Why is Obama still protecting Lieberman?

He's not your friend, Mr. President

Topics: Joe Lieberman, Barack Obama, Healthcare Reform

Why is Obama still protecting Lieberman?President Barack Obama and Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., greet each other after Obama's address before a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009. Lieberman has changed his tune on Obama. After campaigning for Republican John McCain in 2008 and attacking Obama as naive, Lieberman now in 2009 showers praise on the popular new Democratic president. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)(Credit: Associated Press)

I am beginning to see the inevitable healthcare “compromise” as the product of a political song and dance conducted by Democrats and Republicans solely to appease various constituencies within their parties — and nothing else. Remarkably, The Onion accurately assessed the situation several months ago with the satirical essay “Congress Deadlocked Over How To Not Provide Health Care.” The Onion “quotes” Nancy Pelosi in a very smart passage:

Both parties understand that the current system is broken,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Monday. “But what we can’t seem to agree upon is how to best keep it broken, while still ensuring that no elected official takes any political risk whatsoever. It’s a very complicated issue

Substantial reform was possible

Although I am proudly more cynical than most commentators, many early signs pointed to the possibility of substantial healthcare reform. Even though I predicted in October 2008 that the public would not likely tolerate the introduction of major spending programs during a weakened economy, opinion poll data told another story.

During the 2008 campaigns, voters clearly supported healthcare reform. Every credible candidate in both major parties advocated healthcare reform. Also, the Democrat candidates won convincingly, and they generally proposed broad reforms, including the formation of some type of “public plan” option that would extend government-sponsored healthcare to most uninsured individuals. Insured individuals could also opt for the public plan under certain circumstances. When healthcare debates began in Congress, most opinion polls showed strong support among voters for a public plan option.

Theatrics over debate

Although voters held and continue to hold favorable opinions regarding healthcare reform, the mainstream news media has generally portrayed the public plan in very ominous terms. Also, conservatives have shamelessly distorted the terms of healthcare reform in order to scare voters — particularly seniors.

Earlier this year, tense debates and even violence broke out at “town hall” meetings held to discuss healthcare reform. Moderate Democrats vowed to derail measures that included a public option. Liberals vowed to kill measures that did not include a public plan option. And it has become increasingly clear that Republicans will not vote for anything that the Democrats propose — other than bills to augment war spending. More often than not, mainstream media outlets have examined the political “drama” surrounding healthcare reform instead of providing facts that would allow voters to assess the merits of the various proposals.

In the middle of this theatrical performance, the Obama Administration went into hibernation. During the month of August, the president — who campaigned with an almost unprecedented level of high energy — virtually disappeared from the radar screen while the media and conservatives distorted Democratic healthcare reform proposals. Obama, however, returned from his vacation to Martha’s Vineyard and delivered a speech, during which he lauded and embraced a public plan option. Since that speech, however, Obama has not forcefully advocated the creation of a public plan.

Early warning signs missed?

Perhaps liberals missed the warning signs, which indicated that the moderate and conservative positions on healthcare would certainly prevail. In July 2008, for example, Maxine Waters told MSNBC that the White House was not going to punish moderate and conservative Democrats who did not suppport a robust public plan option. Waters said that Rahm Emanuel gave Blue Dog Democrats political cover because he recruited many of them to run for Congress:

You Might Also Like

[Pushing Blue Dogs] may be difficult for Rahm Emanuel, because don’t forget — he recruited most of them. As when he was over in the Congress, in the leadership, Rahm Emanuel recruited more conservative members and based on some of the information I’m getting, they told them that they could vote the way they wanted to vote, that they would not interfere with what was considered their philosophy about some of these things. So, now the chickens have come home to roost.

