As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, August 24, 2009

The McCain-Lieberman Show Is Back

If it's Sunday, it's two discredited Senators who should be irrelevant.

John McCain continued his dominance over the Beltway discourse yesterday by demanding that Obama drop the public option from his health care reform bill. That would be a precondition to Republican support, says McCain, despite the fact that Republicans have throughout the process showed no inclination to support a contention from Obama that the sky is blue and water is wet, let alone anything to do with health care. It's a brilliant strategy to try and fork Obama between his base of supporters and conservative Democrats in Washington, but on the merits it's a completely silly idea.

At least McCain's partner in crime, Joe Lieberman, is more honest. He doesn't want health care reform because... he doesn't want health care reform.

In case you were wondering, Joe Lieberman said this morning on John King's show that we need to concentrate on cost controls in the health care sector in order to bring down the deficit and forget about universal coverage. We just can't cover everyone, but we have to figure out a way to cut costs dramatically because health care is bankrupting the country.

Considering that Lieberman doesn't understand that universal coverage with everyone paying in will mitigate health care inflation, and that he considers cost control the most important thing, one can only assume that he's the guy who wants to off granny --- and you too, if you don't have insurance. After all, we know that people who aren't insured get some very expensive, inadequate care if they do get sick because we require that hospitals treat people in an emergency. If cutting the deficit is the point of health care reform, then you've got to go where the money is --- sick people.

Lieberman and Richard Lugar both agree that Obama shouldn't have put Health Care on the agenda at all because there is a recession. But, of course, if the recession was over you couldn't put health care on the agenda because Lieberman and Lugar would say it would hurt the recovery. And if the economy is rolling, everyone who is willing to work should be able to get covered, so there's no need for health care reform. It's funny how that works.

Later, Lieberman actually tried to use the civil rights movement as a model for doing almost nothing on health care this year. Now, Lieberman has, throughout his career, traded off his image of being a Freedom Rider in the early 1960s. I wasn't aware that, when he was in Mississippi signing up black people to vote, his goal was to do nothing substantial for a while until the country became more comfortable with black people. If so, he'd have been the only Freedom Rider with such a mentality. I think the "justice delayed is justice that's fine with me!" crowd had only one member.

The wanker caucus in the puffed-up US Senate is verging on a majority. And of course, that's the problem, one which Ross Douthat, of all people, comes close to nailing. Conservative Democrats really don't want to do much of anything with their majority, even though the cost of doing nothing could be fatal.

What’s more, health care reform is the Democratic Party’s signature issue. Its wonks have thought longer and harder about it than any other topic. Its politicians are vastly better at talking about the subject than Republicans: if an election is fought over health care, bet on the Democrat every time. And for all the complexity involved, it’s arguably easier to tackle than other liberal priorities. It’s more popular than cap and trade, it’s less likely to split the party than immigration and it’s more amenable to technocratic interventions than income inequality.

If the Congressional Democrats can’t get a health care package through, it won’t prove that President Obama is a sellout or an incompetent. It will prove that Congress’s liberal leaders are lousy tacticians, and that its centrist deal-makers are deal-makers first, poll watchers second and loyal Democrats a distant third. And it will prove that the Democratic Party is institutionally incapable of delivering on its most significant promises.

You'd think that the instinct for self-preservation would be some kind of impetus to getting something done. So far, it hasn't emerged.

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