After 24 years in the U.S. Senate, Joseph I. Lieberman will serve his final day on Thursday.
His successor, Democrat Christopher Murphy, will be sworn in at about noon on the Senate floor.
Murphy and a series of other elected officials have offered their thoughts recently on Lieberman’s 42-year career, which dates back to his victory in 1970 when he ran for state Senate in his hometown of New Haven.
Murphy chatted recently upon getting off a plane in Washington, D.C.
“I don’t think we would have gotten rid of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell without Joe Lieberman,” Murphy said. “For all the grief that he gets from Democrats and progressives, that’s one of the things I’ll remember.”
U.S. Sen. John McCain, a close friend of Lieberman, said he was “very close” to choosing Lieberman as his vice presidential running mate during the 2008 campaign.
“We were very close,” McCain said during an interview in his spacious office in the Russell Senate Building. “Very close.”
McCain added, “One of the problems we had was Joe is pro-choice, and pro-life is one of the fundamentals of the Republican Party. There probably would have been a reaction to that. That was an obstacle.”
Even Lieberman’s friends noted that they disagreed with him on a somewhat frequent basis. Outside the U.S. Senate chamber, Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a longtime New Jersey lawmaker who campaigned for Lieberman in the 2006 race, said, “We’re pleased to see he’s been replaced by someone who agrees with us.”
Sen. Carl Levin, the powerful chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told The Courant: “I don’t disagree with him more than 20 or 30 percent of the time, which is pretty good around here for an independent. He’s been able to be both independent and been able to caucus with us. He’s been able to blend those two roles very successfully.”
When told of Levin’s remarks, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal burst out laughing and said that he, too, disagrees with Lieberman about 20 to 30 percent of the time.
“The tableau of his career has been so multi-faceted and multi-colored and historic,” Blumenthal said in his Washington, D.C. office. “Being the first Jewish nominee for national office is itself alone something that people could remember.”
Lieberman is among a handful of giants in the modern history of Connecticut politics – ranking on a short list with Senators Abe Ribicoff, Lowell Weicker, and Chris Dodd – as true national figures who routinely showed up on national television and had enough name recognition and ego to consider taking a stab at running for President. Like Weicker and Dodd, Lieberman didn’t get very far in running for president, but he has no regrets.
Locally, Lieberman played a key role in saving the U.S. Navy submarine base in Groton, along with then-Gov. M. Jodi Rell, Dodd, U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, and other members of the delegation in the battle against the Base Realignment and Closing Commission.
“One of his finest moments was he gave the closing argument in front of the BRAC Commission. Talk about pressure,” U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney said in an interview. “I’ve been in a lot of courtrooms and heard a lot of speeches in Hartford and Washington, and that still stands out as one of the finest speeches I’ve ever heard.”