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Lieberman's principles, or lack thereof

M1X00183_9.JPGThere have been two strains of criticism to my earlier post on Lieberman. The first has been a terrible discomfort with discussing health-care reform in terms of its human impact. I go into that question a bit here. The second is that I'm being unfair to Lieberman's motivations. My thesis in that post is that Lieberman seems driven more by a pathological dislike of the liberals who dogged him in 2006 than by any remotely rational policy judgment. Pejman Yousefzadeh responded by, well, repeating the statement, marveling at my assertion "that there is no possible way that Lieberman’s opposition to any kind of public option bill can be principled in any way, shape, or form."

I didn't say there was "no possible way" Lieberman's opposition is principled. I just can't think of a principle that fits the evidence.

Take Medicare buy-in. In 2000, Lieberman supported the policy as part of the Gore/Lieberman campaign platform. When it resurfaced in 2009, he raised very specific concerns. "I am worried about what impact it will have on the Medicare program's fiscal viability and also what effect it will have on the premiums paid by people benefiting from Medicare now and whether the whole thing is viable," he said. All of these concerns, incidentally, apply to the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit, which he supported in 2003.

But Lieberman switched to opposition before those concerns were answered. He moved before the Congressional Budget Office rendered a verdict on his specific worries. That leaves us, then, with two relevant facts. The first is that Lieberman did not consider the policy so offensive that he could not campaign on it in 2000. Either he supported it then, or he thought the potential promotion sufficient to quiet his doubts. The second is that he was not driven off by the policy concerns he originally identified.

There may be an alternative explanation for his position than pique. But it is hard to imagine it. You'd need an explanation that explains why Lieberman supported this policy on the 2000 ticket but will use it to filibuster health-care reform in 2009, and you'd need it to also explain why the CBO's verdict was totally irrelevant to the decision.

Or take the public option. Lieberman has cycled through a variety of explanations, none of which made the slightest lick of sense. First, he said the public option would increase the deficit. That's flatly untrue. Not only did CBO say the exact opposite, projecting savings of $25 to more than $100 billion, depending on the construction, but the idea didn't even make conceptual sense -- the cost of health-care reform comes from the subsidies, which apply to private and public insurance equally.

At another point, he tried the vox populi argument, saying "the public doesn't support it." Not only does the public support it, but so too do his constituents. A November poll found that 56 percent of Connecticut residents support a public option. Oops.

Then he settled on a far stranger argument, saying, "We have never before said, in a given business, we don't trust the companies in it, so we're going to have the government go into that business." That's true, except for fire departments, Medicare, police departments, Medicaid, Social Security, public education ... should I go on?

Incoherence is no crime, of course. But it is telling. Lieberman could have simply opposed the public option because it implied too much government involvement in the marketplace. Instead, he opposed it based on things that wouldn't happen, or weren't happening, and never softened his position as those statements were successively exposed as fraudulent. That, again, suggests something more fundamental than a policy argument.

Or take Lieberman's procedural decisions. The Medicare buy-in compromise was developed by the so-called "Team of Ten": the five liberals and five moderates that Harry Reid asked to meet and develop a path forward. Lieberman was asked to join the original group. He skipped the meetings, eventually being replaced by Tom Carper. That puts his opposition in a different category than Nelson and Snowe, both of whom dug deep into the process, working on issues and in groups and signaling clearly what they could and could not support.

At some point, of course, journalists have to do their best with the evidence before them. I cannot peer deep into Lieberman's heart. In fairness to him, I've attempted the next best thing: Over the past year, I've called Lieberman's office repeatedly searching for clarification, explanation, or interviews, both on and off the record. No dice. I'm still willing to hear them out, and to offer space on this blog if they feel misrepresented. But for now, I can only go off of Lieberman's public statements and past positions, and they do not tell the story of principled opposition.

If you had attempted to forecast Lieberman's behavior based on his past positions, you would have failed. His support for Medicare buy-in, and for various other health-care bills, would quickly have misled you. If you had attempted to forecast his behavior based on the attitudes of his constituents, you would also have failed. They support the public option and oppose health-care reform, while Lieberman professes to believe the opposite. But if you had attempted to forecast Lieberman's positions based on his ongoing grudge match with the liberals who defeated him in the 2006 primary, you'd have nailed it perfectly. He has, at every point, taken aim at the policies that liberals support, even when they are policies that Lieberman himself has supported.

