As Sen. Joseph Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67 fights his way toward the Democratic presidential nomination, his son Matthew Lieberman ’89 LAW ’94 gave Yalies glimpses Monday of his father’s personal life, motivations and chances against opponents such as former Vermont Governor Howard Dean ’71.
Speaking in front of a packed Saybrook College Master’s Tea, Lieberman argued why his father’s strengths would send him to the White House next year. He answered key questions about his father’s candidacy and assured audience members that if elected, he would put the interests of the United States before his much-publicized religious devotion.
After speaking about the transition from teaching English at the Hopkins School to working full-time on his father’s campaign, Lieberman answered a wide range of questions about Joseph Lieberman’s electoral viability and ability to fulfill his duties as an Orthodox Jew. Matt Lieberman said most of his current work involves fund-raising and weekly trips to New Hampshire to raise support for his father.
“I spend my days trying to think of ways to relieve folks of some of their money, but it’s for a good cause,” Lieberman said.
Lieberman described the campaign as a deeply personal mission for his father that reflects his morals, religion, and political opinions dating back to the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
“A presidential campaign is about changing the country, and there’s no way all your hopes will be satisfied, but thousands of people still get involved,” Lieberman said. “My dad is in politics because he wants to make the world a better place.”
When asked by Saybrook College Master Mary Miller about any sore wounds left over from the controversial 2000 presidential election, Matt Lieberman turned the discussion to Dean, currently the Democratic front-runner in New Hampshire and Iowa.
“There are a lot of people who would seem to be angrier about what happened in 2000,” Lieberman said. “Howard Dean represents the ‘get-mad wing’ of the Democratic Party, while my dad represents the ‘get-even wing’ of the Democratic Party.”
Lieberman said he believes Dean will falter when he is forced to compete with Joseph Lieberman during the nationwide primaries, which start Feb. 3.
Tiffany Clay ’06 asked Lieberman about the significance of his father being the first major Jewish-American candidate for President. Lieberman said the success of his father’s campaign so far is indicative of America’s tolerance as a country.
David Gershkoff ’06 questioned Lieberman on how his father, an Orthodox Jew, would manage presidential duties while observing the Sabbath. Lieberman said it would not be a problem, since Judaism makes exceptions in certain critical conditions.
“[My father's] religion requires people to break the Sabbath if it’s for the public good. If there’s something that has to be addressed on the Sabbath, that’s what he’ll do.”
Lieberman fielded a final question from Akash Shah ’06 who asked how Senator Lieberman would be able to defeat President George W. Bush ’68 without appearing unpatriotic in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001. Lieberman said Bush’s mismanagement of the war on terrorism would provide strong ammunition for his father.
“My dad has been a strong supporter of getting rid of Saddam Hussein,” Lieberman said. “I think he has more credibility than any other candidate when he says George Bush is giving a bad name to a just war. When it comes to our security, Joe Lieberman has provided leadership where we need it.”