“Joe Lieberman is writing a book about the Jewish Sabbath called “Gift of Rest.” I hear he’s been working on it 24/6.” –Jimmy Fallon
“Joe Lieberman is writing a book about the Jewish Sabbath called “Gift of Rest.” I hear he’s been working on it 24/6.” –Jimmy Fallon
This is definitely a case of too little, too late (even if it is what I had suggested months ago). Back when there were not enough votes for the public option in the Senate due to the opposition of Republicans, one independent (Joe Lieberman), and one conservative Democrat (Ben Nelson) I suggested that the Democrats make this a campaign issue. The majority of the people (as well as majority of members of the Senate) were in favor. Make it a campaign issue and force Republicans to explain why they oppose this choice and go on the defensive. Instead the Democrats, after doing a poor job against the Republicans in the spin war, have been the ones on the defensive, desperately hoping voters won’t buy all the Republican misinformation being spread about the plan.
While most Democrats have tried to avoid discussing health care, there have been some exceptions. Majority Whip James Clyburn is even using the promise of a public option as a reason to keep the Democrats in control of Congress. The Hill reports:
Democrats could revive the public healthcare option if they maintain their majorities in Congress, the House Democrats’ third-ranking member said Friday.
“Reelect me, keep Democrats on the field. And when we come back next year, maybe we will get to the public option,” Majority Whip James Clyburn (S.C.) said during an appearance on the Tom Joyner Morning Show.
Clyburn has been traveling the country and making media appearances this week in an effort to drum up lagging voter enthusiasm on the Democratic side heading into the Nov. 2 midterms.
The public healthcare option was a top prize for liberal activists during the nearly two-year long debate over healthcare reform, but it was scrapped from the final legislation after support for it fell short in the Senate.
Campaigning for issues such as the public option could gain the support of many voters. At very least it would help motivate Democratic voters to turn out. Just giving Democratic voters more reason to turn out could change the outcome. Polls show that support for each party is very close, but far more Republicans than Democrats are expected to turn out to vote.
George W. Bush has the distinction of having a low approval rating of only 25 percent in the Gallup poll, just one percent above Richard Nixon who was forced to resign in disgrace. CBS News had his final approval rating even lower at 22 percent–which happens to be Sarah Palin’s current approval rating from the same organization. It appears that 22 percent might be the level of support a Republican politician can count on regardless of how incompetent they are.
More numbers from the poll:
Palin is viewed favorably by just 22 percent of Americans, according to the poll – including less than half (44 percent) of Republicans. Twenty-one percent of independents and 6 percent of Democrats view her favorably.
Forty-eight percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of Palin. That includes 73 percent of Democrats, 44 percent of independents and 22 percent of Republicans.
Another politician has seen their support fall to the same ball park as the Bush/Palin level. A survey from Public Policy Polling found that only 24 percent plan to vote for Joseph Lieberman for reelection, although his approval rating remains barely over 30 percent:
Majorities of Democrats (72%), independents (63%), and Republicans (61%) alike say it’s time to swap out Lieberman for someone new.
Lieberman is one of the most unpopular Senators in the country, with only a 31% approval rating and 57% of voters disapproving of his job performance. He’s on slightly favorable ground with Republicans at a 46/41 approval rating. But he’s lost virtually any remaining support he had with Democrats at a 20/69 approval and independents are against him as well, by a 31/56 spread.
More polls are conclusively showing only one thing–polls taken far in advance of an election are of little value (probably as most voters have not even given the election all that much thought). First there’s the polls on this year’s off year Congressional elections. Public Policy Polling finds that Barack Obama’s approval has hit a new low (as Obama continues to follow Ronald Reagan’s trajectory in the polls). The conventional wisdom is that off year elections are a referendum on the recently elected president. For this we’d expect that the Democrats would be falling behind the Republicans in the generic Congressional election. Instead the two are at a 43 percent tie.
Making matters even less clear. Gallup found that the Democrats have shot up to a six point lead over the Republicans in the generic poll. Perhaps some voters are starting to remember exactly why they voted against the Republicans in 2006 and 2008. No matter how bad the economy is, it makes no sense to vote for the party which caused this mess.
