Healthcare Reform Calls for Unthinkable Sacrifice

Crossposted from Hillbilly Report.

Today, there was a lot of news on the Healthcare front. It seems as if everyone is having some kind of problem or another with the way things are going. We have Corporate Democrats and Republicans who seemingly want no reform and are stalling for time, we have others calling for the states to take responsibility for a public option, and we have union middle-class workers crying foul for being expected to sacrifice even more as the drama rolls on.

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You ARE the Votes

We've heard from a number of conservative Democratic Senators that a public option can't be included in a health care reform bill because the votes just wouldn't be there to pass it.  (All emphasis added by me.)

Joe Lieberman (I/Dem caucus-CT), 6/16/09:

probably the most important, the votes are not there for a public health plan, government run option and this can stand in the way of a historic achievement for President Obama

Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), 6/21/09:

She told CNN's John King: "Well to be candid with you, I don't know that he has the votes right now. I think there's a lot of concern in the Democratic caucus."

Kent Conrad (D-ND), 8/16/09:

"The fact of the matter is there are not the votes in the United States Senate for the public option, there never have been, so to continue to chase that rabbit is just a wasted effort," Conrad said on Fox News Sunday.

Max Baucus (D-MT), 9/9/09:

He also said there are not enough votes in the Senate to pass the "public option," based on public and private conversations he's had with his colleagues.

Mark Pryor (D-AR), 9/10/09:

"My guess is that there are not votes to do it in the Senate, even a very modest public option like what he's talking about," Pryor said.

To Senators Lieberman, Feinstein, Conrad, Baucus, and Pryor, along with Senators Bayh, Johnson, Landrieu, Lincoln, Nelson and Nelson: you ARE the votes!

Saying that you oppose a public option "because the votes aren't there" is a nonsensical excuse when the votes would be there if the people claiming that the votes aren't there voted for it!  You are the votes.  Quit copping out.

For daily news and analysis on the U.S. Senate races around the country, regularly read Senate Guru.

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Joe Lieberman Up To His Old Tricks

Joe Lieberman has been staying out of the spotlight lately but don't be fooled, he's still the same ole Joe. Here's an exchange he had with Greta Van Susteren on Fox News (via Glenn Thrush):

VAN SUSTEREN: Again, the whole business about the torture memos being released by the Obama administration -- good idea or bad idea?

LIEBERMAN: I thought release of the memos was a bad idea.

The President of the United States as the commander in chief has the right to decide what kinds of tactics he wants to use with detainees who we believe are associated with terrorism and what kinds he does not want to use. Congress legislated on that. I was a cosponsor with Senator McCain of the anti-torture provisions we put into law.

But once you start to take internal memos that have been designated as top secret --

VAN SUSTEREN: Even if it's -- first of all, is waterboarding torture?

LIEBERMAN: Well, I take a minority position on this. Most people think it's definitely torture. The truth is, it has mostly a psychological impact on people. It's a terrible thing to do...

Why do I think it was a mistake to give it out? I wasn't necessary. It just helps our enemies. It doesn't really help us.

Again, the president can decide what tactics he wants the CIA or the military to use on people we capture, suspects of terrorism. But to let our enemies know what we are going to do or not do, that's not a good idea.

Obviously this is simply a warmed over Dick Cheney/Fox News talking point, one that Rahm Emanuel took down on This Week on Sunday:

"Let me say this, one of the reasons the president was willing to let this information out was that much of the information was already out. So if they're saying that you've basically exposed something, it's been written . Go get the New York Review of books. It's there. So the notion that somehow we're exposing something -- it's already out. In fact President Bush  let a lot, a lot of this information out. So the notion that somehow this is all of a sudden a game-changer, doesn't take cognizance that its already in the system and in the public domain. Therefore, it's not new. So the notion that that is something we've broken, it's already been there. Number two, it's why al Qaeda, it's one of the key tools that al Qaeda has used for recruitment. There has been net cost to America. By changing the way American is seen in the world, which means banning this technique and practice, we have actually stopped them and then prevented them from using it as a rallying cry."

