Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wednesday Potpourri

Ezra is pushing back against the stoopid. Good for him. And brave.
Ezra Klein: Venomous responsibility

My colleague Chuck Lane accuses me of a "venomous smear" against Joe Lieberman today, which is fair enough. He's hardly the first to see it that way. What is surprising is that Lane, well, agrees with my venomous smear. "I understand that [Lieberman] seems to bear a grudge against the Democratic liberals who tried to unseat him in 2006 because of his vote for the war in Iraq," writes Lane, "and that he might be engaged in a little pay back right now."

That's pretty much the ballgame, then. There are two component parts to my argument about Lieberman. The first is that the defeat of health-care reform will cost hundreds of thousands of lives. That's not a particularly controversial statement. It relies on data from the Institute of Medicine and the Urban Institute, both of which are credible sources who've been used, I'd wager, by Lieberman and The Washington Post editorial page in the past. The second is that Lieberman is being driven in part by pique, an assertion that I lay out the reasoning for here, and that Lane explicitly supports in his post.

Lane squares this circle, or attempts to, by saying that "Joe Lieberman does not oppose insuring everyone." True enough, but he's willing to destroy the effort if it includes a Medicare buy-in, which he supported in 2000? A policy, in fact, that he supported as recently as three months ago? And why? Because, as Lane says, he wants "a little pay back?" That, again, is exactly my point: It's morally irresponsible to imperil this effort in return for "a little pay back," just as it's been irresponsible for some on the left to suggest that the bill should be killed if it lacks a public option.

We have a very sterile policy debate in this country. We talk about things in terms of costs, not lives. It's the equivalent of conducting wars from the air: You hide the damage. That might be helpful, in some cases. Too much passion can impede clear thinking. But we run the danger of forgetting the implications of our actions. It's fine to speak in terms of costs so long as we do not forget to think in terms of lives.

Joe Lieberman is insured. Chuck Lane is insured. I am insured. If we get sick, we can go to the doctor. Studies show that our risk of death is substantially lower than those who are uninsured, as is our risk of medical bankruptcy, and chronic pain or impairment. Health-care reform, with or without the public option and the Medicare buy-in, will extend coverage to more than 30 million people. It will improve the coverage of tens of millions more.

The debate over this policy is whether it cuts the deficit, but the point of this policy is that it saves lives. Making that clear using numbers derived from the best empirical evidence we've had is not venomous. It's responsible. Threatening to sink the effort because you don't like a small corner of it is morally irresponsible. And we columnists should not grow so accustomed to the forced courtesies of Washington that we forget how to say so.

Not too long ago, Lieberman agreed that these lives were far too important to be sacrificed due to political pique. “Every campaign, as President Clinton reminded us, is about the future," Lieberman said in a 2006 debate against Ned Lamont. "And what 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."

If this is doing more, I'd hate to see doing less.
DougJ: Klein v. Lane, Round 3

Ezra just demolishes Lane today:

It seems, at this point, that our dispute comes down to tone. Lane wonders whether “it will be easier to achieve reform in an atmosphere where accusations of mass murder whizz about freely.” I wonder whether reform is even possible to achieve in an atmosphere where statements about consequences are ruled out of order.

At no point in our discussion has Lane disputed the contention that insurance reduces mortality, and for that matter, morbidity and bankruptcy. Similarly, he has agreed that Lieberman is acting partially out of residual anger at liberals, an argument Howard Fineman also made on Hardball last night. That is to say, the two premises on which my argument is built are both relatively non-controversial, even with Lane.


Second, Lane suggests that the rhetoric is simply overheated, as compared to the crystalline calm of his own prose. “I objected to Klein’s piece about Lieberman for the same reason I objected to the right’s scare talk about socialism and ‘death panels,’” Lane writes.

I find that peculiar. I objected to the rhetoric of socialism and ‘death panels’ because that rhetoric was untrue, and it harmed people’s understanding of the underlying legislation. But Lane, as far as I can tell, agrees that what I’m saying is true. But in this case, an accurate rendering of the situation reads like a radical attack on Joe Lieberman. Sometimes, reality is uncivil. But that does not mean it is uncivil to point it out.

Really, what is at play here is the same mentality that makes a person nonchalantly dismiss the notion that we should investigate war crimes or torture, but then gets the vapors when someone on the internet says “FUCK.”

John Cole: Why You Should Be Defending Ezra

Several of you called “Inside Baseball” regarding my post a little bit ago that included Ezra Klein’s tweet that the Lieberman office is calling around asking about him, but failing to call him directly. That made me state “With Wittmann sniffing around Ezra, you have to wonder how long is before Hiatt has Klein working alongside Froomkin at the HuffPo.”

