The Last Days of Joementum
Joe Lieberman interviewed by Mark Leibovitch
November 2, 2012 (6 days before the election)
You haven’t made an endorsement in the presidential race. Are you inclined to do that now?
The answer is no.
Has it been solicited?
I was actually asked to speak at both party conventions. I explained that I was taking a sabbatical from elective partisan politics. And it might be a sabbatical that will go on for the rest of my life.
You, of course, have been through this before, 12 years ago. Given your subsequent move away from the Democratic Party, isn’t it for the best that you and Al Gore didn’t win in 2000?
Oh, no. I have many feelings about 2000 but two prominent ones. One is a really tremendous sense of gratitude to Al Gore. And the second is — how to put it? — disappointment, anger and frustration over how it ended.
On the subject of running mates, apparently the words “Paul Ryan” and “shirtless” have been Googled nine times more often than “Paul Ryan” and “budget.” Are you puzzled that more attention was not paid to your physique?
I am. Because beneath this shirt, there is really a lot to behold that would give voters a sense of confidence about my capacity for balanced leadership.
Could it have turned a few hundred votes in Florida?
Yeah. That and a clearer ballot.
You’re retiring after serving 24 years in the Senate. What lobbying firm are you going to join now?
I’m not going to lobby. For sure.
Chris Dodd said the same thing two years ago.
Yeah, I know. Watch me.
After you leave the Senate, will you still have floor privileges? Will you still get to use the gym?
I’m not sure. But I have never used the gym. I went once, before I was sworn in. Lo and behold, there was somebody getting a massage. As I went by, whoever was showing me around said, “This is a new senator, Senator Lieberman.” And rising from the table was none other than Lloyd Bentsen.
Let’s say he was covered in part.
If you could take a cross-country trip with any three of your Senate colleagues, who would they be?
If I don’t mention John McCain and Lindsey Graham, it would be like there was trouble in Mayberry Village.
O.K., so McCain and Graham, and who else?
Well, a really close friend of mine is Susan Collins. One time, on a long trip on a military plane, we were talking about how our parents induced guilt. She was raised in a traditional Roman Catholic family in Caribou, Maine. Susan concluded, “Your people invented guilt, but my people perfected it.”
I’m told you recently enjoyed a Shabbat dinner with Senator McCain in Israel.
He said that traveling with me compelled him to put up with all this Shabbat stuff — well, he actually used another term, but it’s not appropriate. The first time he got into a Shabbat elevator with me in Jerusalem, he pressed Button 9, and it went to Floor 2. He pressed it again and it went to Floor 3. These Shabbat elevators, they’re preset because you can’t use them on Shabbat. McCain has many virtues, but one is not patience. He said, “What the hell is going on with this elevator?”
Is there anything that I did not ask you that you’d want to touch on?
There are many things you did ask me that I shouldn’t have touched on. Here is a parting gift. There’s an older guy on the park bench, crying — tell me if you’ve heard this one. Finally a jogger stops, sees the guy sobbing. ‘‘What’s wrong?’’ ‘‘My wife of 48 years died, and I was very lonely. I went on JDate and met a younger Russian woman. We liked each other. So she’s moved in with me, and she’s wonderful. She’s attractive, she cooks well, she takes care of me and almost every night we have fabulous sex.’’ So the jogger says: ‘‘Well that’s a wonderful story. Why are you crying?’’ The old guy says, ‘‘I’m crying because I can’t remember where I live.’’
It will get funnier as you get older.