I’m beginning to suspect that today’s Joe Lieberman narrative is a red herring — a balloon boy, if you will. At the end of the day were Sens. Nelson, Landrieu and Lincoln ever really going to get on board with the Medicare buy-in compromise? Any more than they were going endorse a strong public option? It seems likely that much of what we’ve been witnessing in the Senate these past weeks has been kabuki theater, designed to underscore for the Democratic base as well as for progressives in the House what’s been the static reality for months in the Senate: Reid never had the votes. No matter how hard he or his fellow public-option proponents tried. No matter what pressure the White House brought to bear. No matter what manner of out-of-the box Medicare-tinkering solutions they ginned up at the last moment. Politically, Harry couldn’t take the hit for killing the public option. The White House wasn’t about to be responsible for pulling the plug on this legislative Terri Schiavo. So they let Lieberman do it — twice now — by himself, on behalf of his silent partners, the immovable “moderates.” And who better? Lieberman’s likely on his last term. He relishes his maverick image (and his future book sales). And nothing gives him more pleasure than being the turd in the punch bowl of liberals who almost ousted him in favor of Ned Lamont. The 2010 politics even work. A vulnerable politician like Blanche Lincoln avoids becoming the target of MoveOn’s ire. House progressives now can cave on the public option without anyone accusing them of caving. Moreover, Lieberman’s emergence as the lone villain sparks fire in the bellies of the Kossacks — energizing the base even in defeat. Or, you know, maybe Lieberman is just an egotistical prick who ruined a perfectly good compromise bill out of petty spite.