Enjoying the heat
Joe Lieberman's role in the health-care bill had nothing to do with leadership; it was all about skillfully representing the interests of his constituents, in this case the insurance companies.
It was a bravura performance. He dispassionately sized up the situation, was clear about his own priorities, understood what resources he had, and put all of that analysis to work in achieving what he set out to do. That so many people were angry at him is a tribute to his skill in reaching his objective and undermining others' goals.
I admire him for his willingness to make himself something of a pariah, to have his colleagues and the chattering class angry at him. Tolerating the heat is a useful quality. Not every politician has the capacity to distinguish self from role enough to withstand the onslaught of criticism and personal attack that he endured last week. Only a very, very few, like Lieberman, seem to actually enjoy it.
But unlike Ben Nelson, who was using his leverage on behalf of values which he had long stood for and deeply believed in, Joe Lieberman was maneuvering on behalf of the people who elected him, a traditional if not particularly noble activity.
Real leadership from Lieberman would have seen him having the courage to represent the uninsured citizens of Connecticut, those who the insurance companies refused to cover, those whose costs of coverage became astronomical after they were ill. Real leadership from Joe Lieberman would have seen him annoy insurance company CEOs, not Harry Reid. Real leadership would have seen him use his relationship with the insurance companies to push them toward reforms and accepting competition that would make them in the long run more efficient and accountable, rather than pandering to them as he did.
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