people together. And his goal is to get an agreement that saves the country from an economic disaster—but to make sure the taxpayers’ money is protected in it, and I think that’s the direction in which we’re heading.
Prager: So Senator McCain’s coming back to Washington was helpful?
Lieberman: Yes, I mean the Democrats are trying to put out the message that there was a total agreement and McCain came back and blew it up. That’s just not right, not true. There was no total agreement. The House Republicans particularly were always not part of the proposed agreement and a lot of Republicans and Democrats in both Houses were not part of it. I think McCain went back and forth yesterday afternoon, this morning between Senate and House. He talked to a lot of people, was on the phone with the administration, the White House, Paulson and I think he’s a big part of the reason why it’s down to four strong negotiators that are roomed together. That’s always the best way to get something done. And then they come out to the caucuses. So he felt that there was enough progress made that he could take off for Oxford, Mississippi. He’ll be at the debate tonight, and then he will fly back right afterward to be here tomorrow to see if we can close the deal.
Prager: Did Senator Obama play any analogous role on the Democratic side?
Lieberman: Not that I can see. And that’s an interesting point. I wasn’t in the White House meeting yesterday. Some of the Democrats criticized John McCain for not making a long speech saying that Senator Obama had, but John’s here not to make speeches. It was a very contentious meeting and he basically said for the sake of the country and the people we serve we got to get together and reach a bipartisan agreement. And then he went to work to try to make that happen.