If anyone has a better hypothesis, I'm willing to hear it. And that goes for Lieberman's staff, too. But in the absence of a better hypothesis, people have to be willing to follow the evidence, even if it doesn't lead to a nice place. Lieberman, after all, has appointed himself the 60th senator. That is a position of enormous consequence and moral responsibility. His decisions will affect trillions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives. Scrutiny comes with the job, and even those who agree with Lieberman should demand considerably more sophisticated arguments from their ally. A political culture totally unmoored from empirical analysis is not good for either side.

Photo credit: Tim Sloan/Getty.

By Ezra Klein  |  December 14, 2009; 11:39 AM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Next: In other Lieberman news


The subject of Lieberman bores me because it's been obvious what he was doing since at least the first time he threatened to vote against cloture if the bill had any kind of public option (if not earlier). What would be more interesting now is for Ezra to describe how we either get to 60 votes without Lieberman (and Nelson). My thought would be to pass whatever can get 60 votes now (the subsidies and new insurance regulations are still worthwhile) then make the public option the centerpiece of the 2010 campaign. Perhaps that would be enough to fire up the Democratic base and prevent a wipe out. Then in 2011 the public option fight would be rejoined only then reconciliation would be explicitly on the table (and hopefully Schumer would be majority leader with the feckless Reid having lost in 2010).

Posted by: redwards95 | December 14, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse

I'm sure someone proposed this in the other thread, but can't the Democrats strip him of him chairmanship and move his office to that tomb described in Dan Brown's latest book? Or does changing the chairmanship require a reorganizing resolution which can be filibustered by Lieberman himself? Entombment probably can be done through reconciliation, though.

Posted by: _SP_ | December 14, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

It seems to me the solution is pretty simple...Pass everything but the buy in by regular order and then pass the medicare buy-in by reconciliation. Just change the age levels...and everyone's happy. Let everyone buy in even if they had been provided employee insurance---let them pay for their employees, cheaper for corporations, and it brings healthy 55 plus people into the program.

Posted by: altmangrp | December 14, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Throw him out of the caucus.
Strip him of everything.
Force them to actually filibuster this time.

Bonus: this would get the base energized for 2010. Otherwise, I have total sympathy (if not agreement) for those who wash their hands of the Dems.

Good post, EK. F everyone defending Holy Joe, wanker of the year.

Posted by: AZProgressive | December 14, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

It sounds like it is time for liberals to strongly support Likud. Then we'll see if Lieberman's head explodes.

Posted by: bobjones6 | December 14, 2009 12:11 PM | Report abuse

The Last Honest Man, Circa 2000:

"The kinds of proposals that Al Gore and I are making are the
result of what we learned over the last eight years, and they're
designed to be acceptable to both parties in Congress," he said.

"It may not be a neat one size does it all," Lieberman said.

He said during the interview that the fastest growing group of
uninsured are those 55 to 65. For that reason, the ticket proposes
an expansion of Medicare to allow those and older to buy into the
public program. There would still be a buy-in price but it would be
less than buying private insurance, he said.

How many in Connecticut want their 2006 vote back?

Posted by: HeavyJ | December 14, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

"How many in Connecticut want their 2006 vote back?"

How many in the Democratic leadership want back their failure to support Lamont?

Posted by: bobjones6 | December 14, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Well, this was a much more reasonable critque than insisting he just wants people to die.

I think its obvious, even if he hadn't said it clearly, that he opposes expanding gov't insurnace. Period. Whether thats via the public option or Medicare. That's why I was shocked that he didn't immediately oppose the buy-in when it was first reported, but whatever.

He still seems as though he'll vote for a bill, that as you've said, will expand insurnace coverage to 30 million people.

Posted by: truth5 | December 14, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Attempting to discern Lieberman's motivations, at this point, appears to be a fruitless exercise. What the Democratic leadership should be contemplating is how they should react - both in the context of HCR reform, but in general to a wayward caucus member that appears to be motivated primarily by spite.

IMO, Lieberman needs to be punished, both harshly and swiftly. Procedurally, with regards to HCR, he's more of a detriment to any meaningful legislation than any single Republican precisely because he is considered a Democrat. He's proved this time and time again, and allowing him any of the privileges of the majority party will only further serve to strengthen his resolve.

