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Toward A Unified Theory Of Lieberman

It has been a banner day for the field of Lieberman Psychology. My own contribution is that Lieberman is not as smart as people think he is, and certainly not detail-oriented or well-versed in public policy.

In response to the revelation that he endorsed the Medicare buy-in that he now cites as a deal-breaker, Lieberman explains:

"We've got this very strong network and system of subsidies for people, including people who are 55-65 so the idea of the Medicare buy in no longer was necessary because they're taken care of very well under the Finance Committee proposal."

Does this make any sense? Not very much. Back when Lieberman endorsed medicare buy-in in September, the basic subsidies for people in the 55-65 age range were part of the House health care bill, and were clearly going to be part of whatever emerged from the Senate. Nobody imagined a health care bill that would do nothing for people aged 55-65. What's more, even if Lieberman were completely unaware of even the most rough outlines that health care reform was taking, it's hard to imagine how he or anybody could believe that Medicare buy-in was desirable on its own but, in combination with other subsidies, so undesirable as to be a cause for filibustering reform. There's no way anybody would design their policy priorities this way.

Marc Ambinder adds some useful insight:

His contempt for liberals coincides with his new conservative friends, aides, colleagues, donors. ...

Lieberman has designed his public campaign as a way to streeeetch out the debate as much as possible, and just as Democrats seem to be on the verge of reaching him, like a quantum particle, he appears instantly at a completely different location, rendering useless at least a week of hard soldering by the Democrats.

To many of Lieberman's colleagues, it's been hard for them to accept that his motives were different than those he stated in public, but there have apparently been a number of private assurances given -- and broken -- by the Connecticut senator in recent weeks -- and a growing recognition that, of all the wavering "moderate" Democrats -- Bill Nelson, Blanche Lincoln and Mary Landreiu -- Lieberman is the least likely to negotiate to a compromise.

So the picture here is a politician with scant interest in the substance of reform, driven largely by broader themes. He is drawn to a heroic narrative in which he holds the gates against the run-amok liberalism that purged him from the party. It sure seems like many of his strongest supporters and sycophants are trying to sell this narrative to him. And he is not sophisticated enough about public policy to understand that that the run-amok liberalism he's opposing is the same policy he supported not long ago.