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Joe Conason
Joe Conason
11 Feb 2016
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This week marked the anniversary of the Citizens United decision, which exposed American democracy to … Read More.

The Democrats Blinked


By bowing to Sen. Joseph Lieberman and his obstructive pals in both parties on health care reform, President Obama has confirmed what Republicans always say about Democrats: They simply aren't strong enough to govern. Or at least the Democrats elected last year — and their colleagues in the Senate leadership — don't seem to be.

Their moment of truth came when Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff and self-styled tough guy from Chicago, urged the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, to strip out the most progressive aspects of the proposed health care reform bill in order to appease Lieberman. Unless the Connecticut senator got his way, he threatened to join a Republican filibuster — conniving with a political minority to kill reforms that a majority of Americans has wanted and needed for decades.

Neither Emanuel nor his boss possesses the courage to call the bluff of the reform opponents and urge a victory for that majority through the legislative process known as "reconciliation," which allows the Senate leadership to stuff a sock in the mouth of the filibuster. Instead, they have surrendered to the same forces that want nothing more than to frustrate and ruin them.

Not surprisingly, this spectacle of capitulation evokes disgust among many Democrats, surpassed only by the revulsion they feel as they gaze upon Lieberman's self-satisfied grin. His inconsistency is designed not to achieve any principled outcome but to create turmoil in the legislative process.

He now says, for instance, that Americans between 55 and 64 years old must not be permitted to purchase coverage under Medicare, as Senate Democrats wanted. But that is precisely what he endorsed when he ran for vice president with Al Gore in 2000, when he ran for president himself in 2004 and as recently as three months ago, when he gave an interview on health care reform to a newspaper in his home state.

Back when he was running for re-election in 2006, he sought desperately to persuade Connecticut voters that he shared their progressive views despite his support for the Iraq war.

"I'm saying to the people of Connecticut, I can do more for you and your families to get something done to make health care affordable, to get universal health insurance," he proclaimed during a debate with challenger Ned Lamont. "That's what the Democratic Party is all about."

By now we know that he doesn't really care what the Democratic Party is all about — especially when the issue is achieving reforms of health care that have been a central objective of Democrats throughout his lifetime. He is said to care much more about avenging his defeat by Democratic voters in the primary three years ago.

But there is no need to speculate on his lowdown motives. Everyone knows he is a servant of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries that have always paid his campaign bills and sometimes maintained his spouse, Hadassah, on their payrolls, either directly or indirectly. He is aggressively eager to block legislation inimical to their interests.

While observing the worst expressions of Lieberman's character, the public has learned about the president's defects, as well. Three years ago, Obama supported the Connecticut senator when few liberals would and then defended his senatorial privileges this year, even after he had endorsed and campaigned for John McCain and Sarah Palin in 2008. Now Lieberman has repaid those favors with spite —and that smart, tenacious, cool leader in the White House did nothing but flinch.

Joe Conason writes for the New York Observer ( To find out more about Joe Conason, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



3 Comments | Post Comment
"Unless the Connecticut senator got his way, he threatened to join a Republican filibuster conniving with a political minority to kill reforms that a majority of Americans has wanted and needed for decades."
Ok, why do people keep repeating that the majority of Americans want the health care "reforms" that Progressives have been serving up for the last 40 years? Rassmussen today shows 56% oppose and only 40% support the current proposals. Other polls have similar numbers.
Many polls show that the vast majority - 80%+ - of Americans are satisfied with their current health care coverage.
When the Clintons tried to pass health care reform during their administration, it was so unpopular that it was directly responsible for causing Republican majorities in both the House and the Senate in the next election.
So, polls show that 50%+ of Americans do not want Progressive style "reform", and 80%+ of Americans are happy with what they have, and therefore do not need reform.
Where in the world do you people get the idea that what you are in favor of is anywhere near "...reforms that a majority of Americans has wanted and needed for decades."? You think if you repeat it for 40 years it will someday become true?
Comment: #1
Posted by: Andy
Thu Dec 17, 2009 8:32 AM
That should read "With the Dems controlling the White House and both houses"
Comment: #2
Posted by: ann frank
Sun Dec 20, 2009 10:25 AM
Reposting a garbled previous attempt to comment:
It's true the current bills are unpopular with the public. However, not everyone who opposes the current proposals is against universal health care. Many of us who were laid off in this wretched economy (don't get me started on the Wall St bailout!) have lost or will shortly lose our COBRA coverage and be forced--by the govt--to buy health insurance from private insurers or pay a fine. This mandate is nothing but a taxpayer-funded subsidy to insurance companies. This is what the Rahmbama administration has wanted all along--to pretend to pass a reform bill while pleasing its biggest campaign contributors all along. The president could have taken a strong lead in pressing for a robust public option but instead he let it be known from day one of the process that it was expendable. And the Congress critters are no better. With the Dems controlling the White House, the Senate, and the House, we should be getting better health CARE, not concessions to those who have their own agenda. Instead we wind up with this POS that strips out anything that could help what's left of the middle class, while being told this is the best Congress can do. Seriously, if Bush had proposed these proposals--a giveaway to the big insurance monopolies, with no negotiations permitted for drug prices--how many Dems would be supporting it on its merits? Why do two holdouts have so much influence over the Senate bill, rather than the interests of the people? Why have Sanders and Feingold, who promised to hold the Dems' feet to the fire, thrown in the towel? It's clear that we need to throw ALL the bums out now and start all over again with new blood. We certainly couldn't do any worse than with the current crew in Washington!
Comment: #3
Posted by: ann frank
Sun Dec 20, 2009 12:41 PM
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