Instead, the Democrats are allowing, and perhaps even inviting, a wolf in sheep's clothing, and one with seemingly irrational motivations, to hijack a monumental policy. Accordingly, he should be immediately stripped of any and all benefits bestowed upon him by the majority.

There's no ugly precedent being set here; Nelson, Landrieu, and Lincoln et al are afforded their platforms because they represent traditionally conservative states, and the alternative to their incumbency is likely a senator ideologically to their right.

Not so with Lieberman. As you mentioned, his home state is decidedly blue, espouses positions that he rejects, and most importantly, his successor will likely be a Democrat.

59 votes is no different than 60 votes, if the 60th vote is Joe Lieberman. I, for one, would rather of the peace of mind and one senator less than a supermajority, because enacting meaningful legislation, albeit more "centrist", is better than nothing.

Posted by: The_Doc1 | December 14, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

thank you,ezra.
people who fashion themselves as models of ethical and righteous behavior for the community, and profess the highest spiritual values, and are elected to office where they affect the welfare and well-being of millions of people, need to be called out for their lack of priniciples and compassion.

for joe lieberman:

acts of mitzvot and social justice reverberate through all of the worlds.
"four worlds of peace.
doing - feeling - thinking - being"

you are breaking the chain.

Posted by: jkaren | December 14, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

*****My thought would be to pass whatever can get 60 votes now (the subsidies and new insurance regulations are still worthwhile) then make the public option the centerpiece of the 2010 campaign.*****

My thoughts, too. With only one addition: maybe I'm reading things wrong, but the latest rendition of the public option -- a triggered federal employee-style plan -- could probably get the support of Collins/Snowe, right?

I think it would make sense to get something like the above passed, and then go back EARLY in 2010 and get a Medicare buy-in bill passed using reconciliation. You can't tell me the latter wouldn't be a huge boost, politically-speaking, for Democrats.

Posted by: Jasper99 | December 14, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I think that the Democrats should force anyone threating to filibuster to actually do it. I'm not sure what the implications of this path would be. My limited understanding would suggest that if it didn't work then the Democrats could come back with some other compromise.

If I'm wrong about this or if there are other factors I'm missing, I'd like to hear the explanation.

Posted by: bcbulger | December 14, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Don't back down, Ezra. We need journalists willing to state the obvious.

Posted by: eleander | December 14, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

What would be more interesting now is for Ezra to describe how we either get to 60 votes without Lieberman (and Nelson).

Okay, firstly, you don't get to 60 votes without Nelson. You negotiate hard to get some kind of abortion compromise from Nelson - something in between Stupak and what's in there now, preferably much close to what's in there now than to Stupak.

Then you give Olympia Snowe her dream bill - dump medicare buy-in, but make the trigger stronger, if possible.

Then hope to hell that no progressives decide to oppose cloture because the bill is too conservative.

It's not pretty, but it seems like about the best we can manage at this point.

Posted by: jlk7e | December 14, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

"That's true, except for fire departments, Medicare, police departments, Medicaid, Social Security, public education ... should I go on?"

I've got one more for you. The Transportation Security Administration.

Which, I seem to recall, Lieberman proposed.

Surely there's enough carrots and sticks out there to muscle ONE measly Republican?

Posted by: adamiani | December 14, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

tsk tsk tsk, ezra

I thought Lieberman was the "last" of your worries!

Posted by: SisterRosetta | December 14, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

The Senate bill is too costly for the American people. Lieberman is doing the correct thing for America.

Getting it passed will only feed the very industries Ezra and his socialist fans hate so much.

And now we are getting word that climate change academics fudged data - academia is no different from industry when it comes to scientific inquiry, except when scandals like that happen to academia it is all the much worse for the credibility of science.

Face it guys, you want hard working people to pay for the prodigal son.

Posted by: RandomWalk1 | December 14, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Could you ask Perry Bacon Jr. what he thinks? He just spent an hour this morning claiming Lieberman was probably doing something principled.

Posted by: flounder2 | December 14, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

than insisting he just wants people to die.

No one said he wants people to die. They merely suggested that he didn't give a hang one way or the other. Moral bankruptcy at it's starkest.....

