Back in 2004, Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman’s campaign coined the word "Joe-mentum" after their candidate received a slight uptick in the polls. There were other wordplays of a similar sort, all of which involved inserting the candidate’s first name into a word, replacing a syllable with a similar sound. The point of the exercise, I had thought, was mere cleverness (although they were not so clever that I remember them now) but now we realize it showed us all something about the man: It is all about Joe, no matter what the "it" is.

In 2006, Lieberman lost the Democratic primary in Connecticut to newcomer Ned Lamont, an anti-war, self-financed candidate who had never held elective office before. Instead of graciously accepting his defeat, Lieberman formed his own political party, artfully called "Lieberman for Connecticut." Maybe they should have called it "Joe-nnecticut" but they weren’t feeling clever in 2006, only efficient. Lieberman won the general election narrowly and, with it, even greater independence from the constraints of party. He caucuses with the Democrats and has retained his committee chairmanship, and the Democrats are reluctant to dismiss him because his vote is needed to break filibusters.


Now, as the health care debate reaches its climax, Sen. Lieberman has decided to make himself the center of attention yet again. He had already indicated his willingness to join a GOP filibuster if there was a public option in the bill. Then a group of moderate and liberal senators fashioned a new approach that killed the public option but introduced the idea of a buy-in to Medicare for people aged 55 or above. Everyone has said they would prefer something different, but everyone has said they can live with this compromise. Except Joe.

One can understand why Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas might be reluctant to vote for the health care bill. She hails from a conservative state that President Obama lost badly in last year’s election and she is up for re-election next year. But, Lieberman is from Connecticut, a state that is about as blue as blue can get. Obama not only won it handily last November, he won it in the primary against next-door neighbor Hillary Clinton.

Perhaps Lieberman’s truculence is not all about his ego. Perhaps he is planning to run as a Republican next time. Who knows? But, by suddenly distancing himself from a policy he has publicly supported in the past, it is hard not to believe that this is mere egotism. Our friend Ben Smith at Politico shows how lame the Senator’s justification for his opposition to the buy-in is: You don’t filibuster over something like this. (We are having technical difficulties with our site right now - I shall provide a link ASAP but everyone should be reading Ben Smith's blog anyway!)

And, for those of us who are hoping the Senate will re-visit the current abortion provisions, capitulating to Lieberman will only make it less likely that the liberals will swallow hard and accept some variant of the Stupak amendment that already passed the House. Sen. Reid can go to pro-life Sen. Ben Nelson and say, "If you support us on the buy-in, we will put Stupak into the manager’s amendment." There is no such way to persuade a dilettante like Lieberman. It is time to threaten: Vote with what the majority of the caucus wants, or you lose your chairmanship and we will enter negotiations with Sen. Olympia Snowe. Better to have a public option with a trigger, and have a Republican Senator vote for the final bill, than to jump through whatever hoops the junior senator from Connecticut chooses to erect.



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8 years 5 months ago
I agree that Joe Lieberman has a very big ego. But what politician does not have a very big ego?

These power-hungry egos are a great reason not to let the federal government grow any larger. Why let these fat ego politicians gain power? These type of games are the norm. Do you know nothing about government?
Patrick Molloy
8 years 5 months ago
The Democratic leadership will offer generous subsidies for the lobster industry to get the Maine senators' vote before they bow to Senator Nelson on abortion.
James Lindsay
8 years 5 months ago
As you have pointed out, Michael, without a public option there is no need for Stupak, since Medicaid, Medicare and FEHBP are all currently covered by Hyde.
Joshua DeCuir
8 years 5 months ago
My last post, since I'm done with reading your rantings on this blog after last week's tirade.
Funny how you attack Joe Lieberman for having the kind of integrity to go against the Party that you often lament as being absent from most Republicans.  The treatment by other Democrats of Joe Lieberman reveals the true (ugly) nature of Liberals & their sham ''open-mindedness'' & ''moderation.''  What Democrats did to Joe in 2006 is shameful.  If the defeat of liberal Republicans shows the tryranny of the Right in the party, the anger & real hatred of Joe Lieberman by Democrats shows the tyranny of the Left over the Democratic Party.  The Republican Party would be wise to rebuild its Northeast base around Sen Lieberman!
You, Mr. Winters, ought to speak with more charity & patience towards a man who has the COURAGE OF CONVICTION not to give in to the dictates of Party at all costs.  Instead you attribute his stance merely to ego. Your ATTACK on Mr. Lieberman today shows your true spirit, and for that, has cost you a reader.
Christopher Scaperlanda
8 years 5 months ago
Mr Winters,
While I'm not about to pull a Josh and threaten to stop reading, I have to agree with the majority of what he is saying. While I disagree with Lieberman on many issues, we need more politicians who will stand by their convictions over party loyalty. This is especially true in when it is clear that a Catholic cannot find him/herself firmly in either party; we need to see that it is possible to fight against a system that necessarily works against our interests. Healthcare legislation will cost a lot, and in any form, will drastically increase federal government control over an aspect of people's everyday life. If those things make it a bad idea, in Senator Lieberman's estimation, then by God, that man needs to filibuster.
Frankly, we need this a lot more than we need people like Senator Casey who make mild shows that they maintain the convictions that they claim but, when it comes time to stand firm, cave like a hillside being strip-mined.
Joshua DeCuir
8 years 5 months ago
My decision to stop reading is based on a trend that has disturbed me for sometime, reaching a crescendo with last week's ''Intellectual Idiocy'' posts.  I respect the fact that Mr. Winters is a political liberal; I re

