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The 80 percent friend

Chris Cillizza explains the weird role Joe Lieberman plays in the Senate. And if you want proof, turn your attention to climate change, where Lieberman seems -- and seems is an important word there -- like he'll be a crucial ally. Six months from now, liberals may be rallying around Lieberman as he defends against attacks on "cap and tax." Political realities change quickly, and today's allies are worth more than yesterday's resentments.

By Ezra Klein  |  December 15, 2009; 11:49 AM ET
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I promise you-- liberals will not rally around Joe Lieberman.

Posted by: adamiani | December 15, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

"Six months from now, liberals may be rallying around Lieberman as he defends against attacks on "cap and tax.""

Maybe. But here it says that about four months from now, Lieberman will suddenly realize there is something terribly, terribly wrong with the environment deal so as to draw attention to himself and get even with liberals again.

You have heard about Lucy, Charlie Brown and the football, haven't you?

Posted by: Sophomore | December 15, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse

There's a lot of money to be made on Intrade buying futures in Lieberman doing a 180 and ending up opposing cloture on cap-and-trade.

Posted by: redwards95 | December 15, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Look for Lieberman to pivot to a meaningless GOP friendly compromise at the last minute on climate change. Wonk merits aside, the smart move is to back Cantwell-Collins based solely on the reliability of the backers.

The lesson from health care reform should be "you lie down with dogs, you get fleas". I wouldn't cosponsor a bill with Joe Lieberman in favor of motherhood and the apple pie. John Kerry is a sucker if he thinks Joe Lieberman is going to be there for a tough climate change vote. Lieberman doesn't just 'seem' like a dog, he is one.

Posted by: jamusco | December 15, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Sophomore gets it right in one try. I have no doubt in my mind that 3-6 months from now (whenever the climate bill winds its way to the senate) that Ole' Joe will take umbrage with some fresh new hell of government intrusion.

Besides, isn't this the same story we told ourselves LAST YEAR when Lieberman endorsed John McCain and rejected various other progressive platforms? That we needed him on healthcare? What a stalwart ally he has been.

Posted by: protonk | December 15, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

The reason Liebermann will APPEAR to support later progressive issues is that it will then be some other Blue Dog's turn to be the bad guy.

Though Liebermann may announce support for these later issues, he will never have to actually cast a vote for them because Baucus or Nelson or Lincoln (etc) will instead be the one to take one for the team (conservatives).

In the meantime, Reid will continue to act surprised and like a victim, though he is part of the cadre of those sabotaging progressive actions.

Posted by: Lomillialor | December 15, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

It seems unlikely Lieberman will be on board for any big Democratic bill in the future. What's the difference between health care and climate change from his POV? He's clearly opposing health care on personal levels, so why would he suddenly become chummy with the Dems? In six months he'll still be bitter, still be facing the loss of committee chairs, and still looking at a hopeless re-election campaign. If anything, it seems more likely that he would totally give up the pretense of being a Dem and start caucusing with the GOP (unless his maverick Dem self-image prevents him from doing that).

Posted by: Asherlc | December 15, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

I am a deeply pragmatic person. But pragmatism doesn't mean I will overlook when someone is deceptive and venal. I really don't see how anyone could trust Joe to do what he says. If he said he was for Medicare buy-in (which would save taxpayers a lot of money and make Medicare more sound...), and then turned against it, well... Really, if it walks like a duck, squacks like a duck, waddles like a duck, dips like a duck, looks like a duck, and swims with the might be a strange duck, sure, but it's probably a duck.

But...this duck might calculate, coldly, that having the insurers in his pocket in Connecticut, he can swing back towards the center for cap and trade, perhaps....

Ok, sure, that might work, maybe.

Posted by: HalHorvath | December 15, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Ok, having finished my duck hunting, let me say that regardless of politics, in the end the only thing that matters is figuring out the best ideas and presenting them clearly. Snowe for instance could be swayed by comprehending a new idea. That's a matter of communication skill. For that matter, Mainers and Nebraskans. It's a question of columnists and other writers raising up to the level needed. A matter of competence and ability, in the end.