Yesterday, probably before these results were available, Nate Silver made some predictions based upon the finding that Republicans are more enthusiastic about voting at present than Democrats are. Nate looked at the odds of the Republicans taking control of the Senate:
Our latest Senate simulation has the chamber convening in 2011 with an average of 53.4 Democrats (counting Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders), 46.1 Republicans, and 0.5 Charlie Crists. This is an improvement for Republicans from our last forecast three weeks ago, which had 55.2 Democrats, 44.2 Republicans, and 0.6 Crists. The changes, however, predominantly reflect several methodological improvements we have made rather than any particular national momentum, although the dynamics of some individual contests are certainly evolving.
The model gives Republicans a 17 percent chance of taking over the Senate if Charlie Crist caucuses with them, up significantly from 6 percent three weeks ago. If Crist does not caucus with them, their chances of a takeover are 12 percent. However, the model does not account for the contingency that someone like Joe Lieberman or Ben Nelson could decide to switch parties, which makes their chances slightly better than we suggest here.
If the polls are inconclusive regarding the 2010 elections, polling on the 2012 election is even less clear. For example, a recent PPP poll found Sarah Palin tied at 46 percent with Obama in a hypothetical 2012 match up. However a Time Magazine Poll shows Obama leading Palin by 21 points, 55 percent to 34 percent. In other words, the polls show either a tie or landslide which might exceed Lyndon Johnson’s victory over Barry Goldwater.
In a moment which might come to define him as much as kissing George Bush in 2005, Joe Lieberman made a statement today which many Democrats might never forget:
“There were a lot of people, particularly Democrats, who were declaring after the 2008 election that we were beginning a period of Democratic dominance that would go on for decades,” Lieberman said during an interview with the conservative Newsmax magazine.
“Now, all of a sudden, the momentum is with the Republicans. And that’s — thank God — that’s the way people have spoken, you know? That’s our democracy.”
Lieberman actively campaigned for the Republican presidential candidate in 2008 and now has expressed support for Republican gains in Congress. At least he did vote with the Democrats on health care reform–but only after he helped kill the public option and Medicare buy-in.
From reports over the last few days it is appearing increasingly likely that Congress will pass health care reform by having the House pass the Senate bill and making changes by budget reconciliation which only require a simple majority, a strategy frequently used to pass legislation during the Bush years.
Going from a requirement of a sixty vote super-majority to using reconciliation which only requires a simple majority vote also means that the Democrats no longer need to be concerned about compromising to obtain the votes of conservatives such as Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson. This will allow them to pass measures supported by the majority such as a public option.
The public option is widely supported by the public, and is essential to reduce opposition to the bill created by the individual mandate. The public option would give consumers in the individual market the choice of voluntarily purchasing a government-run insurance plan modeled on the popular and highly successful Medicare program. Consumers would also have a choice of private insurance plans offered on the proposed insurance exchanges. The public option would be financed from premiums paid by those who chose the public option over private plans. Initial start up money for the public option coming from tax funds would have to be paid back.
When health care reform stalled after the lose of Ted Kennedy’s former Senate seat many on the left were urging for more immediate passage of the Senate plan. I was opposed to such immediate passage considering the political risk that this could lead to Republican gains in November, jeopardizing long term government action to reform health care delivery. Instead it appears the Democrats are following the path I favored: taking action to explain the health care plan to the voters, improve upon the Senate plan, and make clear the obstructionist policies of the Republican Party prior to passage. Both of these goals might be accomplished with the upcoming health care summit to be held prior to a final vote.
President Obama also used his weekly address to push for health care reform and it is a safe bet we will be hearing much more from him on the topic over the next several weeks. Polling over the past year has showed increases in public support for health care when discussed by Obama while support tends to decline when Republican misinformation dominates the news. Recent double digit increases in health insurance premiums on the individual market have also highlighted how essential it is to pass health care reform this year.
In an interview on Face the Nation, Joe Lieberman was asked if he could see himself as a Republican. Lieberman said, “it’s possible. A good old-fashioned New England moderate Republican.”
The prognosis for health care reform is rather guarded at the moment. House majority whip James Clyburn is saying that the House will pass the Senate bill if there are assurances that fixes will be made through a separate budget reconciliation bill. It is far from certain that the Senate will be able to do this. Reports coming out of the Senate do not sound like they are prepared to make such an arrangement to pass such fixes even though only 50 votes (plus Joe Biden as tie breaker) are needed.