Posted by: PhD9 | December 14, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

RandomWalk1, unless you can produce evidence that you opposed spending $1T on iraq without either offsetting spending cuts or tax hikes, i, for one, am uninterested in hearing your opinion about what is "too costly" for anyone about anything. can you?

in discussing lieberman's lack of principles, we should also recall that once upon a time, he thought the filibuster was a bad thing....

as for pejman, has he ever produced a thought worth repeating?

Posted by: howard16 | December 14, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

"I think it would make sense to get something like the above passed, and then go back EARLY in 2010 and get a Medicare buy-in bill passed using reconciliation. You can't tell me the latter wouldn't be a huge boost, politically-speaking, for Democrats."

Is this viable? I thought the Medicare buy-in was one of the bits not amenable to reconciliation.

Posted by: adamiani | December 14, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

a somewhat mythical 60 vote Dem. majority isn't the same as a 60 vote solid Dem majority, and what clearly separates them is all of the Dems committed to break filibusters (even if they oppose and vote against the actual bill) on key legislation.

Lieberman has repeatedly broken his word, reversed his former record, and up to no good. I see no value whatsoever in him remaining in the Dem. caucus and negative value of Joe being a committee chair. Throw him out, NOW. Let the Repubs see if they want him a a ranking member in some committee. Same offer, same deal to Ben Nelson and any other milquetoast Dem.

It is time for reconciliation process for health care. Take what that can provide and run with it. Fill in where needed, later, with regular order legislation tacked on to bills that the GOP can't/won't filibuster, like the war funding.

Bottom Line: let us go forth from this time and place to make clear what the price of Dem. caucus membership requires, and what happens to those fail this test. The caucus should determine who is a Dem. not some skanky Dem renegade like LIEberman or Half Nelson Ben. Backbone! Commitment! Party platform loyalty!

If the caucus lets them get away with this, the Dems will lose their majority because Dems won't vote for extortionists and party enemies.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | December 14, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

From a Liberal's perspective;

If you change your position to one they support you are enlightened.

If you change your position to one they oppose you are unprincipled.

Posted by: Tadpole5 | December 14, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Tadpole5, what a clever little frog you are! gee, what tremendous insight! because right up until yesterday, everyone on the left thought that joe lieberman was enlightened, absolutely. good of you to remind us!

btw, as no less a "liberal" than keynes remarked, when the facts change, i change my position. the facts haven't changed for joe lieberman; just his position.

Posted by: howard16 | December 14, 2009 1:41 PM | Report abuse

This is a sad situation, but one that Democrats have to some extent brought on themselves.

First, by not taking the issue of excess deaths and disability to the front of the discussion and keeping it there.

Second, by acting as though they had 60 votes for some kind of bill, and the question was what kind. The issue should have been phrased from the beginning as "This is the problem- what are we going to do about it". It was clear from the beginning that the end result would be a compromise, and the Democratic leadership should have been grooming some Republicans to threaten Lieberman's role as #60.

Third, by enabling Lieberman in ways, and by people, who made the Clinton years a non-starter for the Gore campaign. To those of us who aren't senators, it's plain that, if the Democrats can't deal with Joe Lieberman, they can't deal with much else.

I don't blame Obama from wanting some distance from all of this. It is out of his control in some very unpleasant ways. It wouldn't hurt, however, if he was to give some 'fireside chats' explaining the issues involved to bring them to the fore.

Posted by: serialcatowner | December 14, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Gah. Rage at liberals does not explain the flip-flop. That's silly.

As a member of a political Party of One, Lieberman no longer has access to Democratic Party resources -- money, volunteers, polling -- and probably reduced access to resources from groups traditionally affiliated with the Democratic Party, so he's more dependent on home state business interests than ever before. For his home state of Connecticut, that's insurance.


Posted by: Model62 | December 14, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

From Quinnipiac on Nov. 12:

"By a 51 - 25 percent margin, Connecticut voters say Sen. Joseph Lieberman's views on issues are closer to the Republican Party than to the Democratic Party. There is agreement on this among voters in all parties.

Voters approve 49 - 44 percent of the job Lieberman is doing. He gets 74 - 20 percent approval from Republicans and 52 - 40 percent approval from independent voters, but Democrats disapprove 62 - 31 percent."

If you go back and look at the coalition that got him elected ( ) you'll see a similar partisan breakdown, 70% of R's, 50% of I's, and 30% of D's. Lieberman may caucus with the democrats but his base is made up of republicans. No wonder he's acting like a moderate republican, he is one.

