NATIONAL NEWS

Former Sen. Joe Lieberman, Democrats’ VP pick in 2000, dead at 82

Mar 27, 2024, 4:07 PM | Updated: 5:49 pm

FILE - No Labels leadership and guests from left, Dan Webb, National Co-Chair Dr. Benjamin F. Chavi...

FILE - No Labels leadership and guests from left, Dan Webb, National Co-Chair Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, and founding Chairman and former Sen. Joe Lieberman, speak about the 2024 election at National Press Club, in Washington, Jan. 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who nearly won the vice presidency on the Democratic ticket with Al Gore in the disputed 2000 election and who almost became Republican John McCain’s running mate eight years later, has died, according to a statement issued by his family.

Lieberman died in New York City on Wednesday due to complications from a fall, the statement said. He was 82.

The Democrat-turned-independent was never shy about veering from the party line.

Lieberman’s independent streak and especially his needling of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential contest rankled many Democrats, the party he aligned with in the Senate. Yet his support for gay rights, civil rights, abortion rights and environmental causes at times won him the praise of many liberals over the years.

Lieberman came tantalizingly close to winning the vice presidency in the contentious 2000 presidential contest that was decided by a 537-vote margin victory for George W. Bush in Florida after a drawn-out recount, legal challenges and a Supreme Court decision. He was the first Jewish candidate on a major party’s presidential ticket and would have been the first Jewish vice president.

First to criticize President Bill Clinton

He was also the first national Democrat to publicly criticize President Bill Clinton for his extramarital affair with a White House intern.

Lieberman sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 but dropped out after a weak showing in the early primaries. Four years later, he was an independent who was nearly chosen to be McCain’s running mate. He and McCain were close pals who shared hawkish views on military and national security matters.

McCain was leaning strongly toward choosing Lieberman for the ticket as the 2008 GOP convention neared, but he chose Sarah Palin at the last minute after “ferocious” blowback from conservatives over Lieberman’s liberal record, according to Steve Schmidt, who managed McCain’s campaign.

Lieberman generated controversy in 1998 when he scolded Clinton, his friend of many years, for “disgraceful behavior” in an explosive speech on the Senate floor during the height of the scandal over his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Yet Lieberman later voted against the impeachment of Clinton.

He defended his partisan switches as a matter of conscience, saying he always had the best interests of Connecticut voters at heart. Critics accused him of pursuing narrow self-interest and political expediency.

In announcing his retirement from the Senate in 2013, Lieberman acknowledged that he did “not always fit comfortably into conventional political boxes” and felt his first responsibility was to serve his constituents, state and country, not his political party. He had a tortured relationship with Democrats.

Final speech in Senate

During his final Senate speech, Lieberman urged Congress to look beyond party lines and partisan rancor to break Washington gridlock.

“It requires reaching across the aisle and finding partners from the opposite party,” said Lieberman. “That is what is desperately needed in Washington now.”

Harry Reid, who served as Senate Democratic leader, once said that while he didn’t always agree with the independent-minded Lieberman, he respected him.

“Regardless of our differences, I have never doubted Joe Lieberman’s principles or his patriotism,” Reid said. “And I respect his independent streak, as it stems from strong convictions.”

Privately, some Democrats were often less charitable about Lieberman’s forays across party lines, which they saw as disloyal. He bolted his party and turned independent after a 2006 Senate primary loss in Connecticut.

Lieberman’s strong support of the Iraq War hurt his statewide popularity. Democrats rejected Lieberman and handed the 2006 primary to a political newcomer and an anti-war candidate, Ned Lamont.

Defying Democratic leaders and friends, Lieberman ran successfully for reelection as an independent and drew support from some Republican allies. Lieberman won praise from the White House and fundraising help from prominent Republicans, such as then-New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who himself later ran as an independent.

Lieberman made his Senate experience and congressional clout a strong selling point, saying he’d fight hard for the state’s defense jobs and its fair share of federal largesse. The strategy paid off.

Lieberman won reelection to a fourth term, even though many of his Democratic allies and longtime friends, including former Sen. Chris Dodd, supported Lamont. Lieberman was candid about what he considered a betrayal by old pals such as Dodd, but the two men later reconciled.

After his rebound reelection in 2006, Lieberman decided to caucus with Democrats in the Senate, who let him head a committee in return because they needed his vote to help keep control of the closely divided chamber. But it wasn’t long until Lieberman was showing his independent streak and ruffling his Democratic caucus colleagues.

Despite the decision of Democrats to let him join their caucus as an independent, Lieberman was an enthusiastic backer of McCain in the 2008 presidential contest.

Lieberman’s speech at the 2008 GOP presidential nominating convention criticizing Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, struck a deep nerve with many Democrats.

