Connecticut Independent Senator Joe Lieberman may have decided to exit the Senate at the end of 2012, but he is still making noise and creating controversy.
Called conservative intellectual William F. Buckley, Jr’s “favorite Democrat” when he challenged incumbent liberal Republican Lowell Weicker successfully in 1988, Lieberman went on to build a legacy of hard nosed realism in American foreign policy, and the typical liberal Democrat in domestic affairs.
Coming across as moderate mainstream overall, he ended up being chosen as Vice President Al Gore’s Vice Presidential running mate in 2000, but then alienated Gore by publicly stating that the recount challenge was useless against George W. Bush.
After September 11, 2001, his maverick nature continued to develop, and he became one of the most vociferous backers of the Iraq War strategy of President George W. Bush, breaking with many Democrats, including Al Gore.
By 2006, he had alienated many Democrats in his home state and lost the Democratic primary, but instead of gracefully retiring, he ran as an Independent in a three way race and won his seat for another six year term.
Then in 2008, he backed his old friend, Senator John McCain, in the presidential election, breaking party ties completely in a shocking way, and the Democrats thought of punishing him by taking away his party seniority, but President Barack Obama advised against it.
At times supportive of Obama, but often not, Lieberman continued on his independent ways, remaining hawkish in foreign policy and liberal on most domestic matters, and particularly was notable in backing the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the military.
But last week, he refused to support the spending bill that would have preserved or created jobs for teachers and first responders, including firefighters and police officers, joining with only two other Democrats and all the Republicans in the Senate.
He has made it clear that he is unlikely to back anyone in the race to replace him in 2012, but has been friendly to Christopher Shays, former moderate Republican Congressman running for his seat.
So Joe Lieberman, from the beginning 23 years ago to now, remains the ultimate inscrutable political figure, certainly a fascinating one to research for a biography in the future.