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Posted by on Dec 19, 2009 in Economy, Health, Media, Politics | 21 comments

Sen. Joe Lieberman, the “Point Man”

Ezra Klein has written a blistering rebuke of Sen. Joe Lieberman for the enormous damage — possibly fatal damage — he has done to what was our best chance to get meaningful health care reform in 60 years:

Joe Lieberman’s reckless decision to blow up last week’s compromise has had exactly the impact many of us predicted. Much of the left has flipped into vicious, angry opposition to the bill. Is that because the Medicare buy-in, a good but limited policy, has disappeared from the bill? Ostensibly. But not really.  …

[P]rogressives had compromised plenty already. Single payer became a strong public option, a strong public option became a weak public option, a weak public option became Medicare buy-in, and Medicare buy-in became Joe Lieberman’s revenge. Progressive ends are submitting to conservative means, and industry is laughing all the way to the bank. …


Worse, it all feels divorced from detectable policy principles. Medicare buy-in was a policy Lieberman supported. It was a compromise that had been communicated to him directly. It emerged from meetings that he was invited to attend. He didn’t bother to wait for the Congressional Budget Office’s report, or even to offer a coherent argument against the policy. He had the power, he knew it, and he used it. Now he’s giving happy, triumphant interviews to any camera and reporter he can find. My personal favorite was his comment to the New York Times. “My wife said to me, ‘Why do you always end up being the point person here?’ ” Did Lieberman say this somberly? Did he seem weighed down by the responsibility? No. He was “flashing a broad grin.”


And Lieberman, let’s remember, is not a lefty blogger. He isn’t a pundit or an op-ed columnist. He is the “point man,” and by choice. He bears a special responsibility. Atop the shoulders of another man, it would make for a heavy load. But not his. His recklessness has endangered the bill, and through it, many, many lives. He may not be ashamed. But he should be.