I really didn’t think this was that inside baseball, because I am sure most of you know what happened to Froomkin. Having said that, I guess many of you don’t realize what a perilous position a young guy like Ezra is currently in. Let me run it down (at least as I see it):

A few things about Lieberman’s office calling around asking about Ezra:

1.) Wittmann is a former Trotskyite, just like half the rest of the current neocon establishment. You know all that shit the wingnuts state about Saul Alinsky and the Obama WH following rules for radicals- it is nonsense, of course- but for the neocons, it isn’t. They follow those rules. See anyone who opposed the Iraq War, see anyone who stands up to the AIPAC lobby, etc. These guys would think nothing of exerting a little pressure, snuffing Ezra’s job, which would both silence a critic and send a message.

2.) Ezra is young and has, compared to his enemies, very few ties to the DC establishment. Sure, he has the TAPPED crowd and Podesta at ThinkProgress, but that is about it, and he is railing against some entrenched interests. Not only entrenched big money like the insurance and pharm and health industry, but the whole establishment. Wittmann has ties to the Christian Coalition, worked for John McCain, the DLC, Lieberman has deep ties, etc. The entire premise of his blog was to mock the “nutroots,” and our paths crossed politically as I was moving to the left and he was moving to the right.

3.) Ezra has already made enemies with folks that Lieberman and Wittman are tied to in one way or another. The goon squads at the Weekly Standard and Commentary hate him because Ezra has made remarks regarding Israel that fall out of line with what they want, Marty Peretz refers to Ezra as the “juice box mafia” and would not think twice about destroying him, Micky Kaus hates him because he wasn’t invited to the Journolist and even has a tag for the juicebox mafia, and I wouldn’t be shocked to hear them step up the rhetoric in the next couple of weeks, calling him a self-hating Jew, etc.

4.) He has no left flank to defend him. The idiot purists in the progressive wing have been savaging him daily on their blogs. Hell, we’ve all read the “progressive” blogs call him the “”>village scribe” or accused him of going native on a daily basis, and others have been launching similar attacks at him for months.

When you put it all together, what Ezra is doing takes balls. You may not agree with him all the time, but he has shown more nuts in a few months than 99% of the people who occupy positions in our media. I’ll quite frankly be shocked to see him there for more than a few more months. He is making all the right enemies, yet the folks who should be his friends are too stupid to support him. His dust up with Charlie Lane today was another example of the kind of thing we should all be standing up and cheering. That took balls.

You can count me pretty solidly in the pro-Ezra Klein camp.

Republicans abdicate relevance Dec. 15: Senator Arlen Specter joins Rachel Maddow to talk about how the tea party movement is changing the Republican Party and the degree to which Republicans have been left out of the health reform debate.

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Smooth like Remy: They Don't Want It With Stuart Smally
Al Franken just keeps kicking Republicans in the ass and its hilarious because you can tell they aren't used to be called out on their bullshit. Can we get more Senators like him for Christmas? Pretty please?!

It made it all the funnier when John Thune, the number #4 in GOP leadership and a wingnut idol, had to run and get his big brother John McCain to try to fight his battle. Too bad the war was already lost....
Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) spoke with reporters this morning about the state of the health care debate. Lieberman said that if the leadership meets his conditions -- no public option, no Medicare buy-in -- "I'm going to be in a position where I can say what I've wanted to say all along: that I'm ready to vote for health care reform."

Collins, meanwhile, said she intends to keep pushing her amendments, but she's still opposed to the bill -- even after Lieberman's "improvements" (her word, not mine) -- and will likely vote against reform even if her amendments pass.

I suppose that means the 60th vote will have to come from either Ben Nelson or Olympia Snowe.

But there's something else Lieberman said this morning that stood out for me. In an interview with the New York Times, he conceded that he'd supported a Medicare buy-in previously, but talked about the evolution of his thinking on the subject.

[I]n the interview, Mr. Lieberman said that he grew apprehensive when a formal proposal began to take shape. He said he worried that the program would lead to financial trouble and contribute to the instability of the existing Medicare program.

And he said he was particularly troubled by the overly enthusiastic reaction to the proposal by some liberals, including Representative Anthony Weiner, Democrat of New York, who champions a fully government-run health care system.

"Congressman Weiner made a comment that Medicare-buy in is better than a public option, it's the beginning of a road to single-payer," Mr. Lieberman said. "Jacob Hacker, who's a Yale professor who is actually the man who created the public option, said, 'This is a dream. This is better than a public option. This is a giant step.'"

This is exactly what I was afraid of.

Occasionally, there's something to be said for keeping one's cards a little closer to the vest.

Update: It's also worth noting that the quotes Lieberman attributes to Jacob Hacker are completely wrong. Hacker's only public comments on the policy were on PBS and in a piece for The New Republic. The Yale political scientist simply never said what Lieberman attributes to him.

Armey's nonsensical attack suits venue Dec. 15: Rachel Maddow humiliates Dick Armey (again) by pointing out the nonsensical untruths in his effort to insult her in front of a crowd of teabaggers at a Washington, D.C. protest.

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