Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 14, 2009

WHAT IF.... Over the last several months, Joe Lieberman has been anything but consistent on health care reform. He's been all over the map on explaining his opposition to the public option; he's signaled support and opposition to a Medicare buy-in; he's said he does and doesn't want to see health care reform get done this year, etc.

But there's one thing Lieberman has been entirely consistent on: whatever the left is for, he's against.

It's obviously just a thought experiment, and we'll never know for sure, but I wonder what would have happened if liberals had said the Medicare buy-in/public-option trigger was a wholly unacceptable compromise.

In general, some of the leading progressive reform proponents said the opposite.

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), one of Congress' fiercest supporters of the public option, has come out to support the Medicare buy-in proposal in the Senate Democrats' deal.

"This is one idea I like a lot," Weiner said in an email to the Daily News, calling the idea "remarkable." [...]

It's a plan that "would perhaps get us on the path to a single payer model," Weiner said. "In a debate that hasn't focused enough on how to genuinely contain costs and deliver affordable health care, this is one idea I like a lot."

Around the same time, Howard Dean expressed some support for the compromise framework, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said the compromise may be even "better" than the watered-down public option.

Just for the sake of discussion, what if Weiner, Dean, and Sanders had all expressed disappointment with the Medicare buy-in compromise? Would Lieberman -- who not only ran on a Medicare buy-in platform in 2000, but also signaled some preliminary support for the idea last week -- be willing to kill reform over the idea now?

Obviously, this presumes that Joe Lieberman is a small, bitter man, who puts foolish vendettas over the interests of his constituents and his country. Given the circumstances, that doesn't strike me as an outrageous stretch.

Steve Benen 10:50 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (27)

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If the Democrats had played hardball with this guy we wouldn't be in this situation.

It's absolutely mind boggling to me that one member of a legislative body can kill health care reform that millions of Americans would benefit from, and his power is entirely derived from acquiescent colleagues that have the ability to strip him of his power but refuse to do so.

I just don't get it.

Posted by: citizen_pain on December 14, 2009 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

You answer your own question. Even if progressives had tricked Lieberman into accepting the Medicare buy in by themselves pretending to oppose it, he would have found something else to use as an excuse to oppose cloture. This probably also holds for Ben Nelson and possibly Blanche Lincoln. Reid is going to have to drop the Medicare buy in and figure out what kind of bill can win the votes of Collins, Snowe, Landrieu, and Lincoln. Lieberman is a lost cause. For all intents and purposes, he's a Tea Bagger now.

Posted by: Ron E. on December 14, 2009 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Lieberman gets a two-fer out of all this: he is a bought-and-paid-for creature of Big Insurance, so he's always going to do their bidding..after all, once he's out of office, he'll get a nice, fat consultancy or something similar, for the mid-six-figures or better, from Big Insurance.

And, of course, he gets to fuck up all the people who tried to defeat him in 2006. And he gets to be on TV all the time. Lieberman is a very happy man right now.

Scum, but a happy man. He's pursuing his own benefit, purely and simply, and fuck anyone who gets in his way. A real sweetheart.

I knew he was scum when Gore picked him in 2000, and he's just gotten worse since. The question I have is why Reid ever thought he would get squat from the guy. Shows a real lack of basic political instinct.

Posted by: LL on December 14, 2009 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

If the Democrats had played hardball with this guy we wouldn't be in this situation.

I doubt very seriously that that is true. That is, I do not believe Lieberman really gives a shit about his chairmanships and he certainly doesn't care about them enough to advance the progressive agenda in exchange. My point is, "play hardball" with Lieberman or don't but I suspect you still wouldn't have his vote.

Posted by: brent on December 14, 2009 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

Shuffle and cut Lieberman

I think you are right Steve.
When you reported Weiner's and Dean's embrace of the compromise the other day I cringed and thought:

Damn it to hell. Too soon. We are playing poker here with sociopaths.
Don't jump up and shout Bingo for God's sake...

The left has got to learn this lesson someday huh?


Posted by: koreyel on December 14, 2009 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

What if Dems announce that anyone who votes with the Rs against cloture can leave the caucus and lose all seniority, and that they are going to force an actual f-buster? And they just say, "We're not going to continue to let thousands die every year for lack of insurance"?

