Joe Lieberman's Farewell
On this page are two pieces which relate to Joe Lieberman's farewell to the U.S. Senate after 24 years of serving the American people in Congress.
- Joe Lieberman's farewell (speech to the Senate and letter to constituents)
- "Joe Lieberman's Sad Send-Off" (Washington Post article)
Joe Lieberman's farewell
December 12, 2012
Here is a video of Joe Lieberman's farewell on the Senate floor on December 12, 2012.
And here is the text of Joe Lieberman's farewell letter to his constituents, dated December 18, 2012.
At the end of this year, I will retire from the United States Senate. As my twenty-four years in Congress draw to a close, I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve as your Senator. This has been an extraordinary privilege. During my career, I have always been inspired by the strength shown by people through even our darkest days; and this past Friday, December 14th, was certainly one of the darkest in Connecticut's history. But even in the wake of the terrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, we remain as united by our resolve to build a more perfect union as we are in our grief over the innocent lives that we lost in Newtown.
Over the years, I have benefited from your thoughts and concerns on important legislative policies and their impacts on Connecticut, in particular, and the nation, as a whole. I thank you for writing to me.
I am proud to have served on the Committees on Armed Services, Environment and Public Works, Small Business, and especially as Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Among my top priorities in the Senate has been to improve the health, safety, and economic well-being of our citizens, to preserve the freedoms that we all cherish, and to protect the beauty of our state and nation's irreplaceable natural treasures.
Throughout my career in the Senate, I have worked to ensure sufficient federal funding for critical programs and services for the benefit of my constituents. In addition, I have fought on behalf of our men and women in uniform, our veterans, and our first responders, whose mission is the security of our homeland. For defending our freedom and safety, we certainly owe them our enormous gratitude and support.
As is custom, I had the privilege of delivering farewell remarks on the Senate floor last week.
Finally, I want to say that an active and engaged citizenry is essential to our democracy. I hope you will continue to stay in touch with your elected representatives in the future. Lifting your voice, and working together with those in Congress and in the Administration, you really can make a great difference.
I wish you every blessing in the days and years ahead.
"Joe Lieberman's Sad Send-Off"
December 12, 2012
It was a lonely farewell for Joe Lieberman.
When the senior senator from Connecticut stood to give his parting address Wednesday afternoon, just one of his colleagues, Delaware Democrat Tom Carper, was with him on the Senate floor.
As Lieberman plodded through his speech, thanking everybody from his wife to the Capitol maintenance crews, a few longtime friends trickled in.
In came John Kerry (Mass.), who bested him in the 2004 Democratic presidential primaries and then, like many Senate Democrats, endorsed Ned Lamont, who tried to oust Lieberman from his Senate seat in 2006.
In came Susan Collins (Maine), Lieberman's Republican counterpart on the Homeland Security Committee, whom Lieberman supported over a Democrat in her 2008 reelection.
In came GOP iconoclast John McCain (Ariz.), who was close to naming Lieberman as his vice presidential running mate in 2008 — which would have made Lieberman the first man on both a Democratic and a Republican national ticket.
A few more senators arrived during the 20-minute speech, but even by the end Lieberman was very much alone — which is how it has been for much of his 24-year tenure. He tried to push back against the mindless partisanship that developed in the chamber, and he paid dearly for it.
Lieberman was excommunicated by his party (he won as an independent in 2006 after losing the Democratic primary) and retired this year rather than face probable defeat. Yet he received little love from the Republicans, either, because despite his apostasies on key issues — the Iraq war, above all — he remained a fairly reliable vote for the Democrats.
The sparse attendance wasn't unusual for a farewell speech, but it was a sad send-off for a man who was very close in 2000 to becoming a major figure in American political history as the first Jew on a major party's national ticket. He was denied the vice presidency not by the voters but by the Supreme Court. As he joked in his farewell speech, he was "grateful to have received a half-million more votes than my opponent on the other side — but that's a longer story."
Six years later, he was drummed out of his party because of his willingness to embrace Republicans (he received a kiss from George W. Bush after a State of the Union address).
And so it was a man with few political allies who bid the chamber farewell. "I regret to say as I leave the Senate that the greatest obstacle that I see standing between us and the brighter American future we all want is right here in Washington," he said. "It's the partisan polarization of our politics which prevents us from making the principled compromises on which progress in a democracy depends."
Lieberman's career shows the perils of resisting the polarity. I've followed Lieberman since his first Senate run in 1988, when I was in college in Connecticut with his son, Matt. I was on the campaign trail with Al Gore in September 1998 when Lieberman gave his famous speech on the Senate floor opposing Bill Clinton's impeachment; the Gore staffers exulted, believing Lieberman had just saved Clinton's presidency and Gore's prospects. I was also in St. Paul, Minn., in 2008, when Lieberman, in one of his less-proud moments, sealed his estrangement from the Democratic Party by addressing the Republican convention.
Lieberman did not attempt to settle old scores Wednesday, and he avoided his trademark sanctimony. He made one last appeal to his colleagues to "support, when necessary, the use of America's military power" and "have the patience and determination when the public grows weary to see our battles through until they are won."
Mostly, he offered fond reminiscences of a quarter-century. "When I started here in the Senate, a blackberry was a fruit and tweeting was something only birds did," he said, then recalled some of the legislation he brokered: the 9/11 Commission, the Department of Homeland Security and repealing the ban on gays serving openly in the military.
"There is no magic or mystery" to how such things were done, he said. "It means ultimately putting the interests of country and constituents ahead of the dictates of party."
Lieberman did that, and it ultimately ended his career.
He finished his speech and accepted hugs and handshakes from staff members and the few senators on the floor. Then he slipped out one of the chamber's south doors and into the Democratic cloakroom — a place that had never really been his home.