The Nation: Centrist Democrats = Corporate Sellouts

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Joe Lieberman i i

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., left, talks with ranking Republican Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009, during a markup on pending legislation and nominations. Harry Hamburg/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Harry Hamburg/AP
Joe Lieberman

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., left, talks with ranking Republican Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009, during a markup on pending legislation and nominations.

Harry Hamburg/AP

Every time I hear about Joe Lieberman's latest apostasy, I think, Oy vey! There he goes again. More Joementum.

Remind me why we still call this guy a Democrat? Sure, Lieberman caucuses with Democrats in the Senate — Joe is nothing if not opportunistic and who wants to be part of a lowly Republican minority? — but I think he forfeited his right to call himself one when he almost became John McCain's VP and campaigned stridently against an Obama presidency. Yet somehow he managed to keep his chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Gotta love those Senate Democrats — they always find a way to reward someone for stabbing them in the back. See Baucus, Max.

Following Lieberman's threat to filibuster a public option, every paper played up the story of how the "centrists" are now rebelling. Watch out, the centrists are coming! "Centrists unsure about Reid's public option," the Washington Post reported Wednesday. Let's get real. These holdouts are not centrist Democrats; they are corporate Democrats, which should be an oxymoron. They'll do whatever the healthcare industry wants and use their red state constituents as an excuse to do so. Only Lieberman is from Connecticut, one of the bluest states in the country. So what's his excuse?

Well, some rather large insurance companies reside in Connecticut and, as Joe Conason points out, Lieberman's wife just so happens to have been a drug industry lobbyist for Hill & Knowlton. Conason reports:

"Among Hill & Knowlton's clients when Mrs. Lieberman signed on with the firm last year was GlaxoSmithKline, the huge British-based drug company that makes vaccines along with many other drugs. As I noted in July, Sen. Lieberman introduced a bill in April 2005 (the month after his wife joined Hill & Knowlton) that would award billions of dollars in new "incentives" to companies like GlaxoSmithKline to persuade them to make more new vaccines. Under the legislation, known as Bioshield II, the cost to consumers and governments would be astronomical, but for Lieberman and his Republican cosponsors, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., the results would be worth every penny. Using the war on terror as their ideological backdrop, the pharma-friendly senators sought to win patent extensions on products that have nothing to do with preparations against terrorist attack or natural disaster."

Sounds like a bit of a conflict of interest, no? Let's take a look at some of these other so-called "centrists." Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas is in the pocket of Wal-Mart (just like her fellow Arkansan in the House, Blue Dog leader Mike Ross), Mary Landrieu of Louisiana is tied up with every major industry in the Bayou State and Ben Nelson...Well, he's Ben Nelson. What more need I say?

This healthcare debate has provided what they call a clarifying moment. When it's all over, we'll know exactly which side these Democrats are on.

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