Two conservative Democrats, Blanche Lincoln and Evan Bayh, have already stated they will not support a reconciliation measure. The two Senators from Connecticut, Chris Dodd (Democrat) and Joe Lieberman (Schmuck) are suggesting that President Obama use the State of the Union Address to “re-invite” the Republicans back to negotiate on health care legislation. So far the Republicans have not shown any interest in negotiating, preferring to block any legislation trying make the Democrats look like failures regardless of how much they harm the country. So far their strategy might be working.
While I am extremely pessimistic about the Republicans being willing to negotiate in good faith, if they should shock us all there could even be one benefit. Perhaps a deal could be made in which the Democrats do concede one point to the Republicans and proceed with malpractice reform. This will have a far smaller impact on health care costs than Republicans typically claim but we should not overlook any source of savings such as this which does not require reductions in care provided.
There is an anonymous report on a blog claiming that Joe Lieberman is preparing to endorse Scott Brown in the Massachusetts Senate race. While this should immediately raise doubts as to its accuracy, this is being quoted elsewhere. I imagine that a story suggesting that Lieberman plans to sell out the Democrats and further attempt to block health care reform has the feeling of truth to many.
The Hill reports that Lieberman has no plans to endorse anyone in the Massachusetts race, noting that conservative bloggers are floating this rumor. It is likely that this is intentional under the assumption that this might encourage some independents to vote for Brown over Coakley.
Things are not going well for Joe Lieberman. Public Policy Polling finds that “Barack Obama’s approval rating with Connecticut Republicans is higher than Lieberman’s with the state’s Democrats.” His approval among Democrats is down to 14 percent, with 81 percent disapproving.
There’s been talk that he will run for reelection as a Republican. Republicans like him more than Democrats do, but still don’t like him very much. Republicans disapprove of him by a 48/39 margin and independents disapprove of him by 61/32 spread. Overall his approval is only 25 percent.
It is an annual tradition to air one’s grievances on Festivus. I began this on a previous Festivus by airing the ways in which George Bush disappointed me and let down his country. In 2007 I aired my grievances against many of the candidates who were seeking to replace him. I had the least complaints about Barack Obama:
I am still waiting for more of the promised specifics of your plans. You do show an excellent ability to at least show consideration of all views, but I’m not yet certain if this is a matter of framing or ideology which will impact the final policy. My suspicion is that in a couple of years I will be writing a number of blog posts disagreeing with some of your actions as president, but things will be far better than if any of your major opponents were to win.
My prediction came true and I will begin this year with my grievances concerning Barack Obama. On health care he abandoned his opposition to mandates. It is hard to see how remaining in Afghanistan will be worth the cost, both in lives and dollars. He has preserved some of the secrecy policies of his predecessor. He opposes marriage equality at a time when I believe we are approaching a tipping point where such discrimination will no longer be acceptable–and leaders such as Obama could make this happen more quickly if he chose to do so.
While I have grievances against Obama, I also have grievances to air against the Obama bashers, both from the left and the right. On the right we have claims that he is a Muslim, a socialist, and not an American citizen. These attacks are ridiculous, but the right wing has deteriorated into an authoritarian cult primarily made up of people who are morally and intellectually bankrupt, lacking understanding of history, politics, economics, science, and, most importantly, of ethics or morality. We can no longer be shocked by their hatred and ignorance as this is what now defines the American right wing.
What is harder to understand is the Obama bashing from the left. I am not referring to those who disagree with Obama on issues but those who act as if they were deceived or betrayed, and claim he is no better than George Bush.
Obama might not be right on all the issues but, with some exceptions (and far less than most politicians) he is governing exactly as he said he would as a candidate. Obama ran as a centrist politician who sought to find common ground with others. He did not run as a Messiah, or as a far left politician. His health care plan remains very close to the plan he ran on. He stated his intention to remain in Afghanistan as a candidate. At least, in contrast to his predecessor, he did give some actual thought to the issue. It should have been obvious to anyone listening to him that he was not likely to prosecute members of the Bush administration for their crimes and he would move gradually to reform the system.