Perhaps the chickens are indeed roosting — at least according to several stories that appeared yesterday on many leading political blogs, including TPM, Huffington Post and Politico. According to these reports, Emanuel personally visited Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and demanded that he give Senator Joe Lieberman exactly what he wants regarding healthcare reform. Lieberman opposes a public plan and a buy-in option for Medicare. Lieberman has repeatedly vowed to filibuster any proposed healthcare reform legislation that contains either of these proposals. The recent reports which claim that Emanuel has told Reid to cater to Lieberman — a claim the White House denies — confirms the July statements of Maxine Waters.

Some careful readers will also remember that the White House intervened and allowed Lieberman to maintain his leadership positions on Senate committees, despite the fact that he ran as an Independent in 2006 and endorsed John McCain for president in 2008 during a speech he delivered at the Republican National Convention. Lieberman has threatened to kill the most important legislation that Congress has proposed in decades, and the White House continues to protect him politically and to cater to his interests.

To liberals who still believe that criticizing the Obama Administration is treasonous, I ask the following question: What must the White House do to receive legitimate criticism from the Left?

Update: An organization called the Progressive Change Campaign Committee has launched an advertisement that criticizes Rahm Emanuel’s willingness to discard the public plan option. The ad is posted below:


Professor Darren Hutchinson teaches Constitutional Law, Critical Race Theory, Law and Social Change, and Equal Protection Theory at the American University, Washington College of Law.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    Young Daya has yet to become entirely jaded, but she has the character's trademark skeptical pout down pat. And with a piece-of-work mother like Aleida -- who oscillates between jealousy and scorn for her creatively gifted daughter, chucking out the artwork she brings home from summer camp -- who can blame her?

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    With her marriage to prison penpal Vince Muccio, Lorna finally got to wear the white veil she has fantasized about since childhood (even if it was made of toilet paper).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    Cindy's embrace of Judaism makes sense when we see her childhood, lived under the fist of a terrifying father who preached a fire-and-brimstone version of Christianity. As she put it: "I was raised in a church where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad, I’d go to hell."

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    Joey Caputo has always tried to be a good guy, whether it's offering to fight a disabled wrestler at a high school wrestling event or giving up his musical ambitions to raise another man's child. But trying to be a nice guy never exactly worked out for him -- which might explain why he decides to take the selfish route in the Season 3 finale.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    In one of the season's more moving flashbacks, we see a young Boo -- who rejected the traditional trappings of femininity from a young age -- clashing with her mother over what to wear. Later, she makes the decision not to visit her mother on her deathbed if it means pretending to be something she's not. As she puts it, "I refuse to be invisible, Daddy. Not for you, not for Mom, not for anybody.”

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    We still don't know what landed Brooke Soso in the slammer, but a late-season flashback suggests that some seriously overbearing parenting may have been the impetus for her downward spiral.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    We already know a little about Poussey's relationship with her military father, but this season we saw a softer side of the spunky fan-favorite, who still pines for the loving mom that she lost too young.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    Pennsatucky had something of a redemption arc this season, and glimpses of her childhood only serve to increase viewer sympathy for the character, whose mother forced her to chug Mountain Dew outside the Social Security Administration office and stripped her of her sexual agency before she was even old enough to comprehend it.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    This season, we got an intense look at the teenage life of one of Litchfield's most isolated and underexplored inmates. Rebuffed and scorned by her suitor at an arranged marriage, the young Chinese immigrant stored up a grudge, and ultimately exacted a merciless revenge.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    It's difficult to sympathize with the racist, misogynist CO Sam Healy, but the snippets we get of his childhood -- raised by a mentally ill mother, vomited on by a homeless man he mistakes for Jesus when he runs to the church for help -- certainly help us understand him better.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    This season, we learned a lot about one of Litchfield's biggest enigmas, as we saw the roots of Norma's silence (a childhood stutter) and the reason for her incarceration (killing the oppressive cult leader she followed for decades).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    While Nicki's mother certainly isn't entirely to blame for her daughter's struggles with addiction, an early childhood flashback -- of an adorable young Nicki being rebuffed on Mother's Day -- certainly helps us understand the roots of Nicki's scarred psyche.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>