Posted by: HalHorvath | December 15, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Wishful thinking on Lieb about Cap & Trade.


Posted by: toshiaki | December 15, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

This post misses the point, which is surprising since you've done a good job nailing Lieberman in previous posts. If Lieberman had some principle reason for opposing the public option and Medicare buy-in, however misguided, it would be easier to shrug our shoulders and says "that's just Joe being Joe" and prepare to fight beside him on other issues. There's a reason why liberals are annoyed with folks like Nelson and Landrieu but outraged at Lieberman. To me, Lieberman's support of the Iraq War and even his endorsement of John McCain were more forgivable because they at least seemed genuine. But his stance on health care just seems petty and vindictive, and makes him completely unreliable as an ally.

Posted by: apr2517 | December 15, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Rising. You don't have to win every battle immediately either. Vested interests, after all, are often only looking for a way to make a living.

I've always approached reform from the pragmatic view that we have to think of how to get more health care (more people treated) for the same overall spending. Not for less spending. Not to cut, but rather to improve productivity (number successfully treated per dollar).

All of the ideas, every last one, including the best we've found, are only possibilities to measure against the pragmatically good goal that can be achieved: to slow the inflation of health spending and treat most everyone.

I'll write this up better on my blog.

Posted by: HalHorvath | December 15, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Lieberman's "involvement" with climate change involves the "tri-partisan" effort with John Kerry and Lindsey Graham. In other words, the idea is to get a conservative Republican who's made some vaguely positive noises to give cover to the whole raft of Senate moderates.

Why does this just seem so darn familiar...

Posted by: NS12345 | December 15, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

This is an email I just sent to Harry Reid:


As a Democratic supporter until now, any future support I have for any Democrat at any level depends on you resigning and the removal of all conservative Democrats (Blue Dogs, Liebermann, etc) from **ALL** committeeships.

It is clear you all are Democrats in name only.

If you knew what you were doing, and had genuine interest in doing so, you could have easily enacted a better health reform bill months ago than the one that now exists after Liebermann (and you) gutted it of any cost control measures and consumer protections.

I do not believe the new bill is meaningful or wise. Instead, it is more corporate welfare. It even contains a mandate though no public option is now in it (the reason for the mandate).

We were told one year ago that the traitor Liebermann would be our friend when health care came along, yet he was not.

Now we are being told he will be there later for cap-trade or other progressive issues. I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT. THIS IS ANOTHER LIE.

Even if Liebermann later appears to be our friend, it will be because a different conservative Democrat will instead block progress in his place, and this will happen with your design and blessing. The way you recently tried to falsely implicate Rham and Obama for Liebermann's concession/betreyal is proof you are a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Posted by: Lomillialor | December 15, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

i hope the Democrats get used to minority status. i wont vote for them again
enjoy the idiocracy!!

Posted by: BernardEckholdt | December 15, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

From the NYT

"And he said he was particularly troubled by the overly enthusiastic reaction to the proposal by some liberals, including Representative Anthony Weiner, Democrat of New York, who strongly endorses a fully government-run health care system.

“Congressman Weiner made a comment that Medicare-buy in is better than a public option, it’s the beginning of a road to single-payer,” Mr. Lieberman said. “Jacob Hacker, who’s a Yale professor who is actually the man who created the public option, said, ‘This is a dream. This is better than a public option. This is a giant step.’”

Posted by: jhop2016 | December 15, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, don't you know that you can't negotiate with terrorists? It only encourages them. Lieberman is going to pull this stunt again and again and again.

Posted by: valeskoi | December 15, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

*he said he was particularly troubled by the overly enthusiastic reaction to the proposal by some liberals*

Wow. Lieberman's feelings were hurt because liberals were happy, so he had to lash out.