Lieberman cast Obama as a political show horse, a lightweight with a thin record of accomplishment in the Senate despite his soaring eloquence as a speaker.

“In the Senate, during the 3 1/2 years that Sen. Obama has been a member, he has not reached across party lines to … accomplish anything significant, nor has he been willing to take on powerful interest groups in the Democratic Party to get something done,” Lieberman said at the convention.

“Eloquence is no substitute for a record,” he said.

Campaigning for John McCain

Lieberman campaigned heartily across the country for McCain. Many Democrats considered it a betrayal to Obama and his former party colleagues.

“Joe Lieberman has said things that are totally irresponsible when it comes to Barack Obama,” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California said in a radio interview during the 2008 race.

After the election, there was speculation Senate Democrats might strip Lieberman of his chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee as payback. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chair of the Judiciary Committee, was among those who said Lieberman should lose his chairmanship. Leahy branded Lieberman’s attacks on Obama as “beyond the pale.”

But at Obama’s urging, Senate Democrats decided not to punish Lieberman for supporting McCain and the GOP ticket. Obama was eager to strike a bipartisan tone for his presidency and giving Lieberman a pass helped reinforce that message.

Yet Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent and staunch liberal, called it a “slap in the face” for millions of Americans who backed Obama.

Lieberman was known in the Senate for his hawkish foreign policy views, his pro-defense bent and his strong support for environmental causes.

Five weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, he became one of the first politicians to call for the ouster of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and later voted in favor of the military invasion of Iraq. His vocal support for the war would later help doom his candidacy in the 2006 Connecticut Democratic primary.

Lieberman tended to vote with Democrats on most issues and was a longtime supporter of abortion rights, a stance that would have proved problematic with conservatives had McCain chosen him as his running mate in 2008.

He played a key role in the legislation that created the Department of Homeland Security.

Lieberman grew up in Stamford, Connecticut, where his father ran a liquor store. Lieberman graduated from Yale University and Yale Law School in New Haven As Connecticut’s attorney general from 1983 to 1988, he was a strong consumer and environmental advocate. Lieberman vaulted into the Senate by defeating moderate Republican incumbent Lowell Weicker in 1988.

After leaving the Senate in 2013, Lieberman joined a New York City law firm.

Lieberman and his wife, Hadassah, have four children.

Local reaction

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox took to X on Wednesday afternoon to share his thoughts on the passing of Lieberman.

Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson also shared her thoughts on passing of Lieberman on the social media platform.

KSL 5 TV Live

National News

PALM BEACH, FLORIDA - APRIL 12: Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump and...

Lisa Mascaro and Jill Colvin, Associated Press

Trump gives support to embattled Speaker Mike Johnson at pivotal Mar-a-Lago meet

Donald Trump has given his support to embattled House Speaker Mike Johnson during a visit to the Mar-a-Lago club in Florida.

55 minutes ago

President Joe Biden is receiving constant updates on threats of Iranian retaliatory strikes against...

Kevin Liptak, Natasha Bertrand and Samantha Waldenberg, CNN

Biden says he expects Iran will attack Israel ‘sooner than later’

President Joe Biden told reporters at the White House Friday that he expects Iran will attack Israel “sooner than later.”

4 hours ago

About 576,000 Roku accounts were compromised in a cyberattack, the company said on April 12, the se...

John Towfighi, CNN

Roku says 576,000 accounts breached in cyberattack

About 576,000 Roku accounts were compromised in Roku's second cyberattack of the year.

4 hours ago

The dome of the U.S. Capitol is reflected in a window on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, in April 2...

Kristin Wilson, Haley Talbot and Lauren Fox, CNN

House passes modified surveillance bill after it failed earlier this week

The House on Friday passed a modified surveillance bill, just two days after an earlier version failed to advance.

8 hours ago

Oakland officials have voted in favor of changing the name of the city’s airport to San Francisco...

Olga R. Rodriguez and Christopher Weber

Oakland officials vote to include ‘San Francisco’ in airport’s name

Oakland officials have voted in favor of changing the name of the city’s airport to San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport.

9 hours ago

FILE: Rashee Rice #4 of the Kansas City Chiefs warms up before Super Bowl LVIII against the Kansas ...

Associated Press

Kansas City Chiefs’ Rashee Rice surrenders to police on assault charge after high-speed crash

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Rashee Rice has surrendered to police on charges including aggravated assault after he and another driver of a speeding sports car allegedly caused a crash on a Dallas highway last month.

12 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why Printer Security Should Be Top of Mind for Your Business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Former Sen. Joe Lieberman, Democrats’ VP pick in 2000, dead at 82