Posted by: Dems lose huge in 2010 on December 14, 2009 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

If Obama and Reid can't beat HoJoe, how do they expect to "win" in Afghanistan or anywhere else.

There are ways to deal with HoJoe. Real, substantial, paradigm defining ways that would put HoJoe in his place and move needed and supposedly wanted legislation forward. If Obama and Reid can't pull that off then they are crappy at their jobs. Reid has been crappy all along. Obama is defining his clout and it ain't looking good. Especially after kowtowing to Lieberputz far too much already.

Posted by: burro on December 14, 2009 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

I'm a little surprised that the Countdown/MSNBC mobile free clinic hasn't shown up in Connecticut yet.
Possibly because Lieberman is so far past embarrassment.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on December 14, 2009 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

Getting tough with Lieberman wouldn't have done any good. He'd still be a Senator and still be a vote against cloture. Driving him to the Republican side might have given the Dems a chance to claim that they only had 59 votes. Instead they look completely ineffective by being unable to pass their agenda with "60."

I don't see how Lieberman is running again in 2012, so this entire term is predicated on spite. Maybe if he's powerless and the GOP doesn't take back the Senate, he leaves earlier. Frankly, Reid would help himself on his left flank if he came out and stripped Lieberman of his committee assignments.

Posted by: Mike from Detroit on December 14, 2009 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

I just sent an e-mail to Holy Joe. Everyone should.

Also, call his office:

DC 202-224-4041
CT 860 549-8463

Let him know what you really think. Personally, I like MY's "sociopath" label. Fits like a glove.

Posted by: worcestergirl on December 14, 2009 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

But there's one thing Lieberman has been entirely consistent on: whatever the left is for, he's against.

My good friend Joe was mightily upset when his dear friend John was attacked by a dirty fucking Kenyan Muslim who had no right whatsoever to try and run for President. Joe also told me the insurance companies in his state, that BTW has the highest concentration of insurance companies in the country with 72 headquarters, just pay too damn well.

P.S. I'm staying in the closet. South Carolina is a frightening place for a gay man.

Posted by: Lindsey Graham on December 14, 2009 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

Oh Lieberman's been consistent alright. Consistently against healthcare reform and unwilling to vote for reform under any circumstances. His excuses may vary, but he's been consistent.

Posted by: Bobo Teh Clown on December 14, 2009 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

What if it's just something simple. What if he has some grudges against the democratic party, and he just wants to fuck with us for as long as he's allowed ? After all, what has he ever done or said that demonstrates he has anything going on inside that pimple on his shoulders ?

Posted by: rbe1 on December 14, 2009 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

"Obviously, this presumes that Joe Lieberman is a small, bitter man, who puts foolish vendettas over the interests of his constituents and his country..."

That's actually the most generous reading of Lieberman's current behaviour. The only other alternative is that he actually spent all the rest of his political career pretending to give a crap about anyone else,whilst wistfully dreaming for the day he'd have the political cover necessary to screw the entire country. 45,000-lives-lost-a-year-level screwing, at that.

I can't wait for 2012. Vote Lieberman: It's not impossible to conclude he wants you dead for reasons other than spite.

Posted by: SpaceSquid on December 14, 2009 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

Seems to me that there is really only one way to deal with dirtbags like Lieberman. Forget 'hardball' tactics like taking away chairmanships and all that BS.

It's time to get personal. Start digging for dirt and threatening to put it out in the open. A guy like Joe, who's been in this game so long, he's got dirt somewhere. Find his mistresses, uncover his 'more than friendly' relationship with a Congressional aide, shed some light on his 'investments'. It's not blackmail in the US Senate, it's 'leverage'. Start using it.

Posted by: Gridlock on December 14, 2009 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Gridlock you may be on to something. The only motivation behind megalomaniacs like LIEberman is the amplification of their personal grandeur.

The threat of a national scandal to sully and tarnish his reputation may be the only thing he reacts to.

Posted by: citizen_pain on December 14, 2009 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

Gridlock, you forgot one thing: if we can't find something on him, we just make it up. Isn't that what his fellow republicans would do ?

Posted by: rbe1 on December 14, 2009 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

"Obviously, this presumes that Joe Lieberman is a small, bitter man, who puts foolish vendettas over the interests of his constituents and his country. Given the circumstances, that doesn't strike me as an outrageous stretch."

