WaPo's Charles Lane undermines his own pro-Lieberman rant

The Washington Post's Charles Lane is having a heck of a day.

First, the Post published his column calling for a reduction in the minimum wage, a phenomenally bad idea just about any time, but one that could have catastrophic consequences in difficult economic times.

Now Lane has posted an ill-considered screed attacking his Post colleague Ezra Klein.

Earlier today, Klein wrote that, since a lack of health insurance contributed to the deaths of and estimated 137,000 people between 2000 and 2006, and since Joe Lieberman's stated objections to health care reform don't make a whit of sense, “Lieberman seems primarily motivated by torturing liberals. That is to say, he seems willing to cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in order to settle an old electoral score.”

That set Lane off, denouncing Klein's “venomous smear” and accusing him of having lost his mind. Here's Lane:

How else to explain the outrageous smear of Lieberman, posted earlier today by youthful policy wonk Ezra Klein on The Post's Web site?

Let's stop there: What does Klein's age have to do with anything? He isn't twelve. He's in his twenties, and is pretty widely acknowledged to have some level of health care expertise. But apparently Lane would rather debate Klein's age than his ideas, which tells you something about Lane and the strength of his case.

Lane continues:

This is disgusting, and pretty illogical, too. Klein brandishes a study by the Urban Institute showing that the lack of health insurance contributed to the deaths of 137,000 people between 2000 and 2006. But last time I checked, Joe Lieberman does not oppose insuring everyone. Indeed, he is on record favoring “legislation that expands access to the millions who do not have coverage, improves quality and lowers costs while not impeding our economic recovery or increasing the debt.” He simply opposes the public option, as well as Harry Reid's last-minute improvisation on Medicare. Klein's outburst only makes sense if you assume that there is one conceivable way to expand health insurance coverage, and that Harry Reid has discovered it.

Talk about illogical! Lane's argument boils down to this: Forget about what Joe Lieberman does and focus instead on what he says. Lieberman doesn't “simply” oppose the public option -- he has yet to propose an alternative that would provide health care to the millions he says should have it.

Actually, strike that: Lieberman is on record as saying he doesn't want to help them get it, regardless of the mechanism. Here's Lieberman in August:

LIEBERMAN: Here's the tough one. We morally, every one of us, would like to cover every American with health insurance. But that's where you spend most of the $1 trillion plus, a little less that is estimated, the estimate said this health care plan will cost. And I'm afraid we've got to think about putting a lot of that off until the economy's out of recession. There's no reason we have to do it all now, but we do have to get started. And I think the place to start is cost health delivery reform and insurance market reforms.

Note that Lieberman didn't say “we should cover people who don't have insurance, but not through the public option,” which is what Lane suggests Lieberman's position is. No, Lieberman said we have to put off covering those people -- regardless of the mechanism -- until the economy is better.

But Charles Lane still wants to give Lieberman credit of being in favor of covering those who currently lack insurance -- even after Lieberman has said we shouldn't do that, and even after Lieberman has opposed efforts to do so, and even after Lieberman has declined to come forward with his own plan for doing so.

Then Lane acknowledges that Lieberman may not be acting from the purest of motives:

Joe Lieberman is an odd political duck, to put it mildly. I understand that he seems to bear a grudge against the Democratic liberals who tried to unseat him in 2006 because of his vote for the war in Iraq, and that he might be engaged in a little pay back right now. Perhaps he's shilling for his home state insurance interests, as if no other senator would ever do such a thing.

Wait a second: Charles Lane acknowledges that Joe Lieberman may be opposing health care reform out of a desire for “a little pay back,” or to shill for insurance interests. And Charles Lane acknowledges the reality that without health insurance, people die. But if you combine those two things -- each of which Lane acknowledges -- he'll denounce you for making a “venomous slam” and an “outrageous smear.”

Incredibly, Lane was doing better when he was focusing on Klein's age.

UPDATE: Lane defends Lieberman by saying he “simply opposes the public option, as well as Harry Reid's last-minute improvisation on Medicare.” But Lieberman was for a Medicare buy-in as recently as September, suggesting that his current opposition to it is something less than sincere. Did Lane bother to learn anything about Lieberman's history of words and deeds on this topic before leaping to his defense and trashing a colleague in the process?

UPDATE 2: Greg Sargent, whose Plum Line blog is owned by the Washington Post, digs up video of Lieberman endorsing a Medicare buy-in in September. Maybe Lane should have talked to his colleagues before defending Lieberman on this one ...

UPDATE 3: Ezra Klein responds to Lane, noting that “Lane, well, agrees with my venomous smear.”