David Sirota was quite good on CNN as well yesterday defending the release of the torture memos:

About a month ago, I think it was Jake Tapper who asked on Twitter if the liberal blogosphere would still push for Lieberman's defeat now that he's being a good soldier in the Senate. It was an absurd question to even ask. Of course Joe will be target numero uno in '12. We don't easily forget or forgive and Joe's re-emergence here reminds us why.

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Bayh rolls out "Moderate Dems Working Group": Does it matter?

Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana announced plans in December to form an equivalent of the Blue Dog caucus in the Senate. Today his office rolled out the Moderate Dems Working Group:

WASHINGTON - A diverse group of 15 Senate Democrats today announced the formation of a new moderate coalition that will meet regularly to shape public policy. The group's goal is to work with the Senate leadership and the new administration to craft common-sense solutions to urgent national problems.

The Moderate Dems Working Group will meet every other Tuesday before the Democratic Caucus lunch to discuss legislative strategies and ideas. The Moderate Dems held their second meeting Tuesday to focus on the upcoming budget negotiations and the importance of passing a fiscally responsible spending plan in the Senate.

Leading the new group are Democratic Senators Evan Bayh of Indiana, Tom Carper of Delaware and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas. Both Senators Bayh and Carper were successful governors before coming to the Senate. Senators Lincoln and Carper bring bicameral experience to the group as former members of the House of Representatives. All three leaders are honorary co-chairs of Third Way, a progressive Democratic policy group, and Senators Bayh and Carper have led the centrist Democratic Leadership Council.

At the working group meeting, Senator Bayh acknowledged that such a large group was unlikely to agree on all major issues before the Senate. Yet the Moderate Dems are joined by a shared commitment to pursue pragmatic, fiscally sustainable policies across a range of issues, such as deficit containment, health care reform, the housing crisis, educational reform, energy policy and climate change.

In addition to Senators Bayh, Carper and Lincoln, others joining the group are Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet of Colorado, Mark Begich of Alaska, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Bill Nelson of Florida, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, and Mark Warner of Virginia.

A few things jumped out at me:

15 members is a quarter of the Democratic Senate caucus. That's proportionally larger than the Blue Dog caucus in the House.

Look how many first-term senators have joined up with Bayh: McCaskill from the class of 2006 and Udall, Begich, Hagan, Shaheen and Warner from the class of 2008.

Of the Moderate Dems, only Bennet, Lincoln and Bayh are up for re-election in 2010. Lincoln and Bayh are not expected to face tough challenges.  

Of the Moderate Dems, only Lincoln, Landrieu, Begich and Ben Nelson represent states carried by John McCain. Why did the others rush to join a caucus that (based on Bayh's record) will try to water down President Barack Obama's agenda?

Back in December Matthew Yglesias advanced a very plausible hypothesis about Bayh's agenda:

With Republicans out of power, the GOP can't really block progressive change in exchange for large sums of special interest money. That creates an important market niche for Democrats willing to do the work. It was a good racket for the House Blue Dogs in 2007-2008 and there's no reason it couldn't work for Senate analogues over the next couple of years.

Bayh's press release includes a ludicrous quote from Harry Reid:

Of the working group's formation, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, "If we are going to deliver the change Americans demanded and move our country forward, it will require the courage to get past our political differences and get to work. Established organizations like Third Way and new ventures like this group offer us a new opportunity to get things done, and I support every effort that puts real solutions above political posturing."

Raise your hand if you believe that Bayh's group is going to offer "a new opportunity to get things done."

The only good I can imagine coming of Bayh's venture is if the group gives some political cover to Democratic senators representing red or purple states, making it harder for Republicans to tie them to liberal bogeymen.

This optimistic scenario would pan out only if the Moderate Dems do not consistently vote as a bloc with Bayh. Earlier this month, David Waldman/Kagro X analyzed some Senate votes in which Bayh supported Republican amendments. If you click that link you'll see that various senators named in today's press release did not vote with the Bayh/Republican position.

For that reason, Waldman greeted today's news with a big yawn and doesn't seem worried that the Moderate Dems will do anything other than help Bayh show off how "moderate" he is.

