|The senator was in partial exile the last four years.|
Senator won’t seek his 5th term
Connecticut senator plans to retire next year
WASHINGTON — Senator Joseph Lieberman, who was Al Gore’s running mate in the 2000 elections before abandoning the party and endorsing Republican John McCain for president in 2008, will retire and not seek a fifth term, according to an aide.
Once a stalwart member of the Democratic caucus and a leader in the party’s centrist wing, Lieberman became an independent and has spent most of the past four years in partial exile — voting with Democrats on organizational matters and some domestic issues while siding with Republicans on key issues of national security.
The Connecticut senator’s estrangement from his party reached its apex when he backed McCain of Arizona over Democrat Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential campaign.
Lieberman, 68, has scheduled an announcement for today in his hometown of Stamford, Conn. There, an aide said, he will cast himself as a politician in the mold of President John F. Kennedy, who inspired him to enter politics and who, in Lieberman’s rendering, was strong on national security, a centrist on economic issues, and a liberal on social issues.
“He believes he’s been consistent with that legacy since in public life,’’ said Marshall Wittmann, his communications director.
Lieberman achieved an important item on the liberal agenda, the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell’’ prohibition, which was approved last month.
But even that victory was not enough to win back the full affection of many Democrats, who could not forgive him for his unwavering support of President George W. Bush’s Iraq war policies and for his decision to back McCain.
Yesterday, lawmakers were consuming the news of Lieberman’s decision even before it was made official. Representative Joe Courtney, a Democrat of Connecticut who is considering a 2012 Senate bid, said Lieberman was “one of the giants’’ in his state’s political history. “Joe is like a family member to the state,’’ he said.
Lieberman’s involvement in progressive politics began as a college student, when he was active in the civil rights movement and went to Mississippi to help with voter registration drives for African-Americans.
He began his rise in politics by winning election to the Connecticut Senate, defeating the body’s majority leader. He later served as the state’s attorney general. In 1988, he challenged Senator Lowell Weicker and narrowly won.
In Washington, Lieberman became a leader of the party’s centrist wing, and has been one of Israel’s staunchest supporters.
In 2000, Gore chose Lieberman to be his vice presidential running mate, making Lieberman the first Jewish-American on a major-party ticket. After Bush became president, Lieberman made clear that he thought the Gore political team focused too much on class warfare. He and Gore later broke more significantly on Iraq.
Lieberman helped engineer passage of the legislation that created the Department of Homeland Security and embraced Bush’s war in Iraq. It was that support that prompted a primary challenge in the 2006 Senate race from millionaire Ned Lamont.
Lieberman lost that primary but announced immediately that he would run in the general election as an independent, and he won.