The Big Question: Lieberman on healthcare: political folly or fortune?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer some insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.

Today's question:

How will Sen. Joe Lieberman's decision to block several possible health reform compromises impact him politically?


Hal Lewis, professor at UC Santa Barbara, said:

He may, finally, become a free man. The Democrats need him more than he needs them.

A.B. Stoddard, political commentator, said:

Since Joe Lieberman won his reelection in 2006 with mostly Republican votes one could argue he is tacking to the right in hopes of securing GOP support at home for his next run. Others argue Lieberman, who has enjoyed the financial support of the insurance industry -- which has considerable interests based in Connecticut -- is protecting insurers and at the expense of his constituents.
 
What is certain is that a publicity win is usually a political win for a politician and Lieberman has worked to make sure that it is not Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NB) but himself who remains the focus of the health care reform fight. He pledged to filibuster any bill with a public option, and though he has expressed support for Medicare expansion in the past and remained open minded about such a compromise last week he went ahead and choked it off before it even came back with a score from the Congressional Budget Office. Given that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is running out of time to pass the bill out before Christmas, Lieberman likely did Reid a favor by telling him now that he would block a Medicare expansion.
 
Once again, Democrats are angry and Lieberman is the center of attention, claiming the high, principled ground. That is a win for Joe Lieberman.

Ryan J. Davis, Democratic strategist, said:

Impact Joe Lieberman politically?  This is a guy who hasn't behaved responsibly politically in years.  Remember his incredibly sad, ill-manged 2004 Presidential campaign?  Where, after the New Hampshire primary, he said one of my favorite quotes of that race, "We are in a three-way split decision for third place!"  Remember when he bucked his party and ran for Senate as an independent after being defeated in the Democratic Senate primary?  Or, that time he supported Republican John McCain for President over Barack Obama.  That didn't make any sense politically either, but he did it.  Now, Joe decides to completely reverse his views on the Medicare expansion, just to be a jerk.  Lieberman constantly surprises me with his ability to avoid any and all consequences for his actions.  Why should this move be any different.

Peter Fenn, Democratic strategist, said:

Many Democrats were willing to forgive Joe Lieberman for his foreign policy stances, particularly Iraq.  Some wanted desperately to put the 2008 campaign and the speech at the Republican Convention behind them for the sake of national and party unity.  The assumption, of course, was that Lieberman, for his entire political career, had been a loyal Democrat and progressive on nearly every singly domestic policy issue and would remain so, despite his actions of the past few years.  My guess is that Joe Lieberman will actually win the day on health care this week but that the anger within the Democratic caucus will be palpable.  The "Independent" description of his status will only increase.

Justin Raimondo, editorial director of Antiwar.com, said:

Since all politics is local, I don't have any ready answers to this question: it all depends on what his constiuents in Connecticut think. Perhaps they believe, along with me, that health care is not the most pressing problem we face, and that the issue of jobs -- or the lack of them -- really ought to be the first concern of Congress.

In any event, this is a plus for Lieberman because it amplifies his independent stance, a position increasingly popular with the voters. It also reflects the public's growing concern about the costs of government programs proposed by this administration.

Yes, it's true that Lieberman is alienating the Democratic liberal "base," and yet he did that a long time ago. So he hasn't got a whole lot to lose in that respect.

Chris Kofinis, Democratic strategist, said:

"With his hypocritcal opposition to health care reform, Sen. Lieberman has now surpassed Dick Cheney as the person progressives dislike the most. How's that for a political accomplishment."

Bill Press, political commentator, said:

Joe Lieberman is digging his own political grave, destroying what little credibility he had left. The fact that he proposed the expansion of Medicare just three months ago, yet opposes it today, just proves that he is out to kill all health care reform legislation. Democrats should immediately throw him out of the Democratic Caucus, strip him of his chairmanship, refuse passage to any bills that carry his name, and cut off all federal funds to Connecticut. Let him know there is a price to pay for being a traitor.

Peter Fenn, Democratic strategist, said:

Many Democrats were willing to forgive Joe Lieberman for his foreign policy stances, particularly Iraq.  Some wanted desperately to put the 2008 campaign and the speech at the Republican Convention behind them for the sake of national and party unity.  The assumption, of course, was that Lieberman, for his entire political career, had been a loyal Democrat and progressive on nearly every singly domestic policy issue and would remain so, despite his actions of the past few years.  My guess is that Joe Lieberman will actually win the day on health care this week but that the anger within the Democratic caucus will be palpable.  The "Independent" description of his status will only increase.