Joe Lieberman, Mary Landrieu, and Ben Nelson seem likely to decide the fate of a heath-care reform bill with an opt-out public option. If all three vote for cloture – even if they then vote against final passage – the bill becomes law. Else, not.
So what will they do? After extracting the maximum amount of “centrist” mileage and media attention by pretending to be undecided, they will all vote “Yes. ” Partly that’s because joining with the Republicans to prevent a straight up-or-down vote on the key priority of a popular Democratic President is just too risky a move.
But it’s also the case that a defeat on health care would probably cost Harry Reid his seat, leaving Chuck Schumer as Majority Leader. And that reminds me of the story of the Quaker and the cow:
A Quaker dairy farmer owned an obstreperous cow, who took advantage of the man’s good nature and pacific principles to act up in variety of ways. Finally, one cold morning, she kicked over the milk pail, spilling all the milk.
The Quaker, keeping his voice low and reasonable, said to the cow, “Friend Bossy, thee knows that I may not strike thee. But I can sell thee to that ornery Baptist down the road.”
Footnote Yes, “Thee knows … ” isn’t good Early Modern English; it should be “Thou knowest.” But the “simple speech” of the Friends seems to have simplified away both the distinctions among the cases and the second-person-singular inflections of the verbs.
The use of “thee” wasn’t just an archaism. George Fox had a point to make. “You” was originally the second-person plural form, but became the form showing deference. Fox and his followers claimed, somewhat fancifully, that it was not consistent with rigorous truth-telling to address a single person using a plural form, but the impulse was an egalitarian one. It meant addressing a judge the same way one would address a beggar.