Lieberman may be enjoying sticking it to the people that hurt him but it's not what is motivating him. Like most politicians it's political calculation. His last election taught him he doesn't need many democrats to get elected but he does need republicans.

His strategy to keep that 70-50-30 coalition together is pretty clear.

1.) In the tradition of the northeast Republican, CT republicans are fiscal hawks and small govt types, so creating an image of Lieberman as the one thing between democrats and the expansion of govt. garners him the support of most CT republicans. This is also how he grabs those r-leaning independents.

2.) Stay in the Democratic caucus and help pass some measures like the stimulus but more importantly keep his powerful perch atop the Homeland security committee. In addition his seniority in the majority party helps him to procure approps for his constituents. Prestige, power, and pork help him get that 30% of democrats he needs.

So we shouldn't be surprised when he acts like a moderate republican since he's co-opted that coalition from the actual republican party.

It's an open question whether having him inside the party is better than having him outside.

Posted by: MikeintheMountainWest | December 14, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

--"If anyone has a better hypothesis, I'm willing to hear it."--

How about: Health care "reform" is an abomination and Lieberman knows it.

Klein can't see past the end of his own ignorant nose.

Posted by: msoja | December 14, 2009 2:24 PM | Report abuse

At another point, he tried the vox populi argument, saying "the public doesn't support it." Not only does the public support it, but so too do his constituents. A November poll found that 56 percent of Connecticut residents support a public option. Oops.


Yes, but we don't have a public option now, and what was being promoted previously was watered down considerably. It's highly debatable that the people being surveyed understood this.

Regarding the public's feelings towards health care reform now, there's little doubt:

If Ezra Klein wants to discuss polls, maybe he should start with these. He's been a regular shill for legislation that has never clearly explained how this curve:

will get bent downward. Paying for health care reform - a problematic claim in and of itself - is not the same as bending this curve downward. And I very much doubt E. Klein can discuss how the latter will be achieved.

Posted by: JamesSCameron | December 14, 2009 2:24 PM | Report abuse

msoja, we know that you believe that, but no, joe lieberman does not believe that. if he believed that, it was easy enough for him to say so months ago.

talk about not seeing past the end of your nose....

Posted by: howard16 | December 14, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Joe Lieberman is lacking principals because he wants a health care bill that will actually reduce costs and not bankrupt Medicare?

Klein obviously is one of Harry Reid's mouthpieces.

Harry Reid is the man without principals. He wants to get 60 votes to pass a bill - any bill. He cares nothing about the welfare of his constituents, the American people or out country. Reid needs to leave our government as soon as possible, followed closely by Nancy Pelois.

Posted by: mike85 | December 14, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Reconciliation is an optional, deficit-reducing procedure that was created in the 1974 Congressional Budget Act. The Reconciliation process is a two-stage process. First, Reconciliation directives must be included in the annual Budget Resolution (as they were in the 2010 Budget Resolution passed on April 29). These directives instruct the relevant Congressional committees to develop (in this case, health-care) legislation by a specific date (in this case, October 15) to meet certain spending or revenue targets. The instructed committees then send their legislative recommendations to their respective Budget Committees, who then package all recommendations into one omnibus Reconciliation bill. Enter Stage 2, when this bill is then considered on the floor of both chambers of Congress under expedited procedures; of greatest political note is the 20-hour limit on debate on any Reconciliation measure, which effectively strips the minority party of the filibustering option in the Senate. That means the Democrats can pass health-care reform with a simple majority.

But there is an attendant cost to the majority party for using Reconciliation. The Byrd rule, passed in 1985, sets out the rules for what Reconciliation can and cannot be used for. In particular, it specifies that Senators will be allowed to raise a point of order against “extraneous” provisions in a Reconciliation bill which, among other things, “would increase the deficit for a fiscal year beyond those covered by the reconciliation measure.” Critically, cloture must be invoked to overcome a point of order. So the filibuster power is back.

Here’s the bottom line. Since the Budget Act states that the Reconciliation measure covers the next ten years, the Byrd Rule had the effect of allowing a point of order to be raised against any spending increase (or tax cut) that does not contain a ten-year sunset provision. That’s why the Bush tax cuts, passed via the Reconciliation route in 2001, 2003, and 2005, had sunset provisions written into them. If Democrats use Reconciliation, they will get a health-care bill, but it will expire.

