Remembering Joe Lieberman: Gore, Lamont to attend funeral

Joe Lieberman's run for vice president – the first by a Jewish person on a major—party ticket – broke barriers and made him famous. But in Connecticut, Lieberman's legacy goes far deeper.

John Craven

Mar 28, 2024, 9:32 PM

Updated 19 days ago

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Nearly a quarter century ago, Al Gore and Joe Lieberman came within a few hundred votes of winning The White House. On Friday, Gore will travel to Stamford to say goodbye to his running mate, who died from injuries suffered in a fall on Wednesday.
Joining him will be Lieberman's political friends – and former rivals – a testament to a complicated politician who constantly broke party barriers.
"YOU KNEW WHERE HE STOOD"
One of those former foes is Gov. Ned Lamont, who waged a bitter Democratic primary battle against Lieberman in 2006. The two clashed over the senator's unwavering support for the Iraq War.
"Did I always agree with him? No," Lamont said Thursday. "But you knew where he stood, and I respect that."
The battle with Lamont ultimately drove Lieberman from the party. Instead, he ran as an independent – and even endorsed Republican John McCain in the 2008 presidential race.
For many Connecticut Democrats, the last straw came three years later. Lieberman gutted a "Medicare For All" government health care option from the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, at the urging of Connecticut's powerful insurance lobby.
Lieberman would retire the next year, replaced by current Sen. Chris Murphy.
"Joe Lieberman was a controversial guy politically, right? But a really interesting guy," said Rep. Jim Himes (D-Greenwich). "And in some ways, a guy who sort of personified Connecticut independence."
NO LABELS MOVEMENT
Most recently, Lieberman shocked the establishment yet again – this time, forming the "No Labels" third-party movement. But just three weeks ago, during his last public appearance at Quinnipiac University, Lieberman insisted they would not play spoiler for Donald Trump.
"As much as we want to start a new chapter in our history, and we'd love to have a bipartisan president and vice president, I think almost nobody in our group wants to see Trump re-elected," he told students.
Lieberman lamented the hyper-partisanship that now dominates Washington and social media.
"Never before [have we] had the capacity that we do now in the digital age to share lies and slanders about other people with the whole world," he said.
CONNECTICUT LEGACY
Lieberman's run for vice president – the first by a Jewish person on a major—party ticket – broke barriers and made him famous. But in Connecticut, Lieberman's legacy goes far deeper.
Before he was elected to Congress in 1988, Lieberman was Connecticut's first full-time attorney general. He transformed the office.
"He was a fierce advocate, and he leaves a legacy of fighting for consumers, for environmental values, for civil rights," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut).
That included LGBTQ rights. Lieberman helped end the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. On Thursday morning, advocates raised the Trans Pride Flag above the state Capitol.
"I had the privilege of being able to grow up in such a welcoming community, and such a liberal and welcoming state," said Theo Kiett, a high schooler from Fairfield.
But Lieberman sometimes shunned progressive causes. The senator was a hawkish on foreign military intervention and a critic of affirmative action, which he called "un-American."
FRIDAY FUNERAL
Lieberman will be laid to rest Friday morning at Congregation Agudath Sholom in his hometown of Stamford. Several prominent Democrats plan on attending Lieberman's funeral, including Gore, Lamont and Murphy.
President Joe Biden, who served with Lieberman in the U.S. Senate, called him "a good man" on Thursday:
Joe Lieberman and I served together in the U.S. Senate for 20 years. He was principled, steadfast, and unafraid to stand up for what he thought was right. He was a friend. Joe’s fierce spirit of independence is the essence of the American story. He was the grandson of immigrants; his dad ran a small business; and Joe was the first in his family to graduate from college. After law school, he quickly left a law firm job for a life of public service. As a leader in Connecticut’s legislature, as state Attorney General, and as a committed Senate colleague, Joe championed the environment, gun safety, and reproductive freedom. He wrote landmark legislation repealing discriminatory restrictions on LGBTQ Americans serving in our military. He played a key role in the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in the wake of 9/11. And his historic bid for the Vice Presidency, as the first Jewish candidate on a major party ticket, took our nation one step closer to realizing the full promise of America. Joe believed in a shared purpose of serving something bigger than ourselves. He lived the values of his faith as he worked to repair the wounds of the world. And he did so with his beloved family by his side – his dear Hadassah, and his wonderful children and grandchildren. Jewish liturgy says of “ those who serve the needs of the community faithfully, may God grant them their reward.” Our hearts today are with the Lieberman family, and with those who loved Joe across Connecticut and across our nation, which he served faithfully for so long.


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