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Joe Lieberman for President, Inc.
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 Sen. Joseph Lieberman was first elected to the U.S. Senate in an upset in 1988, defeating incumbent Lowell Weicker by about 10,000 votes.  He is generally described as a moderate or centrist.  He served as chairman of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council from 1995 to early 2001, and in 1996 he helped found the New Democrat Network.  At the same time, however, he has garnered several 95% scores in the annual voting records compiled by the liberal group Americans for Democratic Action, including in 2001, although from 1991-94 the group rated his "liberal quotient," based on 20 key votes, at 65%.

On a sweltering day in Nashville, August 8, 2000, Vice President Al Gore announced his selection of Lieberman as his running mate.  Lieberman, Gore said, has "the experience, the character, and the judgment to become President on a moment's notice."  Alluding to Lieberman's Jewish faith, Gore recalled the nomination of John F. Kennedy, a Roman Catholic, in 1960.  "That year, we voted with our hearts to tear down a mighty wall of division.  We made history.  And when we nominate Joe Lieberman for Vice President, we will do it again," he stated.  For the next three months Lieberman stumped across the country for the Gore/Lieberman ticket.  Although the Gore-Lieberman ticket fell short by the smallest of margins, Lieberman was re-elected to a third term.

In the course of his travels around the country, Lieberman caught the presidential bug.  After the 2000 campaign he stated that he would not run for president if former Vice President Al Gore made another bid.  The "If Al Gore..." factor put something of an asterisk on Lieberman's activities in 2001-02, but he made it clear that he would like to have a go at the top job and proceeded as if he were going to run. 

Lieberman launched a leadership PAC, the Responsibility, Opportunity and Community PAC (ROCPAC) in late March 2001; without taking soft money (non-federal) contributions, ROCPAC reported receipts of $1.2 million by year's end.  During 2001 Lieberman did political events in 17 states, and his leadership PAC supported over 50 candidates in 32 states.  In 2002 ROCPAC raised over $1.6 million.  By Election Day, November 5, 2002, ROCPAC had contributed a total of $729,878 to four gubernatorial candidates, 25 US Senate candidates, 87 US House candidates and 19 state parties, and Senator and Mrs. Lieberman had traveled to 31 states.

With his wife Hadassah, Lieberman recently wrote a book about his experiences during the 2000 campaign,  AN AMAZING ADVENTURE: Joe And Hadassah's Personal Notes On The 2000 Campaign is to be (Simon & Schuster, Jan. 2003).  Early catalog copy boldly proclaimed that, "There has never been such a frank account of the American way of running for national office."

In July 2002 Gore and Lieberman had dinner, their first extensive meeting since the post-election period.  Lieberman said afterwards that Gore had made it clear that if he does run again, he will not guarantee that Lieberman would have the second spot.  A bit of a fissure then appeared at the end of July when, meeting with reporters at the DLC's National Conversation in New York City, Lieberman second-guessed the populist themes used in the 2000 campaign.  Finally, on December 15, 2002 Gore ruled out a presidential run, opening the way for Lieberman.

In the Senate
On June 6, 2001, Lieberman became chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee, following upon Sen. Jim Jeffords' (I-VT) switch to Independent.  Over the next 17 months Lieberman became one of the most visible Democrats on the national stage as he led the committee in addressing two of the central issues of the day: homeland security and corporate malfeasance. 

One month after the September 11 attacks, on October 11, 2001 Lieberman and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) introduced the Department of National Homeland Security Act of 2001 (S.1534).  It took a while, but President Bush eventually came to support the idea of Cabinet-level department, announcing his own proposal on June 6, 2002.  Lieberman's committee spearheaded Senate work on the creation of the new department, but an impasse soon developed with the White House over the question of union rights for employees in the new department.  Debate carried over into the lame duck session following the November 5, 2002 mid-term elections; Bush finally signed the homeland security bill into law on November 25, 2002.  Lieberman also called for creation of independent blue-ribbon commission to investigate the causes of the September 11th terrorist attacks.  On November 14, 2002, he and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) announced agreement had been reached to establish a10-member National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States; Bush signed the bill creating the commission on November 27, 2002.

Enron filed for bankruptcy on December 2, 2001, and on January 24, 2002 Lieberman banged the gavel down for the committee's first hearing on Enron: "The Fall of Enron: How Could It Have Happened?"  Another half dozen hearings on various aspects of the collapse followed as the year progressed, concluding with "Asleep at the Switch: FERC's Oversight of Enron Corporation" on November 12, 2002.

On January 30, 2001, Lieberman was one of four legislators who joined with President Bush as he submitted his faith-based initiative to Congress.  The measure bogged down, but on February 7, 2002 he and Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) again joined the President, announcing compromise a legislative proposal, the Charity Aid Recovery and Empowerment (CARE) Act of 2002 (S. 1924).

Lieberman has also joined with GOP maverick McCain on several occasions.   In May 2001, McCain, Lieberman and others introduced compromise gun show legislation, the Gun Show Loophole Closing and Gun Law Enforcement Act of 2001 (S. 890).  In early August 2001, Lieberman and McCain joined in calling for "an economy-wide cap-and-trade system to control our emissions of greenhouse gases" in response to concerns about global warming.  In May 2001, McCain, Lieberman and others introduced compromise gun show legislation, the Gun Show Loophole Closing and Gun Law Enforcement Act of 2001 (S. 890).

Lieberman has been a leader in the fight against oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).  He is also longstanding critic of cultural pollution.  For example, in April 2001 he, along with Sens. Kohl, Byrd, and Clinton, introduced the Media Marketing Accountability Act (S. 792), which would penalize companies that target adult material to kids.

Lieberman has been among the most outspoken and steadfast in the Congress in calling for the ouster of Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. 

Lieberman's involvement on all these issues made him one of the most frequent guests on the Sunday morning talk shows.

Strengths and Weaknesses
+ As a New Democrat, Lieberman appeals to centrist Democrats.
+ Comes across as one of the more thoughtful among the field of presidential prospects.
+ Good sense of humor.

- Lieberman will likely not get much support from progressive Democrats who see the New Democrats as advancing a corporate agenda.

Readings and Resources
Michael Leahy.  "His Moment of Truth."  Washington Post Magazine.  June 29, 2003.

Bob Edwards.  "The Candidates: Sen. Joe Lieberman."  NPR Morning Edition interview.  May 27, 2003. >>

Adam Nagourney.  "Trying Out the Perilous Leap From No. 2 to No. 1."  The New York Times.  December 24, 2002.  [Third of weekly series on presidential prospects]. 

Jeffrey Toobin.  "Candide: Joe Lieberman looks hopefully toward the White House."  The New Yorker. December 16, 2002.

Announcing Candidacy for Presidency of the United States, Stamford High School, Stamford, CT, January 13, 2003.

Remarks to Campaign Staff and Volunteers, NH Coordinated Campaign Headquarters, Manchester, NH
October 14, 2002.

DLC National Conversation, New York City, July 29, 2002.

Economic Club of Detroit, May 20, 2002.

Florida Democratic Party State Conference, Orlando, FL, April 14, 2002.

"Winning the War Against Terrorism," Washington, DC, January 14, 2002.


Copyright © 2001, 2002, 2003 Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action