*Copied in whole from*

Reconciliation REQUIRES an expiration date.
Why would you want to set up a "robust Public option* That will end in exactly 10 years?
And remember the Republicans do not need complete control then. They only need to control ONE of the House, Senate, White House and your public option sunsets.

Posted by: chromenhawk | December 14, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Ezra care and Obama care means that healthy 25 year olds are forced to buy expensive health insurance plans to fund medical treatments for us not-so-healthy oldsters. Many people are quite fine with their current plans, which don't pay for anything until you get into the crisis range. These people gladly pay all the three-figure and low-four-figure bills themselves. Well, guess what? These plans will be judged inadequate under Obama- and Ezra-care, and will be grounds for you to be fined or thrown in jail!

Posted by: yourstruly1991 | December 14, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

--"as for pejman, has he ever produced a thought worth repeating?"--

Well, he just called Klein dishonest, and whether that's big news or not, it is correct.

Posted by: msoja | December 14, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse

So young and so cocksure that you have the answers. Yet at the same time so bereft of intellectual depth that you cannot fathom any reason why Lieberman would "support" a Medicare buy-in during the 2000 election yet oppose it today. so let me clue you in on some possibilities.

1. We are ten years, two wars and trillions more in debt (and committed to more) than we were in 2000.

2. As a vice presidential candidate, one might generally support the party's platform without supporting every single plank. A great many Democrats hold their nose at the party's position on abortion yet vote for a larger Democrat agenda and for Democrat candidates. Lieberman is in a completely different posture as a Senator voting on a specific bill.

In addition, if you are going to cite the CBO as authority for the proposition that the current bill will not increase the deficit, it seems you are engaging in a bit of hypocrisy of your own. What the CBO essentially said was that IF Congress adheres to everything they say, the bill would marinally decrease the deficit. Of course anyone with any practical sense highly doubts that those future constraints will be respected. Indeed the Democrats have already moved the "docfix" outside of the bill to artificially achieve a passing grade from CBO. Most observers have little doubt that a deal will be struck that will effectively offset the best case scenario of the CBO analysis.

Posted by: efs2403 | December 14, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Michael Cannon at Cato is also pointing out what a raving moron Klein is.

Posted by: msoja | December 14, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Oh, look, an invasion by the wingnuts. Glenn Beck must be in the middle of a commercial break.

Thanks Ezra. Continue to call it as you see it. It's why we read you. And your explanation for Lieberman's behavior makes more sense than anything else I've seen. I wish the Post's reporters and editorial page were as honest as you are being.

Posted by: tracy2 | December 14, 2009 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Wow - "Someone opposes my political goals: they obviously want to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people - it is the only reasonable explanation!" What a pile of inchoate emotional dreck masquerading as rational thought.

Ok, let's play the game in reverse, shall we?

It seems to *me* that your insistence on a public option (or other corrupt interventions in the medical care system) *must* be driven by a pathological need to cripple medical innovation and worsen outcomes so that...hundreds of thousands of people will die. After all, it is well known that your statistical arguments are flawed and that single-payer systems result in worse outcomes when socio-economic status, disease incidence and cultural factors are taken into account. Why the hell else do Canadians come to the US in such high numbers when their own system fails them? You people are obviously no better (and probably worse) than the tyrants and butchers who murdered millions in the 20th Century! I really believe any of this? No - it is silly. The difference is that I know that it is silly. In contrast, you and your supporting fanboys, apparently, are willing to engage in such ridiculous smears against people like Lieberman and conservatives while remaining wholly unconscious of the fundamental bad faith of your position (not to mention your dishonesty in evaluating the range of options available for reforming the health care system).

Posted by: MDBritt | December 14, 2009 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Thank God for Lieberman and Nelson.

An attempt to take over 1/6 of the U.S. economy based on a bill that has been hastily prepared, lacks any bipartisanship, hasn't been read by anyone, all for political points instead of common sense.

It has been a scramble and payoff for 60 votes on a bill that a majority of the United States opposes... But screw the public. Let's just pass it anyway.

And now you got Pelosi... well... so what if we lose 30 seats? Still have a majority and I will still be the Speaker.

