Monday, 14 December 2009

In Which I Throw up my Hands and Shout "These People are Crazy!"

So as you will know, I have recently been writing and thinking about how it may be OK for progressives to give up some things they really care about in the service of pushing forward a health care reform that will make the whole system better.

I was willing to swallow a hideously anti-woman provision on abortion.

I was willing to argue against my fellow progressives in pointing out that there may be other ways to achieve cost savings apart from the (preffered) approach of pursuing the public option.

I have been urging progressives to recognise that so many people will die (about 150,000, by a conservative estimate, apparently) without healthcare reform, and so many more will be financially ruined, that it was worth an awful lot of pain and sacrifice to get it through. I have been arguing that the passage of this bill will make so many people's lives so much better - even considering that (in the case of the Stupak amendment) a lot of lives would actually be made worse - that the only responsible thing to do is to push hard for the best deal we can and then pass whatever that winds up looking like.

But it turns out, that I have been the problem, all along. Because Joe Lieberman reads the willingness of myself and fellow progressives to make this bill happen as a sign that clearly it can't be a good one. So clearly, I ought to have kicked and screamed and called the medicare buy in proposal a "shameless corporate sell out" (even though it's... ya know... NOT) because that would have signalled to Lieberman that this compromise represents reasonable centrism. Note, by the way, that this signal is apparently not sent by actual FACTS or analysis - he has chosen not to wait for the CBO report which he last week cited as being essential to making up his mind - on the grounds that, as Ezra Says, "the CBO is expected to say it will [neither increase the deficit nor harm Medicare solvency]. Someone must have given Lieberman a heads-up on that, as he's decided to make his move in advance of the CBO score, the better to ensure the facts of the policy couldn't impede his opposition to it."

As Steve Benen aptly puts it:
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.
I'm not crazy about the "Joe Lieberman is a jerk" theory of political failure - I want to believe that there's some rational explanation for why he might suddenly oppose health care reform that he has supported all his life and would seem to take great delight in waiting until Democrats seemingly have a deal then pulling the rug out from under them. But I can't really think of one.

Note: I'm not saying that I can't think of a rational explanation for opposing health care reform - there are some rational, if not IMHO very good reasons to do so. Ben Nelson strongly opposes abortion. Olympia Snowe is subject to pressure from the Republican caucus. Blanche Lincolne and Mary Landrieu have their own elections to worry about. These are all rational concerns - although I don't think they're good reasons for letting our health care system crash around our ears.

But Joe is just... being a jerk. Tell me how to look at it any other way?

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