Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who, as a Democrat, was more loyal to George W. Bush and John McCain than to his own party and, as an American, is more loyal to Israel than to his own country, is finally leaving the U.S. Senate.
His farewell speech, emblematic of the Senatorial misfit who was drummed out of the Democratic party but not quite embraced by the Republican party, was a lonely affair. Just a handful of long-time colleagues attended the sendoff of the man who most certainly burned many bridges in his 24 years in the Senate.
According to Dana Milbank of the Washington Post, early on, only one Senator joined Lieberman, then a handful of his friends and colleagues dribbled in. According to Milbank, “A few more senators arrived during the 20-minute speech, but even by the end Lieberman was very much alone — which is how it has been for much of his 24-year tenure. He tried to push back against the mindless partisanship that developed in the chamber, and he paid dearly for it.”
Lieberman joked about his 2000 defeat in his quest for the Vice Presidency, saying that he was, “grateful to have received a half-million more votes than my opponent on the other side — but that’s a longer story.”
It is a longer story. Many blamed Lieberman for the defeat when he went on TV saying that overseas ballots would be given the “benefit of the doubt,” even as his his party was attempting to sort through them to determine legality. While it likely wouldn’t have made a difference, the Supreme Court would still have probably heard the case of Bush v. Gore and they would have still installed Bush as President, it was likely the first major wedge put between Lieberman and the Democratic powers that be.
In his speech, he also complained about partisanship, adding, “I regret to say as I leave the Senate that the greatest obstacle that I see standing between us and the brighter American future we all want is right here in Washington,” he said. “It’s the partisan polarization of our politics which prevents us from making the principled compromises on which progress in a democracy depends.”
While it can be argued that Lieberman did walk the anti-partisan walk, it can be equally argued that he was part of the rightward shift in American politics that led to the advent of the Tea Party and the stubborn refusal on the part of any Republicans to compromise.
The 70-year-old Senator will forever be remembered in the annals of Senatorial history as the man who turned on his own party to endorse a Republican presidential candidate and address the Republican convention in 2008.
Lieberman is a neo-conservative war hawk, never seeming to have met a potential Middle East war he didn’t like. He was a proud cheerleader of the Iraq war, which drove the country more than $4 trillion into debt, not to mention the loss of thousands of lives. He voted against repealing the Bush tax cuts. His views are most heavily influenced by his allegiance to Israel.
In 2006, his war stance forced Lieberman to lose his state primary to Ned Lamont. He then switched his party to “Independent” and went on to win with a lot of Republican support. He claimed he would still caucus as a Democrat, but he was inconsistent, even going so far as threatening to filibuster the Health Care Reform bill over the public option. He eventually caved, but the public option died.
On the other hand, Lieberman has many socially liberal stances. The pro-choice organization, NARAL, gave Lieberman a 100% rating, meaning that he consistently votes the pro-choice point of view. His liberal record on civil rights is nearly impeccable, although he has maintained an anti-drug stance.
Lieberman’s seat will be filled by Democrat Chris Murphy, who beat the self-funded wrestling mogul, Linda McMahon.