The whole thing is a sham, and Ezra Klein is nothing more than a knee-jerk partisan attempting to score points instead of signing on to a slow, well-crated bill.

Typical Obama Administration crap.

Posted by: TimesHater | December 14, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse


it's so less taxing on one's intellect to inject ad hominems like wingnuts than to address arguments. You put as much thought into that comment as the Klein did into the article and in doing so you descended to the level you accuse others of occupying.

Posted by: efs2403 | December 14, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

I think mike85 has the "crazy" telepathy. If it's so easy to read Reid's mind, why not enlighten us on Lieberman with your psychotic powers of telepathetic ability? That would be on topic at least.
Lieberman serves Lieberman first, then defense (Electric Boat in Groton, Colt, Remington, etc.), then insurance. It has always been thus.
I think if the wingdings and black-hearted Blue Dogs win, this country will be in for a rough ride.

Posted by: sparkplug1 | December 14, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Leiberjew doesn't want people to die, he just wants the non-jews to die.

Write the amendment to specifically include a free public option for all jews, like the single-payer system that Israel has, then leiberjew CAN'T vote against it.

Posted by: Heerman532 | December 14, 2009 5:07 PM | Report abuse

MDBritt, i love the made-up quote. too bad that's what it is: a made-up quote.

the reality is that joe lieberman is on the record as favoring many of the things that he now opposes and opposing many of the things he now favors (he used to be opposed to the filibuster!). at no moment has he provided an argument that would account for this change in terms of an evolving philosophical belief structure; it's because he can't.

and as a corollary to that, when he is the vote that makes the difference between extending coverages and protections he has long favored and not extending them, and when there is a reasonable +/- case to be made of the incremental deaths that will result, it is perfectly legitimate in politics (which ain't beanbag) to say that he is more willing to indulge whatever it is he is indulging than he is to save lives, or to put it more quickly, if sticking it to the bill (and the dems and the liberals and the DFHs and anyone and everyone else he is sticking it to) results in otherwise unnecessary incremental deaths, that's fine with him.

Posted by: howard16 | December 14, 2009 5:10 PM | Report abuse

msoja, of course, of course he's done no such thing: he's cited another study which suggests that the study ezra used is an overestimate, which is no where close to the same thing.

and then we have efs2403, who seems to forget that joe lieberman supported pursuing the iraq war without offseting spending cuts or tax increases, thereby increasing the deficit by $1T already, before we talk about the long-term health-care costs of the many american soldiers who have extensive, long-term injuries suffered in pursuit of what lieberman thought was an excellent adventure.

so don't try and tell us that lieberman cares about the deficit: it is simply not true. there is no principle at work there.

Posted by: howard16 | December 14, 2009 5:14 PM | Report abuse

Always a matter of humor when third rate socialist thinkers like this sophomore blogger manage to malign their superiors. Klein is another sample of degraded journalism. and newspapers wonder how they became irrelevant.

Posted by: blpross | December 14, 2009 6:38 PM | Report abuse

Mother of g.d....i just went to the "about ezra klein" page. He's even more pathetic than I thought. Kung pao.....holy sh.t....say.....whose nephew is this guy?

Posted by: blpross | December 14, 2009 6:41 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, you are the only person covering health reform with any passion, insight, dedication and balls. Thank you for tirelessly covering the topic. As a former Connecticut resident, I can tell you that I believe you are exactly right about Lieberman. Of course you are! It's obvious. He is an embarrassment to his state, a traitor to what was once his party, but more importantly, a danger to the well-being of the country. As you clearly say, he has chosen to put himself in the powerful 60th position in the senate, and he owes it not only to the country, his former and current constituents, but also to whatever shred of dignity he might want to keep in his reputation to at least act out of something other than pettiness.

Don't pay any attention to the posters who joined this Web site today after reading your name in some Right Wing smear blog just to post something idiotic, uninformed, and cruel.

Posted by: emilymarlow1 | December 14, 2009 9:03 PM | Report abuse

Serialcatowner ~ It's pretty obvious why the Democrats don't pick up the "issue of excess deaths" and run with it.

Has to do with the validity of the data ~ ain't none. And, the real big one, a good number of sitting Senators were in on the vote several decades back where ALL hospitals that accept any federal funds MUST TREAT people first ~ so it doesn't matter if you don't have insurance.

