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A reader hypothesizes:

It seems entirely possible to me that Dean is just now doing what he should have done over the Medicare expansion -- screaming bloody murder. Assuming all Lieberman ever wanted was for Progressives to be furious, then if Howard Dean had stood up and said "Medicare expansion is no public option, I say kill the bill!" then Medicare expansion would probably be on its way to passing the Senate. Dean doesn't have a vote, so his faux outrage makes him far less dangerous to the actual bill, but could appease the stragglers. It just might be a brilliant tactic to finally get this done. We certainly need SOMEONE on the liberal/progressive side saying there is a bridge too far, or the "centrists" will continue taking hunks out of the bill just because they can.

This sort of thing comes up occasionally, and I think it's possible. In the abstract, I certainly agree you want something of a hard left, and so there's no reason to believe that others aren't putting that theory into practice. On the other hand, this stuff is terribly difficult to control, and when you convince your constituency of something -- say, that the public option was the central benefit of this bill -- it becomes very difficult to walk them back from the ledge. This is about the point when I'd expect people would be trying, and instead, you've seen an increase in the intensity on the left. So I'm taking folks at their word that they're sincere.

By Ezra Klein  |  December 17, 2009; 2:18 PM ET
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And in other news, Nelson seems set to screw us.

Posted by: adamiani | December 17, 2009 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Walk it back? Who is walking back the centrists and their gutting of the bill?

Who is telling Lieberman and Nelson and the others that we are done watering down the bill to please them?

It works both ways you know.

Posted by: jbou891 | December 17, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of sincerity, or the lack thereof, should we not be worried that Joe Lieberman will throw another wrench into HCR. If you accept the premise that he's not acting in good faith, and the evidence strongly suggests that such is the case, than what's to prevent him from dealing another, potentially fatal blow to the legislation.

If Lieberman knows or suspects that even the most ardent HCR advocates are willing to cede more ground (and there's reason to think this is true), why not take another pound of flesh?

Posted by: The_Doc1 | December 17, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Hey Howard Dean!

Stop the whining so that Ben Nelson can now make some noise and get more features cut from the plan.

Posted by: Lomillialor | December 17, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

if it were up to the republicans, there would be no health care reform at all.
lieberman has been deeply blamed and will remain permanently unvindicated for what he has done.

if this were easy...if more was possible... it would never be playing out like this.
what a headache this must be for barack obama even to have known what a formidable mire it would be, and what he gets in return from dean today, is to say that he wont campaign vigorously for barack obama in the next election.
why not?
president obama has been willing to take this on in his first year, knowing what a nightmare it would be, and may possibly pass the first reform in decades.
many people of truly evil intent are waiting hopefully, patiently for all of this to fail.

if at this point, dean becomes an instrument in derailing this fragile moment, then i do blame him.
because i dont believe we will get something better.
maybe i am wrong, and could be greatly surprsed, but i think we will end up with nothing.
i think dean could foment the final discord that will create the end of health care reform for many long years. not a new beginning.
the democrats will end up being their own worst enemy.

because i dont believe we will get something better.
i think we will end up with nothing. but loss, disillusionment, anger and complete disarray.

if this initiative crumbles now and falls apart, it will be a catastrophe with profound consequences that will reach far beyond health care policy.
we will be crippled by failure and the consequences will be longlasting and terrible.
if we lose this, democrats will rue the day.

Posted by: jkaren | December 17, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

I think your reader needs to go back and read your hostage taking post. This push back from the left stuff is useful insofar as it makes Democratic senator's who want healthcare reform work hard and push for progressive elements of the bill, but in terms of helping with negotiations with Lieberman and his ilk, its worthless. Lieberman would love to see the left blow up the bill. It would absolutely make his day. So no matter how hard the left squawks, they're never going to scare Lieberman straight. If anything, I think it encourages him.

Posted by: wintershag | December 17, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

"I think it's possible. In the abstract, I certainly agree you want something of a hard left, and so there's no reason to believe that others aren't putting that theory into practice."

But, every time any movement ever begins on the left side of a topic, suddenly what pundits *say* they believe "in the abstract" becomes *in particular* a cause for the same pundits to dismiss and insult them.

Posted by: En_Buenora | December 17, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

If the dems were smart they'd let Nelson kill the bill and blame him.

Posted by: obrier2 | December 17, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Daily Kos has really gone off the deep end lately. There was that front page thing claiming that virtually the entire established liberal blog space as being "the same people who supported the war in Iraq," and now they've got a post up saying that fixed ratios between older and younger insured obviate pre-existing condition discrimination. The bad faith coming out of that site all of sudden reminds me of Chuck Grassley.

In some ways I'm very glad that we see headlines like "White House Face Revolt from Left," because it means these interests aren't going to be ignored. Dean's underlying GOALS are great even if his strategy is frustrating. But if they actually succeed in killing this bill over resentfulness about the PO, the far left deserves the havoc the Republicans will wreak on the safety net. Too bad we all have to be dragged down with them.

