It finally looked last week that a health care plan with a public option had a chance of getting through the Senate, in no small part because Progressives had done such a fantastic job of both prodding the Democratic leadership and educating the public. By Oct. 20th we had learned that a Washington Post poll indicated that the number of Americans in favor of a public plan had increased over the previous 2 months - up to 57% from 52%.
Some Americans may have began to see the hypocrisy of their legislators. As many of us often said, "We just want the plan congress enjoys." Truthout's Jim Hightower explained well just how great a hypocrisy this was last week: "As members of the congressional elite, they and their families are governmentally blessed with their very own gold-plated, taxpayer-financed, Washington-run health care system."
Could we call the plan a "socialist plan"? As Hightower explained, it's a plan so fine and one which enjoys such fantastic consumer satisfaction that only two congressmen have enough integrity to refuse it: Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Wis.
So as of last week it looked as if maybe, just maybe, the public option had half a chance of succeeding, when up steps Sen. Lieberman! Good
ole Joe threatened to join a Republican filibuster if the final Democratic health care plan includes a public option - no matter how paltry few Americans might be eligible for it. Who woulda thought?! It's the very man our Democratic pols supported over and above the voters' choice by reassuring us that he "is a good man."
over time? "Joe, how could you?!" Others wondered what Lieberman's ability to obstruct health care reform says of the Democratic Party.
Some of us recall that Joe Lieberman was the man who, when he lost the Democrat Party nomination for the Senate from Connecticut in 2006, ran as an independent. And we remember that the Democratic leadership supported Joe over the Democratic candidate, Ned Lamont, the Connecticut voters' choice. It seemed that the Democratic Party's leadership didn't appreciate the voters' choice for some reason because Obama himself endorsed the closet GOPer over the primary-winning Democratic Party candidate saying,".... I know ... Joe Lieberman's a man with a good heart, with a keen intellect, who cares about the working families of America."
Two years later, good ole Joe seemed a bit like an ungrateful jerk when he proceeded to support GOP nominee John McCain during Obama's presidential campaign in '08. You might think there would have been hard feelings, but no! The Democrats, with amazing charity and a saintly spirit of forgiveness, reaffirmed Joe as chair of the powerful Homeland Security Committee by a big majority! Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid said he had been very angry by Lieberman's actions, but that, "...we're looking forward, - we're not looking back. " Perhaps Democrats should have considered the Liarman's history before "moving forward" or perhaps we voters should have examined what we knew about Democrats and Sen. Reid a bit more closely. We didn't do it then but we can do that now.
Sen. Max Baucus has received $2,880,631 in campaign contributions from the health care industry - I guess the industry realized how important his role might be as chair of the Senate Finance Committee.
Nancy Pelosi received $310,800 from the health care industry: big pharma, hospitals and nursing homes, and insurance companies. I don't want to sound harsh, but without a serious contender are we entitled to wonder if those "donations" could be considered bribes?
Sen. Evan Bayh is another fine example of a possible conflict of interest. Lieberman is not alone, BTW, in his threat to join Republicans in a threatened filibuster of the Democrats health care proposals; Sen. Evan Bayh threatened to do the same (he has since backed off). Why? Joe Conason's piece in Salon explains that both of these Senators threatening a filibuster have wives who work or who have worked as lobbyists for the health care industry.
So how is it again that this man Lieberman holds the power to obstruct health care legislation with a public option that a good-sized and growing majority of Americans want as indicated by polls? It is my opinion that at the present time Lieberman plays a very important role - scapegoat. Lieberman comes to the party's rescue and salvation by providing cover for the Democrats' failure to deliver on health care reform.
Without Lieberman the Democrats faced a terrible quandary. If Democrats passed a health care plan without a public option they risked taking the ire of progressive voters on the chin - facing a possible voter revolt. If they passed a plan with a public option they necessarily faced losing all hope in future campaign donations from the health care industry.
With Lieberman willing to fill role of scapegoat, congressional Democrats must be breathing a sigh of relief. By the way, Lieberman has announced plans to retire after he serves out his present term so he has nothing to lose. While I think the fact that Lieberman's presence in the Senate just now is entirely fortuitous - I certainly don't think Joe's there because leading Democrats somehow misjudged his character.
In '06 when the Democrats endorsed Lieberman, I figure they worked to keep a reliably corrupt man in place rather than risk an eager progressive and thus unreliable freshman like Lamont and simultaneously encourage a populist insurgency.
Congressional Dems may not have foreseen their present pickle - but I think they endorsed Lieberman for the same reason that most politicians seem more intent upon pleasing their corporate supporters than they are with serving their constituents: like the gal said, "Men may come and go, but diamonds are forever." The support of voters is notoriously fickle - but corporate donations go on forever - - at least till Americans demand that they come to an end.