Ezra: you're making the most transparent Lucy-and-the-football setup I've ever seen.

Posted by: tyromania | December 15, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

jhop2016, tyromania, that's a very interesting Lieberman quote. What it says to me though is not about personal animosity to "liberals", etc. but instead it suggests another possibility that often occurs: Lieberman, like many in Congress, simply cannot mentally comprehend the effects of many of the possible reform ideas, and instead relies on the opinions of others to make all his decisions on these "complex" questions.

In this interpretation, JL, lacking mental ability, relies on signs and signals (and probably lobbyists) to make decisions. It's a certain cognitive style that is commonplace.

So, which is it? Revenge, cold calculation, or just...inability. Inability or lack of understanding is more common than we often guess.

Posted by: HalHorvath | December 15, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

There's a big difference between health care reform and climate change policy. HCR is massively important to progressives but also with Democrats in general, many of whom are not all that down with progressives in general. Climate change policy has many fewer people who think of it so favorably. (Alas.) I don't know if that makes stabbing the issue in the back more or less titillating for Lieberman.

Anyhow, jamusco above is right to endorse Cantwell/Collins cap-and-dividend over Lieberman/et al's cap-and-giveaway. Frankly, I think that the cap-and-giveaway route is already stabbing the issue in the back, even if Lieberman supports it all the way to Obama's desk. If ever you wanted to pour gasoline on the populist fire, just take the bank bailout and convert it from a one-time emergency screw up into a 50-year ongoing plan to throw consumer money at the fossil fuel industries. Of all the options on the table, only Cantwell's cap-and-dividend alternative has any hope of bringing the bulk of the population to support controlling carbon emissions rather than simply resenting everything and everyone.

Posted by: JonathanTE | December 15, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

How Joe will vote 6 months from now depends entirely on how much money he will get from the energy lobbyists.

Posted by: caed | December 15, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

How many times does the Pious Lieberman have to stab Democrats in the back before they take his Chairmanships away?

I cannot be the only liberal who voted for Lieberman to thank God that Lieberman never made it anywhere near the Oval Office. If the Supreme Court had not given George W. Bush the presidency, Lieberman, the traitor, would have been a heart beat away from being President of the United States.

I voted for Gore-Lieberman and I will never forgive myself. Lieberman is already a tin-horn dictator. Lieberman is an oily weasel who is poisoning the well of our Politics and Polity.

I loathe the truncated, bitter, husk of a once human named Holy Joe who is getting his revenge on America while enriching himself and his equally weasel wife.

I am so angry with this Oh-so-Holy! Values-deprived betrayer that I would prefer to see Dick Cheney or Sarah Palin POTUS before this pretend human dross.

Posted by: wapoisrightwingrag | December 15, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

!. Throw Lieberman out of the Caucus.

2. Take away any chairmanship, office, parking spot, Lieberman has now.

3. Never again allow a terrorist megalomaniac dictator to use his office to get revenge on the American people for his bruised ego.

Lieberman is not even a weasel. Lieberman is a oily, smiling, pious fraud who worships Holy Joe Lieberman and enriches himself by destroying his country and betraying whatever beliefs he claims to have.

I know I am not the only person who voted for Lieberman who will never forgive himself for voting for this abomination and stain on our honor as a party and a country.

Posted by: wapoisrightwingrag | December 15, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Let me say one more thing on Lierberman.

We should not simply talk to each other about corruption, etc.

Instead, we should write letters to the editor, etc., talk to friends, send emails, write blog posts, etc. pointing out good reforms and helping to inform more people of what we have figured out are good ideas.

Corruption depends on general ignorance.

If we work to inform more people about what is good reform, then corruption becomes much less tenable.

Posted by: HalHorvath | December 15, 2009 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Don't think so.

As we learned today, anything liberals are for he is against. That's bound to include legislation to fight global climate change.

Posted by: pj_camp | December 15, 2009 6:57 PM | Report abuse

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