Several anonymous Democratic officials stated on Tuesday that Senator Joe Lieberman has decided to retire and will not seek a fifth term in office in 2012. Lieberman made the announcement himself today in Stamford, Connecticut. “I have loved serving in the Senate and I feel good about what I have accomplished…I am excited about beginning a new chapter of life with new opportunities,” he said.
“The politics of President Kennedy -- service to country, support of civil rights and social justice, pro-growth economic and tax policies, and a strong national defense -- are still my politics, and they don't fit neatly into today's partisan political boxes any more either,” Metro Weekly quoted Lieberman from an advance copy of his speech. “He feels that after 24 years in the Senate and 40 years in public life, it’s time for a new season,” added a Lieberman aide to Politico on Tuesday.
Lieberman was the vice presidential nominee on the Democratic ticket with Al Gore in 2000 and ran an unsuccessful bid for president in 2004. In 2006, he was defeated when running for the Democratic Senate nomination in his state, but he subsequently won by running as an Independent. He has often voted with Democrats, but also caused anger within the party by supporting Republican Senator John McCain for president in 2008. The Wall Street Journal describes his decision as the end of “a remarkable and unusual political career.”
Lieberman consistently advocated against the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law that banned open service by gay and lesbian service members of the military since its creation in 1993, and he was the co-author of the stand-alone bill that eventually repealed it in December. He has also been a strong proponent of reproductive rights for women and led the Homeland Security Committee.
Several writers are already praising Lieberman’s time in office and his sometimes unconventional political perspectives. “Unlike many Senators, he was able to combine different political convictions into a fairly unique mixture,” says John B. Judis of The New Republic. Ezra Klein of the Washington Post suggests, “For the Democrats, Lieberman was the best of friends, and also the worst,” and Jennifer Rubin responds that his career “was about being true to his own deeply-held principles…For if there is one lawmaker who put country above party, practiced civility, and represented ‘no labels,’ it was Joe Lieberman.”
ABC News notes that his retirement, along with that of several other Senators, could rapidly change the party dynamics in Congress. His empty seat will likely create a competitive race in Connecticut, where President Obama has been highly regarded. Potential runners could include former Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Byesiewicz, Rep. Joe Courtney, Rep. Chris Murphy, and well-funded Republican Linda McMahon. Lieberman’s current Senate term expires in January 2013.