True, but you forget he plays are from Aetna's playbook, and they are in for the money, not foolish vendettas.

Posted by: Ohioan on December 14, 2009 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Democrats won't get Lieberman's vote on health care or anything else that matters. He's deranged with political grief -- rejected as presidential material in 2004, rejected in the 2006 Democratic primary for senator, indirectly rejected when John McCain lost in 2008 -- and he's taking revenge on the Democratic Party by doing his utmost to sabotage the party's agenda. He cannot be appeased.

How much longer will Democrats behave like battered wives in dealing with him? It's time to give him the heave-ho; time to strip him of chairmanships, of seniority, of membership in the caucus. Banish him to 40 years in the political desert. Harry Ried cannot count on Lieberman's vote for anything: it's time to admit that.

Somehow, Democrats must find a way to induce Olympia Snowe to switch parties. She's in trouble with Maine's GOP base for being too liberal, so she'd be well advised to cross the aisle.

Ultimately, of course, we must find a way to make the Senate a legislative chamber in which the majority rules. Lieberman would be just another soured Senator were it not for the power he derives from the perversions of democracy that infest the Senate's Rules.

Posted by: James Conner on December 14, 2009 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

Hot tar and feathers, I mean it.

Posted by: Troll-op on December 14, 2009 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

When Lieberman refused to join the "gang of 10" Senators who negotiated the compromise, it was a clear signat that he intended to oppose whatever the result was.

It is absolutely outrageous that he (1) refused to participate in the compromise effort and (2) now threatens to filibuster. Whatever the ultimate outcome of this battle, the man should be stripped of his committee chairs and any other perks given him by the Senate majority. What benefit have the Democrats derived from having Lieberman on their side of the aisle this session?

Posted by: DRF on December 14, 2009 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

For me, this is Obama's real test. Afghanistan isn't "winnable," no matter what he or anyone else does. If he can't figure a way to beat a corrupt creature like Lieberman, he isn't the man I thought he was.

I fervently hope that behind the scenes Rahm Emmanuel is offering Olympia Snow and Susan Collins the moon to switch over to the Democrats, the moon being unlimited campaign support in both money and Obama's time, so they can forego insurance company money and still win their next elections. If he's not, if Obama is waiting for dithering, deer-in-the-headlights Harry Reid ("Oh, my god, Lieberman is a putz! Who knew?") to somehow work a miracle and get health care passed, then he's much dumber than I thought.

Posted by: dalloway on December 14, 2009 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

"If the Democrats had played hardball with this guy we wouldn't be in this situation."

Darn right we wouldn't. Joe would have switched to the Republican side and we would have no chance of getting 60 for any kind of HCR.

(Not that I like this situation - I hate it. I wish to hell Lamont had won. But he didn't. We're supposed to the be reality-based party, so why don't we start facing reality.)

Posted by: Virginia on December 15, 2009 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

I knew he was scum when Gore picked him in 2000, and he's just gotten worse since. The question I have is why Reid ever thought he would get squat from the guy. Shows a real lack of basic political instinct.
Posted by: LL

reid had no choice ... he played the cards he had ...

Posted by: mudwall jackson on December 15, 2009 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

If Lieberman is Lieberman then all this teeth gnashing is a waste of our time. Nothing is going to change him as he seems to enjoy his general dickishness. He's still mad at liberals, and always will be.

You can't change him, but someone might want to take a stab at his staff. Presumably some of these folks are tired of working for a megalomaniac and might just want to have a future in Washington-- like next year when Joe is chairing the "I fucked Obama cuz it was fun committee."

They should be resigning NOW, or being called out. If you wanna stop Joe-mentum, you gotta stop his water carrying lackeys.

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Posted by: Kelli on March 10, 2010 at 3:03 AM | PERMALINK

nsightful thoughts here. Are you certain this is the best way to look at it though? My experience is that we should pretty much live and let live because what one person thinks just -- another person simply doesn't. People are going to do what they want to do. In the end, they always do. The most we can yearn for is to highlight a few things here and there that hopefully, allows them to make just a little better informed decision. Otherwise, great post. You're definitely making me think! --Barry

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