The guy who once came within a few hanging chads of becoming vice president of the United States has decided to bow out. Joe Lieberman used to boast about what he called his “Joe-mentum,” but in truth he peaked politically somewhere around 2001, and his Joe-mentum has now dissipated to the point where he no longer can foresee continued employment in the U.S. Senate.So today, one of the Senate’s few centrists – and, to partisans on both sides, perhaps the most infuriating chamber member – is announcing that he won’t seek a fifth term in 2012. Lieberman’s allies are circulating the requisite spin about how, if he had chosen to run again, of course he would win. Yeah, sure. The reality is that he’s too conservative for liberal Connecticut Democrats, too liberal for conservative Connecticut Republicans, and he’s viewed as too unpredictable in general. In his words today, “I have not always fit comfortably into political boxes.” Which is one big reason why his approval rating back home is 33 percent.This day was inevitable, given his ideological gyrations. His constituents have grown weary of his various apostasies, of his incessent threats to defect hither and yon, of never knowing what he might do next. He is surely none too pleased to find himself checkmated – beneath all the public sanctimony, he’s a political animal who has always loved the limelight – but the facts of life are inescapable:If Lieberman had opted to run again in ’12, he’d be challenged from the left in a Democratic primary, and he’d lose badly. Liberal voters well remember how he betrayed his ancestral party in 2008, by campaigning for John McCain, speaking at the Republican convention, and Red-baiting Barack Obama (when asked whether Obama was “a Marxist,” Lieberman replied: “Well, you know, I must say that’s a good question”). And, of course, his Democratic base hasn’t forgotten his stalwart support for George W. Bush’s elective war in Iraq, the worst foreign policy miscalculation of modern times.But defecting to the GOP, so that he could run in ’12 as a Connecticut Republican, would not have worked, either. Wrestling magnate Linda McMahon appears poised to try again; she would easily beat Lieberman in a GOP primary, as would several other lifelong Republicans. It’s hard to imagine that the Republican base would support an arriviste who helped honcho the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, somebody who voted for the economic stimulus plan and health care reform.The independent route is out, too. He managed to win re-election that way in ’06, by forming his own Joe Liberman party, but, as they say in Britain, that was a one-off. The events can’t be replicated. Republicans had a weak, token candidate last time around, so the Bush White House quietly tilted toward Lieberman, enabling him to garner sufficient Republican votes to prevail in a three-way contest.So he lacks a viable market niche. The upside (for him, anyway) is that he can oscillate freely between the Democratic and Republican camps during his final two years, without worrying about political blowback.From (nearly) a heartbeat away from the presidency, to the precipice of forced retirement…such are the career arcs in the Darwinian realm of politics. Lieberman today is quoting a passage from Ecclesiastes — “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under Heaven” – and believes that it frames his present circumstance. But perhaps the lyrics from an old Rolling Stones song are more apt:Yes, you are left outOut of there without a doubt‘Cause baby, baby, baby, you’re out of time——-If Lieberman had ever actually made it to the White House – you may recall that he tried, disastrously so, in the ’04 Democratic primaries – he surely would have been a more dignified occupant than Lyndon B. Johnson. We all know that LBJ in his day was a master of legislative detail, but apparently he was just as meticulous about his…pants. And the way he wanted his pants to fit comfortably, when in close proximity to his…uh, you know. Let’s go to the audio – a recorded Oval Office conversation, starring LBJ and a very patient slacks store executive.——-Quote of the week, from the new Alabama governor, Baptist Church deacon Robert Bentley – on his first day in office, offering advice that will no doubt interest Alabama’s Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, and the other apparently unworthy creatures:”Anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I’m telling you, you’re not my brother and you’re not my sister.”Just what we need – yet another intolerant conservative Republican. It’s probably safe to assume that Bentley’s realm will not be a vacation destination for retiree Joe Lieberman.