Et Tu, Senator Lieberman?

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Have you ever thought about being the leader in a group? If you said yes, then you’re probably not Joe Lieberman. No, good old Joe is more like the guy in the group who says, “let’s put politics beside us and do what the other group is doing.” The only problem is that the other group is just playing Tetris on a calculator.

Senator Joe Lieberman has made a name for himself by being self-righteous and above the fray. What a great guy. He came out and condemned President Clinton when the Lewinsky “scandal” came out. He was also very hawkish on the Iraq war, didn’t support Obama in the general election and now he’s against the public option. So, what you’re saying, is he’s just a typical Republ—oh wait.

It turns out Joe is a Democrat. Well, sort of. He’s an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats. He used to be an actual Democrat but his party ousted him in the primary. But we all know that you can’t get rid of people you don’t want that easy. He joined Connecticut for Lieberman party, and won reelection with the help of Republicans.

The Democrats let him back in their caucus because at the time they needed him to gain a majority in the Senate. Did bringing Joe into the tent again lead him to become a faithful Democrat? Well it depends; do you count campaigning against your party’s presidential candidate as playing nice?

Fast forward to the present, and we see Senator Joe Lieberman playing foul again, this time in the health care debate.

Now if you’re a Republican you know what your mantra is: lower taxes, cut spending, start a war, more or less. If you’re a Democrat, universal health care is your issue. However, someone needs to send that memo to the Democrats as a whole.

The whole health care debate process has been sloppy primarily because there has been a lack of leadership by President Obama. Sure, President Obama has said what he wants in a bill, but he has left it largely up to Congress to see what it will look like. This has lead different committees to come up with different ideas of what they think should be in there: public option, no public option, opt-in, opt-out.

While there seemed to be enough votes in the House for a public option, it always remained questionable in the Senate. It became conventional wisdom during the summer that the public option was dead. However, like all short stories, the hero has his day again. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he was building a coalition around an opt-out public option. This allows states to opt-out of the small government insurance plan.

Reid needed at least everyone in his party to vote against a filibuster and allow the bill to come down for an up or down vote. This seems relatively simple. Everyone in the party should at least let the bill come down to the floor for a vote. If you don’t like the bill then you can vote against it, but don’t stop it on procedural grounds. That’s something the other party does.

This plan seemed to be working until Joe Lieberman announced that he would have a hard time voting for a public option and would back a GOP filibuster. Darn.

Lieberman’s rationale is that “We’re trying to do too much at once.” Sorry uninsured people, according to Joe, 60 years of trying to get universal health care is life in the fast lane.

If Lieberman does filibuster the weak public option bill then an important question has to be raised: why is Lieberman a Democrat? Why does he have a coveted chairmanship? Now, I am not arguing that the Democrats need to purge the party of anyone who disagrees with them on any issue, like the Republicans do. And to be fair, on domestic issues Senator Lieberman has voted more often than not with the Democrats. But this issue, health care, is not an ordinary issue. It is a defining issue. Do we move into the 21st century with at least a starting point for universal health care?

During the 2000 election recount signs of Gore Lieberman 2000 were changed into Sore Loserman 2000. While Gore has gone on to do great things bringing awareness to the environmental problem of our generation, Joe Lieberman has gone on to test every Democrat’s patience. If health care shouldn’t be done now, when? To quote John Maynard. Keynes, “In the long run, we’re all dead.”

Jaye Estrada is a third-year biological sciences major. He can be reached at estradaj@uci.edu.

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