spect even more that he is attempting to bridge the chasm between the Democratic Party & Catholicism.  I thought that this interesting project would yield insights that don't fall within the traditional Left/Right paradigms.  I have increasingly been disappointed that that has not been the case.  Particularly on the issue of Health Care ''Reform'', Mr. Winters has towed the Democratic Party line as thought it were, literally, Catholic Social Teaching incarnate.  It is not.  We can disagree over the best policies to lower the cost of health care, which is the greatest barrier to expanded coverage.  Unfortunately, Mr. Winters has seen in the Democrats' bills a sort of ''Waterloo'' moment - here we fight or die.  As a result, his analysis has, to my ears, become increasingly shrill and hostile to Republicans who have not supported the President because they, correctly, judge that the country does not support the President on this issue.  Mr. Winters's response to this has taken the form of calling Republicans sham pro-lifers, asserting that those who would see in the President's Oslo speech a growth (if not development) of a sort of Bush doctrine as ''intellectual idiots'', and in doing so, dismissing the former President of being intellectually incapable of understanding just war tradition, and today, asserting that Sen. Lieberman acts out of arrogance

& ego rather than conviction because he has the temerity to buck his own party on a provision that would yield one of the greatest unfunded entitlements in American history (all the while suggesting that he should have taken the hint and quit politics when a multi-millionaire malcontent from Greenwich beat him in the Democratic primary). I read this blog expecting to disagree with Mr. Winters.  But I also read this blog expecting a different kind of analysis than reading ''secular'' political sources.  That I have not found that here, particularly today, particularly on the topic of Joe Lieberman, is more than disappointing.  It is un-becoming a magazine of America's intellectual heft.
James Lindsay
8 years 5 months ago
The thing that Michael is missing is frankly the fact that the Senator is bought and paid for by the insurance and finance industry, which is against reform at all costs. Lieberman's role in deregulating the financial services industry helped bring about the kind of dirty hands consultancy that brought about Enron and the demise of Arthur Anderson - not for the sake of Joeism, but for the sake of his well-heeled constituents, who are likely donors.

Lieberman is as much a symptom as a problem himself. Please don't confuse what he is doing with principal. He is bought and paid for by the insurance lobby in much the same way that Dick Armey is through funds from the insurance industry, which Armey used to generate much of the shouting at town halls last summer.
James Lindsay
8 years 5 months ago
My best guess is that at this point the White House will agree to anything to get cloture and send the bill to conference, where the real deal will be made. After that, they will play hardball to get cloture on the final deal, at which point they will ask themselves the question as to whether having a 60 vote majority is worth abandoning health care reform. If they say no to that question, then I suspect Mr. Lieberman will be making a choice between the insurance lobby in his state or his chairmanship.
Jeffrey Miller
8 years 5 months ago
Well I agree with Joe Lieberman on hardly anything.  I am happy that he might be the one person to sink federally funding of abortion in the terrible healthcare plan.  But the Democrats treated him like crap because he disagreed with them on on thing, so they should expect him not to want to kiss and make up.
It would be ironic if pro-abort Joe sank federal funding of abortion.  Though the bill is bad on many things besides abortion.
S Bond
8 years 5 months ago
''He is bought and paid for by the insurance lobby''
Thank you, Michael.  This cannot be emphasized enough.  It's not about principal, it's about money and influence.  For us little people, it's just a coin toss whether our interests happen to be represented.
Joshua DeCuir
8 years 5 months ago
So, Mr. Binder, the only explanation for people who disagree with you & your politics is that people are corrupt & lack integrity?  Can't be because they've rationally considered the issues & see things differently, huh? Nope, only explanation is that they are "bought & paid for".  As opposed to you, who alone stand apart from any of those corrupting influences & see things for what they are!  If you really believe its possible for anyone to totally stand apart from economic considerations, then you sorely misunderstand the human condition.  But then again, I guess that explains why you're a liberal.  And have you stopped to consider what would happen if you got your way & insurance companies completely disappeared?  Sure, no one likes insurance companies, and I don't think anyone, let alone Republicans, is arguing that they shouldn't be the target of reform.  I would remind you that the idea of preventing dropping coverage for pre-existing conditions is a Republican idea by way of Bobby Jindal.  But, if you got your way, we would apparently chase all the money-changers out of the Temple, and their corrupt Congressional lackeys as well.  Like it or not, the insurance industry is an important economic cog & its destruction would yield some very un-liberal results.
Jim McCrea
8 years 5 months ago
Josh, it didn't take you long to stop "stop reading," did it?


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