You can disagree with him, but don’t act shocked or betrayed–and certainly do not claim he is anywhere near as bad as George Bush.
And now for some briefer grievances to air:
Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson, Bart Stupak, plus the entire Republican Congressional delegation for getting in the way of what could have been a far better health care plan.
The insurance industry for developing a business model based upon increasing profits by denying care and dropping customers when they get sick.
Glenn Beck, who deserves the Misinformer of the Year Award.
Sarah Palin, who personifies everything which is wrong with the know-nothing attitude of the right wing, and who deserves to be honored for telling the Lie of the Year.
The tea-baggers. I respect their right to protest, but wish they at least had some basic understanding of the issues they were protesting about.
Acorn, just because everyone is supposed to hate them, regardless of the facts.
The hackers who stole the East Anglia emails. Once the stole the emails and it didn’t show anything meaningful it was time to shut up as opposed to continuing to make claims about the content of the email which were untrue.
Michigan football which has been so disappointing for the second year in a row. (I could include the Detroit Lions for a much longer time period, but why bother?)
Buy.com–the internet company which makes its money by selling defective merchandise at a discount, and then failing to respond to complaints.
Howie Mandel for being a spokesman for a crooked outfit like Buy.com.
The big box stores who offer discounts on electronics and then rip off the customers with extremely over-priced cables.
Fox for screwing up Dollhouse and not giving what could have been a great science fiction show a real chance.
J.J. Abrams for destroying Vulcan and failing to fix the time line (but at least he did save Star Trek).
Until Barack Obama’s election I do not recall a president who received so much criticism for doing what he said he would do during the campaign. It is one thing, and perfectly legitimate, to criticize Obama when one disagrees with him. Having said he would do something as a candidate does not make him immune to criticism for his policies once elected. It is a different thing, as some on the left are doing, to claim that Obama sold them out or act shocked by his current policies.
Barack Obama campaigned as a centrist, pragmatic politician who planned to try to consider the views of the opposing party. While campaigning he said he would remain in Afghanistan, and it was clear he would not concentrate on prosecuting Bush administration officials for their acts in office. As Ezra Klein points out, he also campaigned on a health care plan (pdf here) similar to the one being considered in Congress:
…the basic structure of the proposal is remarkably similar. Here’s how it was described in the campaign’s white paper:
“The Obama-Biden plan provides new affordable health insurance options by: (1) guaranteeing eligibility for all health insurance plans; (2) creating a National Health Insurance Exchange to help Americans and businesses purchase private health insurance; (3) providing new tax credits to families who can’t afford health insurance and to small businesses with a new Small Business Health Tax Credit; (4) requiring all large employers to contribute towards health coverage for their employees or towards the cost of the public plan; (5) requiring all children have health care coverage; (5) expanding eligibility for the Medicaid and SCHIP programs; and (6) allowing flexibility for state health reform plans.”
We don’t know what the employer mandate will look like once the House and the Senate merge their bills, and the exchanges look likelier to be run by states or regions than by the government (though there will also be a national exchange overseen by the Office of Personnel Management), but those are really the only differences. And it’s not even clear they’re differences.
Going through the legislative process has led to some changes. A key difference is the individual mandate. While I wish Obama had stuck with his opposition, the change is understandable. Ezra Klein, whose understanding of the realities of health care in the real world is far weaker than his study of legislation, believes this is because his plan would not work without mandates. The real reason Obama gave in is more likely that this was a compromise which was necessary to get a bill passed. He first tried to make a deal with the insurance industry by agreeing to their demands for a mandate in return for ending the restrictions based upon pre-existing conditions. Once this issue was taken up in Congress, leaders from both parties supported the individual mandate, making it futile for Obama to fight it.
The other big change, and the one which has disappointed the left the most, is the elimination of the public plan in the Senate bill. Obama’s strategy has certainly been one of getting a bill passed even if compromise is necessary, but he does not deserve the amount of blame he has been receiving for the elimination of the mandate. It was Joe Lieberman who killed the mandate, yet surprisingly many on the left are accepting the word of Lieberman (as well as Howard Dean, who has his own axe to grind with the Obama administration) on this. Joe Lieberman’s argument comes down to telling the left not to blame him for opposing the public option because Obama didn’t try hard enough to twist his arm.
