Refreshing Lieberman’s memory

REFRESHING LIEBERMAN’S MEMORY…. When it comes to the larger health care reform debate, the public option is a pretty new idea. As recently as the 2004 campaign, the leading Democratic candidates (Dean, Kerry, Edwards, Clark) all had health plans, but none of them proposed a government insurance option to compete alongside private insurers.

And while it’s a welcome addition to the debate, it’s not that new. Joe Lieberman said this week, “It’s classic politics of our time that if you look at the campaign last year, presidential, you can’t find a mention of public option. It was added after the election.”

I can understand why Lieberman made the argument — he may want to deny the notion of a mandate. If President Obama easily won a presidential election, but didn’t promise a public option, it’s more plausible to argue that lawmakers shouldn’t endorse after-the-fact add-ons.

Which is why it’s all the more important to note that Lieberman doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The Obama plan always featured a public option, since the day he unveiled his proposal in May 2007. In fairness, the measure didn’t generate a lot of attention — Republicans were too wrapped up in talking about preachers and flag pins — but it was there the whole time.

Brian Beutler followed up with Lieberman on the Hill yesterday, and the Connecticut senator repeated the claim that was debunked days ago.

“This is a kind of 11th hour addition to a debate that’s gone on for decades,” Lieberman told reporters tonight. “Nobody’s ever talked about a public option before. Not even in the presidential campaign last year.”

I asked in response, “How do you reconcile your contention that the public option wasn’t part of the presidential campaign given that all three of the [leading Democratic] candidates had something along the lines of the public option in their white papers?’

“Not really, not from what I’ve seen. There was a little — there was a line about the possibility of it in an Obama health care policy paper,” Lieberman said.

When reminded that Obama embraced the idea, as well as Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, during the campaign, Lieberman replied, “…Clinton, Obama, McCain — I don’t see it. Anyway, I’m opposed to it.”

He’s quite a senator, isn’t he?