Joe Lieberman is neither manifesting long-held views or being brought to heel by the politics of his state. (Quite the contrary.) Still, Lieberman could make an argument against the current bill outlining his own thinking, and how it's changed. But Lieberman hasn't done that. Instead he's put forth the kind of logic that make you question either his understanding of the public option he so vociferously opposes, or his intellectual honesty.
What your left with is neither policy nor politics, but an ethic of fanatic spite.
He's not "being brought to heel by the politics of his state"? What about the Connecticut insurers? They make up a sizable part of contributions to his office. There is nothing necessarily wrong with Lieberman representing the interests in his state, and with DNC money no longer flowing to his office, it makes sense that Lieberman would be more careful about upsetting financiers. I also suspect Lieberman is preparing for life after politics. Megan has some sharp analysis:
No matter how furious Democrats are, they are not going to punish him as long as he can break a filibuster for them. But that's another year. Then what? It's highly unlikely that Democrats will keep exactly 58 seats plus Bernie Sanders. At that point, one way or another, Joe Lieberman becomes largely superfluous. And the Democrats are going to have their knives out.
Chait oversimplifies here:
With Lieberman, we all suspect it's part of a plan. I think he just has no idea what he's talking about and doesn't care to learn. Lieberman thinks about politics in terms of broad ideological labels. He's the heroic centrist voice pushing legislation to the center. No, Lieberman doesn't have any particular sense of what the Medicare buy-in option would do to the national debt. If the liberals like it, then he figures it's big government and he should oppose it. I think it's basically that simple.
Ezra says basically the same thing:
[T]he underlying dynamic seems to be that Lieberman will destroy any compromise the left likes. That, in fact, seems to be the compromise: Lieberman will pass the bill if he can hurt liberals while doing so. From Lieberman's perspective, the compromise is killing the compromise.
[It's] not clear whether Lieberman actually wants something specific from the legislation or whether, like General Zod in Superman II, he simply wants to show Senate Democrats (and their liberal supporters) that he is strong and they are weak.
The only path I can see for the Dems is that they need to try to put 60 votes together with Sen. Snowe. Yes, that sounds crazy to me too. But I think she actually has a set of policy priorities that could be met. I don't think that's true with Lieberman. So further negotiating just means more game-playing.
Nate Silver buys that Lieberman wants to kick the liberals who opposed him during the last campaign but thinks Nelson is different:
Nebraska is one of the few states where the public option isn't especially popular and Nelson is near the top of the list of Senators that receive the most money from the insurance industry. But the outlook was the same: this wasn't a compromise that served any of Ben Nelson's goals.
So what do Lieberman and Nelson want? I think they've actually made this rather clear. They want liberals to give up the public option and not get anything for it. If liberals do, they'll probably get a health care bill. If they don't, they probably won't.
[T]his should be a litmus test: if Lieberman doesn't vote for this bill, he should no longer be considered part of the Democratic caucus; he should be stripped of his seniority and committee assignments.
On the other hand, if Lieberman gets his way and all hint of a public option is stripped from the bill--and several Republicans, like Snow and Collins decide to vote for it, I would still say the same principle applies: a yes vote is indicated. Extending health insurance to all, and ending the insurance companies' ability to deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions etc, is just too important to vote against.
Here is the reality, though: the Democrats need 60 votes. They're not going to pass the insurance reforms through reconciliation. (Some blame the White House for insisting that Democrats eschew the reconciliation option.)
That means that Ben Nelson has to be accommodated on abortion, and then Joe Lieberman or Olympia Snowe has to compromise. Snowe is the more likely of the two, so, barring a change of heart, the best that Senate Democrats can do, at the moment, is probably to water down their Medicare buy-in and add a trigger mechanism to it, which will probably get Snowe's vote. Probably.
(image: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)