Retiring U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman isn’t saying who he’ll vote for to replace him, but following a Monday address to the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce he said the tone and cost of campaigning are part of the reason he’s leaving the job.
The 24-year veteran said he’s met with both the candidates vying for his position but he won’t reveal who he’s planning on voting for come November, in an effort to stay out of the political fray.
“I’m really enjoying being out of the combat of political campaigning these days and I’ve decided to stay out of the Senate race, watch it, and then go and vote, obviously, and then be ready whoever wins—Linda McMahon or Chris Murphy—to work with them on a transition,” he said.
Lieberman, a former Democrat turned Independent, said after 42 years in politics he’s “had his fill of it” and likely won’t reveal who he’s voting for in the presidential election either. Four years ago he endorsed U.S. Sen. John McCain’s campaign and even spoke at the Republican National Convention leaving Democrats in Hartford struggling with a way to reprimand him. But there was little they could do to a man who ran as an independent in 2006 after failing to garner the Democratic nomination.
When he announced his retirement in January 2011, Lieberman remained convinced he could have won re-election, if he had wanted to run. His adversaries disagreed. They believe when Ned Lamont secured the Democratic nomination in 2006 it made an independent re-election bid in 2012 more difficult.
Though he was considering leaving office anyway, Lieberman, a vice presidential candidate in 2000, said the tone of campaigns and the thought of having to raise $30 or $40 million helped him make the decision.
“Over the years I’ve been in politics campaigns have become nastier and much more expensive and too often the real issues people care about: ‘What are you going to do for my family, for our economy, this state, our country?’ get lost in the rat-a-tat-tat back and forth fire,” Lieberman said.
During his address to the chamber of commerce, Lieberman looked back at his long political career and lamented the lack of cooperation in Congress today. He said he has plenty to be concerned about as he exits the senate.
“There’s too much partisanship in Washington and too much ideological rigidity, “ he said.
Throughout most of our history, political parties have had good fights during elections then worked together after to get something done for constituents, he said. Today, campaigns seem to start the day after the election and most actions by lawmakers are political calculations, Lieberman said.
“Everything is gauged by how it’s going to effect the next re-election,” he said.
Members of Congress today seem to lack a willingness to compromise or settle for less than 100 percent of what they want, he said. And when you can’t settle for less than 100 percent, you’re more likely to get 0 percent of what you’re looking for, Lieberman said.
Speaking of compromise, Lieberman pointed to a political argument early in the country’s history at the Constitutional Convention, as the Founding Fathers were trying to determine how the legislature would be run. States with higher populations wanted to see the number of representatives a state was allotted based on population. Whereas lower population states wanted to see equal representation for every state.
Two Connecticut residents, Roger Sherman and Oliver Ellsworth, came up with a compromise, establishing two chambers of Congress to appease both sides, Lieberman said.
“Some people call it the Great Compromise but they’re not right. It’s called the Connecticut Compromise,” Lieberman said. “… It’s that kind of compromise that after all formed the Congress in the first place and it’s that kind of compromise the Congress has to get back to.”
That sort of cooperation will be needed to address the most serious problems facing the country like the economy and the national debt, he said. Getting the nation out of debt will take entitlement reform as well as tax reform, Lieberman said.
Entitlement programs like Medicare will go bankrupt if their growth isn’t slowed and tax revenues need to be increased, he said.
“If we could agree on a bipartisan, long term debt reduction program, I think it would give private sector business leaders the confidence to invest the money that will create the jobs that Americans so desperately need,” he said.
Lieberman said he hopes to be part of that bipartisan solution in the upcoming lame duck session.
Even with the hyper-partisanship in Washington, Lieberman said he remains optimistic about the country’s future.
For his part, Lieberman said he was happy to be leaving the senate at an age still young enough to start a new chapter in his life, though he did not elaborate on what he plans to do after leaving.