Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Krampus of the Year: Joe Lieberman

In what I hope will be an annual award, it's time to anoint the Krampus of the Year. Thanks to my co-worker Richard, I have learned quite a bit about this unique European mythical creature. Krampus basically plays bad cop to Saint Nicholas' good cop. To quote Wikipedia:

In various regions of the world – especially Austria– it is believed that Krampus accompanies St. Nicholas during the Christmas season, warning and punishing bad children, in contrast to St. Nicholas, who gives gifts to good children.
The word Krampus originates from the Old High German word for claw (Krampen). In the Alpine regions, Krampus is represented by an incubus-like creature. Traditionally, young men dress up as the Krampus in the first two weeks of December, particularly on the evening of December 5, and roam the streets frightening children and women with rusty chains and bells.[1] In some rural areas the tradition also includes birchingcorporal punishment with a birch rod – by Krampus, especially of young girls. Images of Krampus usually show him with a basket on his back used to carry away bad children and dump them into the pits of Hell.

What a charmer. Who was the human equivalent this year? By a landslide, it's Holy Joe Lieberman! Probably the best illustration of why he deserves this can be found in an article written by Nate Silver from FiveThirtyEight:


Somebody Buy Joe Lieberman a Puppy

The reason this is a little scary for Democrats is because the usual things that serve to motivate a Congressman don't seem to motivate Joe Lieberman.

Would voting to filibuster the Democrats' health care bill (if it contains a decent public option) endear Lieberman to his constituents? No; Connecticutians favor the public option 64-31.

Would it make his path to re-election easier? No, because it would virtually assure that Lieberman faces a vigorous and well-funded challenge from a credible, capital-D Democrat, and polls show him losing such a match-up badly.

Would it buy him more power in the Senate? No, because Democrats would have every reason to strip him of his chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee.

Is Lieberman's stance intended to placate the special interests in his state? Perhaps this is part of it -- there are a lot of insurance companies in Connecticut -- but Lieberman is generally not one of the more sold-out Senators, ranking 75th out of the 100-member chamber in the percentage of his fundraising that comes from corporate PACs.

Are there any particular compromises or concessions he wants in the bill? He hasn't stipulated any, at least not publicly.

Might he have a legitimate policy objection to the public option? Certainly there are some legitimate objections -- whether or not you agree with them. But Lieberman's objections don't make any sense. He says he's worried about blunting "the economic recovery we’re in" even though the public option provisions wouldn't kick in until 2013. He says he's worried about debt-reduction when the public option would make the bill more deficit-neutral. And he campaigned on a public-option type alternative called "MediChoice" in 2006.

What Joe Lieberman wants, in all probability, is attention. He wants Harry Reid to have to stand up and say things like : "I don't have anyone that I've worked harder with, have more respect for, in the Senate than Joe Lieberman." He wants face time on Meet the Press. He wants to make liberals feel some pain -- especially those who tried to get Ned Lamont elected in his place. He wants everyone to know how maverick-y he is.

But even if Lieberman will probably cave, this creates real problems for Democrats. For one thing, Lieberman has said he won't oppose the motion to proceed with the health care bill. Instead, he'll filibuster the end result, if he doesn't like the outcome. This is actually very devious. If Harry Reid determines that he doesn't have 60 votes on the motion to proceed on a bill with a public option, then he doesn't have to bring it to the floor. Progressives will be apoplectic, Reid will lose some face, pundits will talk about Democrats having lost momentum -- but the prospects for health care reform will probably not have seriously been damaged. The opt-out will get replaced by an opt-in or maybe a trigger or co-ops or whatever and Olympia Snowe will be very happy and the debate will proceed.

But if, on the other hand, Lieberman filibusters the vote for final passage, that will have come after weeks of floor debate, amendments, and compromising on all sorts of issues. This would be a very, very serious blow to health care reform. And it makes this a much more expensive bluff to call.

The other way that this is damaging to Democrats, of course, is that it may embolden an Evan Bayh or a Blanche Lincoln or a Ben Nelson to adopt Lieberman's stance. None of these guys want to be the lone Democratic member to filibuster -- but it's much easier to defray individual responsibility on a procedural vote against your party when you have someone else joining you.

But while a Nelson or a Lincoln is liable to have a fairly rational set of concerns -- basically, they want to ensure they get re-elected -- it's tough to bargain with people like Lieberman who are a little crazy. In certain ways, he resembles nothing so much as one of those rogue, third-bit Middle Eastern dictators that he's so often carping about, capable of creating great anxiety with relatively little expenditure of resources, and taking equal pleasure in watching his friends and enemies sweat.

Keep in mind this was written before Joementum threw a tantrum over the prospect of Medicare availability starting at age 55 as a compromise over the public option, which was a blatantly hypocritical 360 degree reversal from his stance toward Medicare in 2000, back when he was campaigning to be Vice President, back when he was a Democrat.
Happy holidays, Krampus! What will you take away from the American public next?


Tom Degan said...

Honestly, has there ever been as vengeful a little gnat as Joe Lieberman? You'd really have to search the archives of history pretty thoroughly to find someone comparable. There are many reasons why Al Gore was defeated in 2000 by a half-witted frat boy like George W. Bush. One of the main reasons was the abysmal choice of running mate Lieberman. It was obvious during the debate with Dick Cheney during that campaign that comical Joe was a useless drag on the ticket. When Cheney said that his success in the private sector had nothing to do with the government, Lieberman let the statement stand. Cheney made his fortune at Haliburton because of Government contracts! Government had everything to do with it! Did he purposefully sabotage the Gore campaign? Maybe it's pure paranoia on my part but a case could be made that he did.

The Icing on the cake was his performance in late August at the 2008 Republican convention when he gave one of the keynote speeches endorsing John McCain and Fascist Barbi. This was right near the end of an extremist Republican administration which for eight long years had plundered America's national treasure. McCain wasn't offering anything substantially different from the Bush Mob's crap blizzard of bad policy - but that didn't matter in the least to Joe Lieberman. It was payback time.

But crossing the aisle in support of the Extreme right wing wasn't enough for Revoltin' Joe. The real kicker came this week when he all-but-destroyed the chance for real health care reform in this once-great nation. This all adds up, doesn't it? The state of Connecticut is the Insurance Capital of the country. The Insurance industry has given millions over the years to Joe's campaign coffers. When the time came to decide which side to stand with - the people or Corporate America - Joe Lieberman didn't have to think twice.


Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

Robert Paulsen said...

Thanks Tom! I think we are in agreement that Senator LIEberman is both a Krampus and a Jackass. There's no question that this is all about revenge on his real & imagined persecutors and sucking up to his corporate benefactors. The only real question is how many people in Connecticut still lack the ability to see through his monumental charade? 2012 cannot come soon enough for that scumbag. It's hard to imagine him having a chance at re-election then, but stranger things have happened.