Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

January 19, 2011

LIEBERMAN'S NOT LEAVING; HE'S PUSHING THE JOEMENTUM IN ANOTHER DIRECTION.... More than a few folks on the left were relishing the opportunity to defeat Sen. Joe Lieberman (I) in Connecticut next year. It appears they won't get the chance -- the senator will announce today that he will not seek a fifth term.

Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, the Democratic vice-presidential candidate in 2000 who later became deeply alienated from his party, will announce on Wednesday that he will not seek a fifth term, according to people he told of the decision.

Mr. Lieberman, 68, whose term is up in January 2013, has chosen to retire rather than face a difficult campaign for re-election, according to aides and others who spoke to the senator on Tuesday.

A source close to Lieberman told the New York Times that the senator decided retirement was preferable to defeat. "I don't think he wanted to go out feet first," the person said.

It's an important point. By all accounts, Lieberman's re-election prospects were very poor -- he won in 2006, after losing the Democratic primary, because it was effectively a two-way contest between Lieberman and Ned Lamont. Lieberman had enough GOP and independent support, along with some lingering Democratic backing, to win with relative ease. That wasn't going to happen in 2012 -- both major parties intend to run top-tier candidates -- and Lieberman's standing has weakened considerably in recent years, with moves that managed to annoy practically everyone.

In terms of a legacy, Lieberman will depart as a prominent national figure, with a level of public notoriety most senators never achieve. But in liberal/Democratic/progressive circles, the senator will very likely be remembered as a source of near-constant frustration and disappointment.

Regular readers know that I've long found Lieberman to be hopelessly exasperating, but I'm willing to concede his record has some high points. Just last month, Lieberman showed great leadership on DADT repeal, and was instrumental in getting it passed. Lieberman also had a very strong record on reproductive rights, which is more than can be said about many of his "centrist" brethren, and played a constructive role in helping defeat the GOP filibuster of the 2009 Recovery Act.

But then there's the rest of Lieberman's record. The cliche, repeated by many Democratic leaders over the years, is that Lieberman is "with us on everything but foreign policy." To be sure, when it came to national security, wars, and international affairs, the Connecticut Independent was an even more reliable Republican vote than some Republicans. There was literally no difference between Lieberman's vision and that of the Bush/Cheney team, and his allegiance with conservative Republicans like John McCain and Lindsey Graham on foreign policy was as misguided as it was maddening.

But the cliche was also wrong. For years, even when he was an actual Democrat, Lieberman adopted positions well to the right of his party on school vouchers, "tort reform," the Bush White House's "faith-based" initiative, gun control, and the "blame Hollywood" effort. Lieberman flirted with conservative changes to Social Security. He was the first Democrat to go after then-President Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal. During the uproar over Terri Schiavo, Lieberman was even sympathetic to Republican efforts.

Perhaps most strikingly, Lieberman was chiefly responsible for killing the public option in the health care debate, insisting at the outset that he would kill the entire initiative over this one, popular idea, and coming up with a series of bizarre rationales for his position.

Looking ahead, Democrats are optimistic about winning Lieberman's seat next year, and with good reason. The result will very likely be a reliable progressive voice, and a more consistent, less sanctimonious, lawmaker.

Postscript: I almost forgot that Lieberman was responsible for the most unintentionally hilarious bit of political spin I've ever heard. In 2004, as part of an inexplicable Democratic presidential campaign, Lieberman was counting on a strong showing in New Hampshire. He came in fifth, with just 9% support. Heralding the results to supporters the night of the primary, Lieberman proudly proclaimed, "We are in a three-way split decision ... for third place."

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (24)

Bookmark and Share

Exiting through the revolving door into politico-corporate sinecure, no doubt. Just like so many before him.

Posted by: terraformer on January 19, 2011 at 8:10 AM | PERMALINK

Will he get a job with Fox? Ailes can pretend Joe is a liberal to support their Fair and Balanced slogan.

Posted by: mlm on January 19, 2011 at 8:12 AM | PERMALINK

As a Ct. resident since 2007, I have to say this deeply disappoints me. I was so looking forward to retiring this guy myself on election day. Bummer.

Posted by: NHCt on January 19, 2011 at 8:13 AM | PERMALINK

"We are in a three-way split decision ... for third place."
And then he declared he had "Joe-mentum" on his side.
I loved this guy when he first came in, and into the late '90's - except for his unwavering support of Israel. The joke was that 'Lieberman's the Senator from Israel.'
Then, he turned into Holy Joe during Clinton's peccadillo, and he thought he was a force of nature - in his own head.
And if Gore had picked anyone else, ANYONE, I think we wouldn't have needed Bush's Daddies SCOTUS to give Little Boots his win. So I blame him for that, too.
Goodbye, and good riddance.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on January 19, 2011 at 8:16 AM | PERMALINK

Lieberman also had a very strong record on reproductive rights


Consider [Lieberman's] remarks about . . . a bill that would force all hospitals to offer emergency contraceptive pills to rape victims.

Lieberman said the Catholic hospitals shouldn’t have to hand out the pills and that transportation should instead be provided, for the rape victim, to some other hospital. He said, “In Connecticut, it shouldn’t take more than a short ride to get to another hospital.”