It's like SOCIALIZED MEDICINE already exists in that particular dicta, and if it's failing, they'd like for you and other afficionados of the "excess deaths" thesis to just shut up before the next election rolls around.

Call it politics, but this is what's going to happen to your medical care if these ol'boys have their way ~ your need for surgery will be weighed against the national need for "infrastructure investment", and you and your liver will come in second best every single time.

Posted by: muawiyah | December 14, 2009 9:19 PM | Report abuse

howard16, here's a snippet of Cannon's piece: "Indeed, health insurance does have a connection to mortality. But I’m pretty sure Klein doesn’t know what it is, mostly because people with more expertise and fewer axes to grind don’t know what it is."

I stand by my earlier characterization of Cannon's remarks.

Cannon then goes on to cite THREE studies (which calls into question howard16's honesty) any of which ought to give any less fervent a believer in socialism at least room to not appear so fanatical. But Klein is nothing if not a fanatic, and an increasingly dim one, at that.

I wonder how many unnecessary deaths from the swine flu there were this year because the government has all but completed its takeover of that industry.

Posted by: msoja | December 14, 2009 9:35 PM | Report abuse


Extra, Extra! Fox's Bret Baier Uncovers "The Left"

In an extraordinary investigative breakthrough, Bret Baier of self described Fox News, reveals who the elusive "The Left" is. Baier has positively identified the shadowy "The Left" as Ezra Klein of The Washington Post and the inanimate cyber entity, While hundreds of veteran reporters have spent years seeking the identity of "The Left," little known Baier scored with this once-in-a-lifetime news scoop.

It was in the course of preparing his report implying that "The Left" implied that Senator Joe Lieberman is (or more accurately, would be) a killer, that Baier was able to reveal the true identity of "The Left." You can read Baier's full report at:,2933,580229,00.html

Baier has been unavailable for comment regarding his scoop and is reportedly meeting with his agent and attorney in preparation for an expected media onslaught.

(End of satire)

Posted by: WhiteBonus | December 14, 2009 10:11 PM | Report abuse

"I didn't say there was "no possible way" Lieberman's opposition is principled. I just can't think of a principle that fits the evidence."

Lieberman does not appear to be a man who is that strongly rooted in logic and evidence. Moreover, he seems to not understand economics very well, and so makes the simple mistake of greatly underestimating all of the well established in economics ways that the pure, or close to pure, free market can, in some cases, be very inefficient and harmful.

Thus, as I said in a comment a little while ago, I think Lieberman probably does the great harm he does out of misunderstanding, not malice or amazing pettiness.

Posted by: RichardHSerlin | December 14, 2009 11:25 PM | Report abuse

Ezra: Your logic is sound, but I think you do the man too much justice. Why wade through all that policy analysis when it is so apparent that Lieberman has either
1. caved to some industry player (most likely insurers)and is concocting one lame excuse after another for justifying his position
2. Fallen hopelessly in love with the gadfly role however absurd it makes him look intellectually
3. Has a psychologically sick, personal need to piss some people off
4. Has become a true Republican conservative but can't admit it so he feigns support if only one thing or the other were just a little bit different.
5. Assumed the political pathology of Ralph Nader --who also determined (from the left, not as Liebermann, from the right)that holding on to fading glory was more important than achieving much of what you ever believed in. Isn't it interesting that it was Nader's pathology --now Lieberman's-- that undermined the Gore-Lieberman ticket

I could go on, but I think you get the point.
Still, I truly admire your honest journalistic effort to look for light in a black hole.

Posted by: LAprof | December 14, 2009 11:46 PM | Report abuse

And yes, he keeps coming up with these illogical and/or dishonest reasons why he opposes the things he does, but I think it's probably just attempts to sell it well.

I think his real reason is probably some primitive government bad/free market good reasoning as I talked about above.

I think he probably does the great harm he does by mistake. He mistakenly thinks it's right to oppose these things, and to use dishonest arguments if he thinks it helps in opposing them. But I don't think he does it because he wants to do harm, or because he puts his own petty scores above the pressing needs of 300 million Americans.

Posted by: RichardHSerlin | December 15, 2009 12:26 AM | Report abuse

great post, i hope his people read it

Posted by: schaffermommy | December 15, 2009 1:16 AM | Report abuse

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