Proof That Joe Lieberman Was Ratf*cker For The GOP Surfaces In New Book By ... Joe Lieberman
You probably recall the basic details from the 2006 Connecticut Senate race. Incumbent Democrat Joe Lieberman lost his primary race to an actual liberal, Ned Lamont. Lieberman had voted for the disastrous Iraq War, which he still supported, but many had. To stand out, he sucked on a variety of other issues, including his opposition to affirmative action and openness to privatizing Social Security. The state was steadily shifting to the left since Bill Clinton defeated George H.W. Bush in 1992. Lieberman was no longer the best fit, and Democratic primary voters agreed.
However, Lieberman wouldn't accept the voters' decision. He started his own "political party," the humbly titled Conneecticut for Lieberman, and narrowly defeated Lamont and Republican Alan Schlesinger. Lieberman's successful spoiler campaign is why we don't have a public option.
Lieberman has a new book out called “The Centrist Solution," which I presume explains why wanting a better book isn't realistic. He reveals in an interview with The Hartford Courant how he pulled off his surprise comeback with a little help from his fiend, Karl Rove.
It all started on the afternoon of the August 2006 primary when Lieberman was sitting with his family in the Goodwin Hotel in Hartford — just hours before Lieberman lost to Lamont. The phone rang, and the family was stunned to learn that Rove was on the line.
Lieberman told Rove that the race could go either way.
"That's what we have heard," Lieberman quoted Rove as saying in "The Centrist Solution," a book scheduled to be released Tuesday. "And that's why the 'Boss' asked me to call you and tell you that if you don't win today, he hopes you stay in as an independent. He thinks the country needs you in the Senate and knows that the political problems you are having are because you have stayed strong on the war in Iraq. So, he wanted me to tell you that if you lose today and run in November, we will help you in any way we can."
This was all so generous of President George W. Bush! Lieberman was the load on the Democratic ticket in 2000 that lost to Bush, courtesy of the Supreme Court. Most people might not trust anyone involved in the judicial heist of a presidential election, but Senator Droopy Dog was all ears.
Republicans went so far as to tank their own candidate on Lieberman's behalf. Then-Senator Elizabeth Dole from North Carolina, who was chair of the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, reportedly “proudly" told Lieberman that she'd steered funds away from Schlesinger. Rove also sent major GOP donors to Lieberman's campaign.
This might seem like a strategic error considering that Republicans got crushed in the 2006 midterms, losing six seats in the Senate and turning control over to the Democrats. If Schlesinger had won, Republicans would've had 50 seats with then-Vice President Dick Cheney providing the tie-breaking vote. However, John Kerry carried Connecticut by 10 points in 2004. Schlesinger was sure to lose as an actual Republican, so why not ensure that the next best thing wins the election?
During the 2006 Senate primary race, Lieberman claimed, "I want Democrats to be back in the majority in Washington and elect a Democratic president in 2008." A year later, he'd endorsed his buddy John McCain over his party's first Black presidential nominee. Imagine Paul Ryan endorsing Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden and actively campaigning with them. Lieberman's heel turn after his phone call with Rove was swift.
"That call on primary day was really surprising to me," Lieberman said in an interview. "It did help, and it showed on Election Day. I got a stunning vote among Republicans in Connecticut in the exit poll. I got a solid majority of independents and about a third of Democrats. I'm grateful."
Lieberman's enthusiasm for winning with a Republican's coalition reminds me of Republicans' new BFF Kyrsten Sinema. Arizona is trending Democratic just like Connecticut 30 years ago. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell might rightly conclude that a Trumpified, MAGA loon might lose statewide but a Democrat in his pocket is a fair consolation prize.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."