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Sen. Joe Lieberman 'Capitol Hill's Master Infuriator' for Obama-Care Stand

Lieberman's opposition to a Medicare buy-in proposal and single-payer has frustrated Democrats (and Times reporters).

The New York Times cherishes moderate Republicans who make trouble for their party, like John McCain pre-campaign 2008. But the paper takes quite a different tone with Democrats (or ex-Democrats who caucus with the Democrats) who thwart liberal wishes.

The Times was clearly peeved with Sen. Joe Lieberman in Tuesday's front-page story about the tense health-care debate in the Senate, "Lieberman Gets Ex-Party to Shift On Health Plan." It's written by David Herszenhorn and David Kirkpatrick from a Democratic perspective. In the Times's worldview, Lieberman is no brave dissenter from the party line:

Just the thought of Joseph I. Lieberman makes some Democrats want to spit nails these days. But Mr. Lieberman, the Connecticut independent, is not the least troubled by his status as Capitol Hill's master infuriator - and on Monday he showed how powerful that role can be at a time when Democrats cannot spare a single vote.

The day before, Mr. Lieberman threatened on national television to join the Republicans in blocking the health care bill, President Obama's chief domestic initiative. Within hours, he was in a meeting at the Capitol with top White House officials.

And on Monday night, Democratic senators emerged from a tense 90-minute closed-door session and suggested that they were on the verge of bowing to Mr. Lieberman's main demands: that they scrap a plan to let people buy into Medicare beginning at age 55, and scotch even a fallback version of a new government-run health insurance plan, or public option.

Mr. Lieberman said he believed that the Medicare expansion was off the table, though he did not get any guarantee. "Not an explicit assurance, no," he said. "But put me down tonight as encouraged at the direction in which these discussions are going."

Mr. Lieberman could not be happier. He is right where he wants to be - at the center of the political aisle, the center of the Democrats' efforts to win 60 votes for their sweeping health care legislation. For the moment, he is at the center of everything - and he loves it.


After painting the Connecticut independent as an attention-getter, the Times piled on the insults:

Many Democrats say they have given up trying to divine the motivations of Mr. Lieberman. Some have suggested that he is catering to insurance industry interests back home. Others say he realizes that he cannot win re-election in 2012 without appealing to Republicans and independents, especially because Democrats will be energized with Mr. Obama running that year....Democratic leaders said they were caught off guard on Sunday morning by Mr. Lieberman's threat and accused him of acting in bad faith.


One hint the Times doesn't approve of you - it tallies your campaign contributions from various easy-target industries:

Campaign finance advocates have attacked Mr. Lieberman as "an insurance industry puppet," suggesting that he wants to protect private health insurers from competition because he has received more than $1 million insurance company campaign contributions since 1998.

During his 2006 re-election campaign, Mr. Lieberman ranked second in the Senate in insurance industry contributions. Connecticut is a hub of the insurance business, with about 22,000 jobs.