HARTFORD – Sen. Joseph Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67 on Wednesday tried to close the book on a difficult chapter in his political career – namely, his support of Republican Sen. John McCain’s presidential candidacy.
Speaking to a roomful of reporters in downtown Hartford, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee turned self-proclaimed Independent Democrat spoke highly of President-elect Barack Obama’s actions over the past few weeks.
“Everything that President-elect Obama has done since election night has been just about perfect, both in terms of a tone and also in terms of the strength of the names that have either been announced or are being discussed to fill his administration,” he said.
Lieberman alienated many of his fellow Senate Democrats earlier this year by not only campaigning for McCain, but also speaking negatively of Obama in the weeks prior to the election.
“Eloquence is no substitute for a record — not in these tough times,” he said of Obama at the Republican National Convention in September.
On Tuesday, Lieberman continued to step away from those remarks, saying he “expressed regret” to Obama.
“In the heat of the campaign I said some things about President-elect Obama that I could have said more clearly, and I said a couple of things that I wish I hadn’t said at all,” he said.
Lieberman disagreed with criticism that he has not explicitly apologized to Obama. He said he looks to follow Obama’s lead and put the partisanship behind him.
Even though he was recently welcomed back into the Democratic fold, Lieberman said he has no intention of changing his identification from “Independent Democrat” to “Democrat.”
“I was elected as an Independent,” he said. “I have always been a registered Democrat, but I was elected on a third party line.”
Looking forward, Lieberman said his relationship with Democrats will look more like it did before 2006, when he lost the Democratic primary.
“It appears to me that the war in Iraq is coming to a successful — I don’t want to say conclusion yet, but it’s moving in a way that it will not be a divisive issue either in the Democratic party or between Democrats and Republicans in the time ahead,” he said. “And therefore, I think we’ll return to more normal times, which I welcome.”
Florida Sen. Bill Nelson ’65 told the News in a phone interview Wednesday he thinks the “same old Joe Lieberman” will return to the Senate in January. Nelson was one of Lieberman’s most vocal supporters in the Democratic caucus last week, arguing that Lieberman should not be stripped of his chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
“Joe is a consistent guy with great integrity; he will be coming back to the Senate the same as he was,” he said. “He made some mistakes, but those are in the past — it is time to move on.”
Nevertheless, Lieberman is still in hot water in Connecticut. Two members of the Democratic State Central Committee are moving forward with a resolution to censure him and ask him to resign his membership in the party.
But, state Democratic Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo said in a phone interview with the News last week that she does not think the party will push for the political excommunication.
“I understand people, and I agree something should be done to let him know we are upset with him over some of the things he has said and done recently, but if President-elect Obama says he wants Lieberman to remain a Democrat and Senate Democrats say they still want him, I don’t see how we can do it,” she said.