The Russians say one should "hope for the best but prepare for the worst." As a Democrat who wants President Obama to succeed, I hope Waldman is right and the "Moderate Dems" are just using Bayh to bolster their "centrist" image.

On the other hand, if Bayh's group develops along the path envisioned by Yglesias, which I consider more likely, then Democrats really should prepare for the worst in 2010. The severe recession may make next year a tough environment for the president's party to begin with. If Democrats carrying water for corporate interests sink "the change we need," Democratic base turnout could drop significantly, as it did in 1994. Most of the Moderate Dems Working Group members will not face the voters until 2012 and 2014, but their obstruction could harm many other Congressional Democrats.

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Lieberman meets with Lieberman

This seems like a parody:

Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman met with his American namesake, US Senator Joseph Lieberman, on Sunday in what sources close to him said was an audition for the role he wants in Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu's government: foreign minister.

...The head of Israel Beiteinu's negotiating team, MK Stas Meseznikov, confirmed that "in a narrow government, I am sure we will get the portfolio."

The senator requested the meeting, because he wanted to better understand the Israel Beiteinu leader's views. He advised his namesake to go to the US to explain his views.

"Though we're not related by blood, we are privileged to hold positions in two great nations," the senator said after the meeting. "I wanted to meet Lieberman, because he will play an important role in the next government, so it's important that we in the US get to know him well."

The Israel Beiteinu chairman explained his party's platform, including his call for a loyalty oath, which he renamed "the responsible citizenship bill," and dispelled what he said were myths about the party being racist.

Myths? The racist card is a canard; and it's too easily a distraction that's easily dismissed, for what's a complex hatred:
Yet Benjamin Pogrund, a long-time South African journalist and the first to objectively confront the policies of apartheid there, said that Lieberman's political stances were a unique strand of politics, and that racism was too simple a word to describe them.

"I grew up in a society where racism applied only to skin color," said Pogrund, who founded and currently heads the Yakar Center for Social Concern in Jerusalem. "But I think the definition has changed. Certainly here, the definition does not refer to color, because there are Sephardic Jews who are darker than Arabs, so the context isn't there. I think now, it's about an attitude towards a certain group, and because of that, Israeli-Arabs and the Left are calling Lieberman a racist. Well, he's clearly offensive to Israeli-Arabs, but you need to be careful when you use the word racist."

Pogrund pointed out that "Lieberman's loyalty oath would apply to haredi Jews as well. So that already makes it more complex. But overall, I think you can say that his policies are aimed at a particular group, and that's offensive. He's an offensive politician, as [Israeli-Arabs] have a certain history of being discriminated against. They're in this in-between situation, and I personally believe that they need to be embraced and given every possibility to be included. Lieberman's idea is to reject them, because he believes that they are some kind of a fifth column. Is that racism? I don't know, but it's certainly stirring up trouble, and I'm afraid that it will cause us all a great deal of damage."

Is Lieberman's hatred of Arabs as indistinguishable from Hitler's hatred of Jews? Can we call him fascist then, instead of racist, Joe?

Avigdor Lieberman would have Joe Lieberman believe that Israel Beiteinu is the "most Americanophile party," and is just "instituting a pledge of allegiance like America has."

Oh, sure, this is America (Lieberman being interviewed by Ari Shavit for Haaretz)?

You're concerned about violent domestic conflicts that could lead to the deaths of dozens or hundreds?

"Without a doubt. A real intifada, which is liable to be a lot more destructive. 2008 was a record year in terms of Israeli Arabs' participation in hostile activities against the State of Israel. We need to begin equating loyalty with citizenship. Our bill says that when you go to the Interior Ministry to get an identity card you sign a declaration of loyalty to the State of Israel, to the flag, to the national anthem, to the Declaration of Independence, and to Israel being a Jewish and Zionist country. In addition, you commit to perform military service or alternative [national] service."

Your proposal is completely undemocratic. It denies Israeli citizens not only their rights, but also their citizenship.

"Even the Geneva Initiative allows for the revocation of citizenship. One can revoke citizenship as well as moving a population and expelling people."

I don't think so.

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