Tom Harkin has a different take on the public option, disagreeing with the claims that this failed because of Obama. Harkin also says that the public option will be revisited. Even if it doesn’t make it into the final bill during reconciliation with the House bill, it is possible to bring up the public option again as a separate bill in the future. Considering the degree of public support for the public option, it might even make more sense to have a separate battle over this during an election year, or even in 2011.
I will not attempt to say whether the bill should be passed until the final legislation is available. The Senate bill has many faults, but passage is the only way to go to conference with the House and attempt to improve it. The bill must be judged not against our ideas of a perfect plan, but against the status quo, where the individual market might not survive much longer unless one is young and health or has lots of money to burn. Any final bill must be considered on its merits and not be judged based upon litmus tests such as whether there is a public option. Even Jacob S. Hacker, who devised the idea of a public plan, is arguing in favor of passage of the current Senate plan. Whatever the details are in the final plan, it does not appear that it will be radically different from the plan discussed when Obama was campaigning.
It looks like there are now sixty votes to pass the Senate bill without any Republican support. After gutting the bill to protect the insurance industry to appease their Senator, Joe Lieberman, it was time to buy off Ben Nelson:
Sen. Mary Landrieu got the “Louisiana Purchase.” Sen. Ben Nelson got the federal government to pick up most his state’s future Medicaid tab — forever.
As part of the deal to win Nelson’s support, the federal government will pay for Nebraska’s new Medicaid recipients. It’s a provision worth about $45 million over the first decade.
It is a miracle that more Senators don’t hold off on promising their vote until they get more in exchange.
Maybe one reason former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and so much of the digital Left can so casually dismiss the Senate health care reform bill is that they operate in an environment where so few people need to worry about access to insurance.
The 2004 presidential campaign that propelled Dean to national prominence was fueled predominantly by “wine track” Democratic activists-generally college-educated white liberals. (In the virtually all-white 2004 Iowa caucus, for instance, exit polls showed that two-thirds of Dean’s votes came from voters with a college degree.) Those are the same folks, all evidence suggests, who provide the core support for online activist groups like MoveOn.org or Dean’s Democracy for America and congregate most enthusiastically on liberal websites. (According to studies by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, college graduates are more than twice as likely as those with only a high-school degree to communicate about politics online.) Along with Dean, those digital Democratic activists are generating the loudest demands to derail the Senate bill.
Some individuals in these overlapping political networks undoubtedly face challenges with access to health care, but as a group college-educated whites are much less likely than any other segment of the population to lack health insurance
This may or may not be what is influencing Dean, but he does have some valid points which deserve an answer, along with some points which have been countered. Considering how similar the current plan is to his 2004 plan which also lacked a public option, it is also possible that the bad blood between Dean and the White House is influencing him on this. This was most evident when Dean was not offered a spot in the Obama administration. (This would not be the first time that Howard Dean has created political waves by attacking someone with a similar viewpoint. During the 2003 fights for the 2004 nomination, Dean repeatedly distorted and attacked John Kerry’s position on Iraq despite the fact that the views of the two were virtually identical.)Regardless of Dean’s motivations, there are some real issues here and I would prefer to see actual discussion of the issues rather than dwelling on speculation over his motivation.
If we must attack Democrats (including Lieberman who still caucuses with the Democrats), it should be the Democrats who are really standing in the way of meaningful health care reform. Ezra Klein points out that Joe Lieberman is responsible for much of the mess we are now in:
Joe Lieberman’s reckless decision to blow up last week’s compromise has had exactly the impact many of us predicted. Much of the left has flipped into vicious, angry opposition to the bill. Is that because the Medicare buy-in, a good but limited policy, has disappeared from the bill? Ostensibly. But not really. If you don’t believe the bill has cost controls, Medicare buy-in was not an answer to your concerns. If you believe the mandate is bad policy, letting the small slice of exchange-users between 55 and 64 choose public insurance did not answer your fears.
