Columns » John Brummett

Lincoln tells truth on herself



U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln stands accused on health care of flip-flopping, waffling and lying, none of which strikes me as exactly right.

Flip-flopping is close, but imprecise.

What she stands guilty of is over-finessing policy issues for her political expediency, then varying her points of policy emphasis in her electoral politics depending on the circumstance.

The contradictory political things she says are all true because she has done contradictory things in her policy history, committed as she is not to any abiding policy principle but to a political principle of self-preservation that has her tailoring her policy positions to the conveniences of the time and the situation.

Yeah, that's precisely it, if I do say so myself. Copy those two preceding paragraphs and put them on your refrigerator door.

She does this kind of thing generally, running against President Obama for a while when it suits her, because she has indeed been against him, and running arm-in-arm with him when that suits her, because she has indeed been with him.

She's chummy with the Wall Streeters one season. She's their public enemy number one the next, trying to take billions out from under them. The difference is the political circumstance.

This is all made abundantly clear by this dust-up over Lincoln's comical double-talk on health care.

Let's take the contradictory things she said first. Then let's take the contradictory things she had done on which she based the contradictory things she said. Then let's come to understand that she's not lying.

She's just, well, so all over the map on policy that she can politically claim just about any spot on that map as her home.

Late in her primary and runoff, she found it advisable to tack toward standard Democratic liberals. So she put her arm around Obama and did a TV commercial saying plainly that she "cast the deciding vote" on health care reform.

But on Wednesday, the day after she survived that runoff, and as she confronted a Republican opponent in the fall who will try to damage her by tying that health care reform vote around her neck in a state where the overall voting pool opposes that vote, she said just as plainly in a newspaper interview that she "did not cast the deciding vote."

True both times, with "not" and without.

The Senate bill that eventually became law could not even have moved to the floor for debate if she had not agreed to give Majority Leader Harry Reid the essential No. 60 vote to end the Republican filibuster. She purposely made herself the last, deciding vote for cloture. But first she got the public option taken out.

But, then, when the Senate convened to consider the revised version of the bill via the budget reconciliation process requiring a simple majority of only 51 votes, meaning her vote was not vital, she voted "no."

This was the version that went to the president. It was the operative, relevant, decisive version. She opposed it. She did not cast the deciding vote.

She explained at the time that this budget reconciliation process lacked transparency, which was nonsense. What lacked transparency was the first bill she'd cast the deciding vote for, including as it did that last-minute sop of millions in taxpayer debt to Nebraska's Medicaid reimbursements to get Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson's vote — a sop that was taken out in this budget reconciliation version that she voted against.

She may have been for and against health care. But the one consistency is that she was unflinchingly in favor of extra money for Nebraska.

So to try to explain Lincoln's two wholly opposite statements on being decisive one day and not decisive the next, her press secretary put out this mumbo and jumbo:

"Senator Lincoln voted for the health care bill that became law because while shaping the final bill she was able to keep government controlled health care out and was able to add important provisions that add to Medicare's solvency and specifically benefit Arkansas patients, providers and particularly small businesses. She has no regrets working hard to produce the best bill for Arkansas and being the deciding vote as part of a handful of senators who sought improvements."

I don't see any need to copy and save that.

Add a comment