I'm willing to applaud his "courage" in supporting the right thing wrt DADT, which perhaps comes when he already knew he was retiring. And sure, he's done some other good things back in the day, but on the balance it's just "he made the trains run on time."

Posted by: Todd for VT House on January 19, 2011 at 8:20 AM | PERMALINK

Well, the repeal of DODT will be remembered as his last hurrah. Given that he's more loved on the right than on the left, he'll be to Obama like Senator Dirksen was to LBJ.

Thats not a bad place to be. He took Jim Brown's advice and went out on top. He always knew when to cutback and pivot.

Posted by: Manju on January 19, 2011 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

But, but, but, who's going to represent Israel in the US Senate?

'Bye, Joe. Don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.

Posted by: azportsider on January 19, 2011 at 8:36 AM | PERMALINK

2011 is off to a shaky start, what with healthcare repeal efforts, and the carnage in Tucson, but with the Senator from Jerusalem exiting stage right there is a glimmer of sunshine on the horizon.

With Liebershit as the 60th 'Democratic' vote in the Senate, until Scott Brown came alonge, he was the most powerful man in Congress, perhaps in the country because he had veto power at least as great as the president's. The untold damage he did by vetoing the public option in health care is astronomical, and the insurance industry, which employs his wife, will surely thank him.

Just what sinecure will be he accept? Between the insurance industry and Israel the offers will pile up at his door. Will he become the next ambassador to Israel? Quite possibly, and he could be appointed by either Obama if he survives 2012, or his Rethug successor if he doesn't. Political scientists have a textbook example of the political revolving door developing in prime time.

This may prove to be very entertaining.

Posted by: rrk1 on January 19, 2011 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK

It's a trick! We have to stay on guard for the appearance of a Sith warrior!

Posted by: MichMan on January 19, 2011 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

The numbers are against progressives in the Senate next year. We have to secure CT. It is hard to reach 50 senators when the party has adopted a 17 state strategy.

We also have to win back the house.

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 19, 2011 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

Always always remember that he killed the public option, leaving us all at the mercy of for-profit "insurance" companies.

Posted by: r on January 19, 2011 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

To be fair to Holy Joe, he was also very good on environmental issues. And--although it is to Al Gore's credit rather than Lieberman's--his nomination as VP in 2000 was the last gasp of the "Goodbye Columbus" era of American Jewry.

But I pretty much agree on the rest of Steve's bill of indictment.

Posted by: Joe S. on January 19, 2011 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

Shhhhh, be quiet! If he knows liberals are happy he'll change his mind...

Posted by: JM on January 19, 2011 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

No one ever accused Joe
of not having a sense of humor.

It's just many times we
couldn't quite get what sense he had! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on January 19, 2011 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

Good riddance. As nauseating a person that there ever was who was placed into a position of power to hurt soooo many less fortunate of those among us. Did I mention, good riddance?

Posted by: stevio on January 19, 2011 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

The only reason he supported DADT is because he is a total warhawk and gays can fight and die like everyone else. Do gays serve in Israel?

Posted by: MsJoanne on January 19, 2011 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

Joe Lieberman: First, last and always in the poc ket of the insurance companies. That's all you need to know.

Posted by: Jose Padilla on January 19, 2011 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

IIRC, wasn't Joe Obama's mentor in the US Senate?

It makes one wonder how much their similarities drew them together in the first place, or how much Obama really did learn from Holy Joe.

In any case, Joe is smart to see the writing on the wall and leave gracefully.

Posted by: jcricket on January 19, 2011 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

F*CK Joe LIEbermann!!!

Good riddance! Don't let the door hit you in the @ss.

Posted by: HappyOldVet on January 19, 2011 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

"Perhaps most strikingly, Lieberman was chiefly responsible for killing the public option in the health care debate..."

Lieberman also killed the alternative plan that I liked too--the ability for persons (55 or over?) to buy into Medicare. All Democratic Senators were on board (including Ben Nelson, Conrad, and other conserva-Dems). But when Lieberman learned that liberals liked it, he decided that there must be something wrong with it and said he would filibuster the health care legislation because of it.

In this case, Connecticut has set an example for the rest of us. When given a choice between a Dem and a Republican, go with the Democrat. But never give up on finding better Democrats.

Posted by: Chris on January 19, 2011 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

"Perhaps most strikingly, Lieberman was chiefly responsible for killing the public option..."

I was waiting for you to get to this.

I guess the only thing I'd add is, does anyone think if Gore had picked a better VP candidate in 2000 -- say, Sen. Graham from Fla. (or let's face it, anyone else) -- that the results might've been a bit different? We're not talking huge numbers here.

Posted by: leo on January 19, 2011 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

While I enjoy a tall, cool glass of schadenfreude, Lieberman will be sorting through offers for a high-paying lobbyist job.

Posted by: Gregory on January 19, 2011 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Joe's going for his big payday. He'll be making the rounds, collecting his IOUs, and as some have mentioned, probably end up at Fox as the token "liberal."

Then he'll retire to his real constituency: Israel.

Posted by: bdop4 on January 19, 2011 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK
Lieberman also had a very strong record on reproductive rights, which is more than can be said about many of his "centrist" brethren

You never heard of the term "Rape Gurney Joe"?

Posted by: bay of arizona on January 19, 2011 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK



Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM

buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly