New Haven Register, Conn., Randall Beach column
Jan 05, 2013 (New Haven Register - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
As our former senator, Joseph Lieberman, at last settles into retirement, many of us are thinking back on his long "maverick" odyssey.
Over the past month we've been deluged with news accounts of his "farewell tour," including his favorite habit, stopping into diners to see what's on the minds of the regular people.
I'm reminded of the multiple "farewell tours" of the Who, which never seem to end. I saw one such concert of theirs in 1989.
But Lieberman really has left the Senate now and it doesn't appear he will again seek public office. Perhaps he decided not to run for re-election because he saw the writing on the wall by those regular people.
He has also left New Haven, returning to his native Stamford. Was he getting tired of the feeback in the Elm City from disappointed Democrats
I've covered Joe Lieberman for decades. Our relationship has been complicated.
When I lived in Westville in the late '80s and early '90s, not far from his home, I often saw him walk by my driveway on his way to the synagogue with his family. Sometimes we would chat after greeting one another.
And on one fine day in August 2000, when I had heard Lieberman was about to receive a momentous phone call from Al Gore, I stood in his driveway on Alston Avenue with several other reporters, waiting for him to arrive in his car.
Lieberman was smiling broadly as he pulled in. He was on the phone, talking with Gore, accepting his offer to run on the Democratic ticket as the vice presidential candidate.
Then Lieberman got out of the car and told us he was "honored, humble and grateful." He said he was "ready to go."
We were very proud about our hometown boy and excited about the national attention.
Well, it didn't quite work out in November of that year. You'll recall the "hanging chads" in Florida. I spent part of election night in a Hartford hotel suite with Lieberman's son, Matt Lieberman, as he happilly monitored the encouraging early returns.
There's a lot to admire about Joe Lieberman. There are also some important less positive things to point out, which doesn't always happen in the sentimental moments when a long-serving political figure leaves office.
He certainly deserves our respect for a brave decison he made as a Yale student in 1963 to join classmates in a dangerous trip to Mississippi, where they registered black voters.
Later he was an effective Connecticut attorney general, crusading for consumer rights.
After he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1988, he had a solid record on the environment and has long been a proponent of better gun control.
But then came 9/11 and President George W. Bush's campaign to invade Iraq. Lieberman was a tireless cheerleader for that war before it began and throughout its long prosecution.
I have held onto a letter Lieberman wrote to a constituent in January 2003, shortly before we went into Iraq. Referring to Bush's war policy, Lieberman wrote: "I believe deeply that he is right about Iraq."
"Saddam Hussein already has enough biological and chemical weapons to kill millions, with more under development," Lieberman added. Later in the letter he alluded to "Iraq's weapons of mass destruction."
"I find it hard to argue," he said, "that if we know a madman is planning to unleash a weapon of mass destruction or pass it to terrorists, we must wait until the detonation to act."
Of course this was the classic red flag argument Bush used to justify the invasion. Even when no such weapons were found, Lieberman stuck to his guns. As late as 2005, he claimed to see "real progress" in Iraq. Never did he acknowledge we went into Iraq under a flawed premise.
The cost of that war: 4,488 American soldiers killed; 32,223 of them seriously wounded; at least 100,000 Iraqi civilian deaths; about $1 trillion spent by U.S. taxpayers.
And that's why an anti-war Democrat, Ned Lamont, defeated Lieberman in the 2006 Democratic primary. Lieberman decided to run as an independent and managed to hold onto his seat.
In 2008, he endorsed the Republican presidential candidate, U.S. Sen. John McCain, over Barack Obama. Lieberman said Obama lacked any record qualifying him to be president.
While campaigning with McCain, Lieberman said McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin, would make a great vice president: "She's so strong. She's so capable. She's so competent. She's so full of values. Mainstream, American values."
Where did our Joe go
Contact Randall Beach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 203-789-5766.
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