US Senator Joseph Lieberman speaks at Republican National Convention

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Joseph Lieberman
Image: US Government.

United States Senator Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT) delivered an impassioned speech yesterday to Republicans at the 2008 Republican National Convention. His choice to do so angered numerous congressional Democrats, and may lead to sanctions by the party.

Lieberman spent 18 years as a Democrat, winning his first Senate race in 1988. After three terms, Lieberman narrowly lost the Democratic primary in the lead-up to the 2006 election. Running instead under the "Connecticut for Lieberman" party banner, Lieberman beat his former democratic opponent Ned Lamont, Republican Alan Schlesinger and third-party candidates thereby retaining his seat. He promptly changed his official party affiliation to "Independent Democrat", which he continues to use.

Lieberman, who had previously endorsed John McCain for the presidency and was long considered as a possible running mate, spoke to the Republican party about choosing a maverick:

But when they look to Washington, all too often they do not see their leaders coming together to tackle these problems. Instead they see Democrats and Republicans fighting each other, rather than fighting for the American people...It shouldn't take a natural disaster to teach us that the American people don't care much if you have an "R" or a "D" after your name.

Lieberman also took shots at his own party, and its candidate, Senator Barack Obama:

Senator Obama is a gifted and eloquent young man who can do great things for our country in the years ahead. But eloquence is no substitute for a record—not in these tough times. In the Senate he has not reached across party lines to get anything significant done, nor has he been willing to take on powerful interest groups in the Democratic Party. Contrast that to John McCain's record, or the record of the last Democratic President, Bill Clinton, who stood up to some of those same Democratic interest groups and worked with Republicans to get important things done like welfare reform, free trade agreements, and a balanced budget.

He also elicited booing when mentioning Obama's stance on ground-troop funding:

When others wanted to retreat in defeat from the field of battle, when Barack Obama was voting to cut off funding for our troops on the ground, John McCain had the courage to stand against the tide of public opinion and support the surge, and because of that, today, our troops are at last beginning to come home, not in failure, but in honor.

Lieberman's decision to speak at the Convention sparked anger from many of his Democratic colleagues. A "Lieberman Must Go" petition, boasting over 50,000 signatures, was launched by filmmaker Robert Greenwald. Greenwald seeks to have Lieberman stripped of his chairmanship on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Pundits consider this likely if Democrats gain Senate seats in the upcoming election, guaranteeing a safe majority. (The current makeup of the Senate is 49 Republicans, 49 Democrats, and two independents, Lieberman and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.)

Lieberman's speech came on the first day of the convention, and followed that of Senator Fred Thompson and the televised appearance of U.S. President George W. Bush. The convention will conclude on Thursday, 4 September.