But progressives had compromised plenty already. Single payer became a strong public option, a strong public option became a weak public option, a weak public option became Medicare buy-in, and Medicare buy-in became Joe Lieberman’s revenge. Progressive ends are submitting to conservative means, and industry is laughing all the way to the bank. All this amid the first year of a president they elected, a Democratic majority they built…
Lieberman has tossed the process into chaos. But the short-term satisfactions won’t overwhelm the long-term judgments. Lieberman is “point person” because he has appointed himself the 60th senator. Every other member of the Democratic caucus could have done the same, but most all have judged the underlying bill more important than their disagreements with it. Lieberman did the opposite, and there’s little evidence that he actually had disagreements with the bill so much as dislike for some of its supporters.
And Lieberman, let’s remember, is not a lefty blogger. He isn’t a pundit or an op-ed columnist. He is the “point man,” and by choice. He bears a special responsibility. Atop the shoulders of another man, it would make for a heavy load. But not his. His recklessness has endangered the bill, and through it, many, many lives. He may not be ashamed. But he should be.
I agree with Klein’s assessment of Lieberman but disagree with his push to maintain the mandate. Dropping the mandate would appease many on the left (as well as center and right) who now oppose the plan. Previously it appeared that the mandate at least made health care reform simpler. Now, instead of simplifying the legislation, among the many other problems with the idea, mandates to purchase private insurance are causing the greatest degree of friction on the left.
There are many other ways that the legislation could be written to provide assistance to those who desire to purchase private insurance while simultaneously providing disincentives to trying to game the system by holding off on purchasing insurance until one becomes ill. Currently the Medicare D program for prescription drugs is voluntary and, while few turn it down, even Medicare B which covers physician services is voluntary. The bill could provide greater advantages for those who sign up by 2014 which are phased out if people do not enter the system and/or exclusions on pre-existing conditions could be reserved for those who fail to obtain coverage. Obama also should have stuck to his first instincts and maintained the position he held during the primary campaign.
In sum: unless Ben Nelson is bluffing, the only way he will vote for cloture is if abortion is restricted, the subsidies are whacked, the revenue provisions are nuked, and its Medicaid expansion is gutted. Oh, and he doesn’t think there’s any chance of it happening by Christmas.
Compared to this, Dean’s attack on the Senate bill doesn’t look anywhere near as bad. Even David Axelrod has backed away from calling Dean’s criticism “insane.”
John Kerry was kicked around by the left far more than he deserved both in 2004 and after his close loss to George Bush. The previous post notes the quiet contributions John Kerry has made to the health care reform legislation. He has also been hard at work in other areas including climate change and on foreign policy. I supported John Kerry in 2004 because of many of the qualities he has shown since losing–not because he was the most flashy or charismatic candidate.
Gail Collins compares Kerry to Joe Lieberman and now regrets much of what she said about Kerry in the past:
I frequently made fun of Kerry for being a terrible presidential candidate. Which he was. But there comes a point when we the people have to move on. And Kerry has been a really good former failed presidential candidate. He’s been working hard in the Senate on climate control and trying to help the White House on foreign relations, despite the fact that Barack Obama stiffed him out of the secretary of state job in favor of a person who had been somewhat less supportive than Kerry of Obama’s early presidential aspirations. He actually seems more interested in doing stuff than being admired.
Lieberman was a terrible vice presidential candidate. (Like John Edwards, he not only lost his vice presidential debate, he managed to make Dick Cheney seem likable.) But instead of going back to something he could actually do well, he ran for president. He failed to gain any traction with the voters whatsoever, and like John McCain, he came out of the process bitterly denying that he was bitter.
Let’s look at our two failed-national-candidate models. You can move on, and try to make yourself useful (Kerry, Al Gore). Or you can work out barely suppressed rage by attacking things that you used to be for, like trying to control Medicare costs (McCain) or expanding Medicare eligibility (Lieberman).
Maybe the difference comes from self-image. Lieberman and McCain both thought of themselves as “character” candidates whose success was due to the love and trust of the public, and whose ultimate failure was the work of evil forces beyond their control. Kerry and Gore never believed their success was due to their innate likability. When they lost the presidency, a part of them probably shrugged and remembered that they weren’t all that popular in prep school, either.
Considering that Kerry came closest of any challenger to a sitting president during time of war I wouldn’t be so hard on him as a failed candidate. I have no idea how popular he was in prep school, and that is hardly meaningful. What counts is the work Kerry has done in the Senate in recent years, following the path of another Senator from Massachusetts who wanted to be president but was unable to–Ted Kennedy.