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Joe Lieberman: The GOP's Fair-Haired Boy

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Last week Joe Lieberman, Connecticut's Junior Senator currently defending his seat against a primary challenge from insurgent candidate Ned Lamont, reacted testily to charges that he is not a true Democrat. He told NBC's Chip Reid "if people question whether I'm a democratic, the democratic party is in trouble." Perhaps so, But it was conservative Republicans who helped put Joe Lieberman in the Senate in the first place, and Republicans, including some of the most strident and right-wing members of the GOP, have often praised him and allied themselves with him. He has rarely hesitated to ally himself with Republicans nor to heed their call when they have sought his help.

Most recently, for example, When prominent Democrats introduced Senate amendments this past June calling for a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, the Republicans saw a golden opportunity to politicize the proposed legislation by scheduling a day of debate on the Senate floor -- a debate which they had the power to choreograph. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, the floor manager of the debate charged with making it a propaganda coup for the White House, had reserved the first 30 minutes of comment for himself. But Warner chose not to be the first to speak. Instead he gave that opportunity to a Democrat who was only too willing to oblige, announcing that "I'd like to now offer the first fifteen minutes [of my time] to the Senator from Connecticut." Lieberman, quoting scripture, rose to "oppose the amendments introduced by the Senator from Michigan and others and the other amendment introduced by the Senators from Massachusetts and Wisconsin." Lieberman's speech drew strong praise from Warner, and also from Pennsylvania GOP Senator Rick Santorum who was only too eager to "associate myself with the remarks made by the Senator from Connecticut. I agree with them wholeheartedly." Lieberman was one of only six Democratic Senators who voted on June 22nd against both the Feingold-Kerry amendment calling for removing U.S. troops from Iraq by next year, and also against the Levin-Reed bill that merely urged the administration to begin considering an exit strategy. Only Lieberman availed himself of Republican floor time to speak out against the proposals being presented by his fellow Democrats.

Back in late 2002 when the Bush Administration was anxious to sell war with Iraq, an organization was formed at the request of the Bush White House called "the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq." Its membership was composed primarily of hard-line Conserative Republicans, mostly of the Neocon persuasion. One of the few Democrats to sign on was Joe Lieberman who joined John McCain as Honorary co-chair. Other prominent">members included Republican stalwarts George P. Schultz, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Robert Kagan, Newt Gingrich, Richard Perle, Bill Kristol, and James Woolsey.

Perhaps Joe Lieberman's affinity for Republicans and their causes has its roots in the fact that he made it to the Senate in the first place with a big assist from Republican notable William F. Buckley and his conservative publication The National Review. Buckley despised Connecticut's incumbent Senator Lowell Weicker, a liberal Republican who had split with many within his own party by calling for the impeachment of Richard Nixon following Watergate revelations. In 1988 Buckley resolved to rid the Senate of Weicker by aggressively supporting and helping to finance the campaign of then Connecticut Democratic Attorney General Joe Lieberman.

National Review has long taken credit for electing Joe Lieberman to the Senate, and in fact did so as recently as last December in a piece that reminisced about the causes it had championed over the years:

Throughout the half-century, NR has engaged in a variety of causes, some of them successful, some less so - all worthy. Below [is one of them]:

'BuckPac Kills!'

Lowell Weicker, the one-time Republican senator and perpetual liberal gasbag from the state of Connecticut, was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1970. He met his waterloo in 1988, when the September 2 issue of NR announced the formation of "Buckleys for Lieberman." The impromptu association's stated purpose was "to generate support for the defeat of Lowell Weicker" by endorsing his challenger, Joe Lieberman. Lieberman, it was explained, "is a moderate democrat, and it is always possible that he will progress in the right direction." There was, on the other hand, "no such hope for Lowell Weicker."

The group (which came to be known simply as "BuckPac") contained several vital organs, such as the precisely named "Horse's Ass Committee," the purpose of which was "to document that Lowell Weicker is the Number One Horse's Ass in the Senate." This was accompanied by the "Degasification Committee," which was "engaged in attempting to clean up the quality of public thought," as well as in demonstrating that "the bombast, murk, and pomposity of Lowell Weicker's public declarations are a threat to democratic ecology." Every issue of NR leading up to the election featured a "Weicker Watch," heralding the latest in the anti-Weicker crusade.

When BuckPac was first launched, Weicker held a 17-point lead over Lieberman in the polls. By November 2 that lead had vanished, and Weicker was toppled. "BuckPac Kills!" proclaimed the December 9, 1988, issue of NR. "By the mere act of pointing at the nudity of the emperor, the searing point was made. Namely that Mr. Weicker was an arrogant, bigoted bore and that the Republicans who, as galley slaves, had voted for him should feel free to vote for the Democratic alternative . . ." That alternative, Lieberman, still occupies Weicker's Senate seat, attending our 50th-anniversary gala in October. We continue to regard him as a marked improvement over Mr. Weicker.

What was that about National Review's 50th-anniversary gala? We learn more about that event from none other than Rush Limbaugh:

Rush Limbaugh: Great Night at National Review's 50th Anniversary (posted October 7, 2005)

Folks let me tell you a little bit about my evening last night... Last night was the 50th anniversary of National Review magazine. Now, National Review magazine, of course, is the creation and brainchild of William F. Buckley, Jr., who will celebrate his 80th birthday in November... and I was seated at Mr. Buckley's table with his wife, Pat. Also at the table was Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who I'd never met but I did meet last night. He's a very, very nice man. We had a nice conversation....Also, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison from Texas was at the table as well.

...Judge Bork was there. As I said, Kay Bailey Hutchinson was there along with, I met, Senator Lieberman, and you may ask, "Well, what was Senator Lieberman doing there?" Bill Buckley is responsible for Senator Lieberman being in the Senate.

Back in the '80s, Bill Buckley and the National Review staff got fed up with Lowell Weicker. They had had it with Lowell Weicker. So they set up a PAC called BuckPAC, and BuckPAC essentially got Lieberman elected. They knew they weren't going to elect a Republican up there. So he was there and Buckley, even in his speech last night, made mention of the fact that Joe Lieberman is his favorite Democrat... Kay Bailey Hutchison was on one side of our table, circular tables and Lieberman was two seats to my right. He was on Buckley's right; I was on Buckley's left...

And so Joe Lieberman, with a big Republican assist, made it to the United States Senate, where he has won the adoration of many prominent right-wingers who rarely have anything good to say about any Democrat.

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I am a retired advertising sales executive/manager and am now Executive Director of the Assassination Archives and Research Center (AARC). I am also a member of the Senior Editor Team at Op Ed News. I also serve as Research Director and Board (more...)

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