Posted by: NS12345 | December 17, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Here's what the abstract to a study published last year in the Journal of Health Politics had to say about the Dutch health care system so beloved by Ezra and Jonathan Cohn (a system I might add that has quite a few features that make it preferable to what is now projected to be in the Senate bill):

An Experiment with Regulated Competition and Individual Mandates for Universal Health Care: The New Dutch Health Insurance System

Pauline Vaillancourt Rosenau
University of Texas, Houston

Christiaan J. Lako 
University Nijmegen, the Netherlands

The 2006 Enthoven-inspired Dutch health insurance reform, based on regulated competition with a mandate for individuals to purchase insurance, will interest U.S. policy makers who seek universal coverage. This ongoing experiment includes guaranteed issue, price competition for a standardized basic benefits package, community rating, sliding-scale income-based subsidies for patients, and risk equalization for insurers. Our assessment of the first two years is based on Dutch Central Bank statistics, national opinion polls, consumer surveys, and qualitative interviews with policy makers. The first lesson for the United States is that the new Dutch health insurance model may not control costs. To date, consumer premiums are increasing, and insurance companies report large losses on the basic policies. Second, regulated competition is unlikely to make voters/citizens happy; public satisfaction is not high, and perceived quality is down. Third, consumers may not behave as economic models predict, remaining responsive to price incentives. Finally, policy makers should not underestimate the opposition from health care providers who define their profession as more than simply a job. If regulated competition with individual mandates performs poorly in auspicious circumstances such as the Netherlands, how will this model fare in the United States, where access, quality, and cost challenges are even greater? Might the assumptions of economic theory not apply in the health sector?

Posted by: kullfarr | December 17, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

I think the issue here is more about procedure and power - i.e., that Joe Lieberman (who left the Democratic Party, supported the Iraq invasion, endorsed John McCain, and has basically peed in the pool of the Democratic Party) gets to dictate policy and break ranks.

If it's ok for Lieberman to do so, then why shouldn't Dean/Sanders/anyone else do the same?

Posted by: benintn | December 17, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

jkaren's comment reminds me of an old adage in football and soccer - they always catch the guy who retaliates, not the guy who throws the first punch.

Joe Lieberman is the one who's broken ranks and "become an instrument in derailing this fragile moment".

All that Dean is doing is reminding Lieberman and Democrats that the Democratic base (i.e., liberals) are sick of being taken for granted ... and that this is exactly how the Democrats lost power. Dean worked very successfully as DNC chair to move the party forward, and he didn't do it by embracing mediocrity or DLC centrism.

Posted by: benintn | December 17, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

"jkaren's comment reminds me of an old adage in football and soccer - they always catch the guy who retaliates, not the guy who throws the first punch."

your comment that the betrayals of joe lieberman are in any way unrecognized or forgotten simply is not true.
but after all that he has done, it comes as no shock that he would jeopardize health care reform.
but if the progress that has been made after months of many good people, working their absolute hardest, such as rockefeller, wyden, kerry ....and kennedy if he was still begin health care reform, to have howard dean intentionally imperil what has already been achieved, i think is very reckless and irresponsible, that can have consequences far beyond this initiative.
i dont know how anyone can look at the contents of the bill and not see it as a good thing. we are worse off without it.
to some, i guess it is half others, it is half-full. i think anyone who at this point, is going to hold up its passage for much longer, is going to risk losing it altogether.
maybe some think that is a good thing.
i think it would be a terrible loss.
in the execution of all things, timing is everything.
the consequences of health reform not happening will be terrible. i believe this is the time to come together and get it passed.
but i know many disagree.

Posted by: jkaren | December 17, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, you don't mean to say Dean is "hard left", do you? Effectively, he speaks for a sizable bloc of loyal Democrats who have lost patience after the loss of so many "liberal" initiatives in the bill. If you think it's the "hard left" complaining, consider the polling showing a drop in support for the HCR bill cause of the PO's demise. Or the polling that predicts dampened enthusiasm and lower turnout from Democratic voters next year. That's not a fringe at work.

As for real "hard lefties", as far as I know Nader, Chomsky etc. haven't said a word about HCR.

Regarding the PO's significance, I think Digby, who's pretty left-wing, made an honest and insightful observation about how the PO grew to be a symbol of liberal's clout, as much as it meant anything policywise. (You may have linked to it.)

Meanwhile, you, MYglesias, and WH proxies like Gibbs/Axelrod may find Dean a convenient whipping boy while defending the bill, but it will be "interesting" (and I say that in a grim way) to see how you criticize the prochoice punditry (representing a massive bloc of Dems) once they turn on the bill if Dem leaders accommodate Ben Nelson, from whom a filibuster over abortion policy may be imminent.

Posted by: Former_Prospector | December 17, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Two observations:

(1) (not new to me, of course) Ezra is a gutless wanker. Whenever liberals actually stand up for liberal goals or liberal principles, Ezra talks about their sincerity with the condescension that parents reserve for children or people of his elite class reserve for the lesser orders.

(2) I don't agree with jkaren, obviously, but I'm completely digging his (her?) line breaks. It's like a poem, or a haiku!

Posted by: redscott | December 17, 2009 4:23 PM | Report abuse

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