U.S. Senator John McCain, a longtime friend of U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, spoke on the Senate floor today about their friendship and Lieberman’s upcoming retirement. While McCain is a Republican and Lieberman is a Democrat, they forged many alliances on foreign affairs, including the Iraq War.
McCain’s remarks are as follows:
“Mr. President, one of the most overused quotes about Washington is Harry Truman’s observation that if you want a friend here, get a dog. I’ve spent a good many years here now, and I suppose there’s a little truth in that advice. Some Washington friendships can be a little like temporary alliances between nations that for a brief period of time have mutual interests or enemies. But not all friendships made here are like that, Mr. President, not all of them.
“Today, I say a formal, fond farewell to a departing colleague whose friendship has been and will always be one of the great treasures of my life. My friend, Senator Joe Lieberman, is retiring from the Senate after twenty-four years of service. Of course, he is not leaving nor will he ever leave the affections of those of us who have come to value him so highly as a statesman and a friend. But we won’t see him around the place as much. His office won’t be near ours. We won’t hear him speak from this floor or in committee hearings. We won’t have the daily benefit of his counsel and example.
“We will miss his contributions to the Senate. We will miss his good humor, his wisdom and his sincerity especially in those moments when we find ourselves again wrapped around the axle of partisanship and politics has taken primacy over the nation’s interests, when tempers are frayed and we are consumed with putting each other at a disadvantage. That’s when we’ll miss him the most, on those occasions when Joe’s thoughtfulness and patriotism stirred him to remind us again, as he did earlier this week, that the public trust and not our parties’ fortunes is our most important responsibility.
“Joe’s presence, his wit and courtesy and kindness, have improved the conviviality of our institution. But more than that he has set us an example that I think our constituents surely wish more of us would emulate. It is his conscience and devotion to America, not his party affiliation that has inspired his work here.
“He has been a very accomplished legislator and a recognized leader on national security issues. He’s a nationally prominent politician: majority leader in his state’s senate; the attorney general of Connecticut; elected to the U.S. Senate four times; a Vice Presidential nominee in 2000; a candidate for President, and, I should probably add, nearly a nominee for Vice President again. That he managed to achieve such prominence while being the least partisan politician I know is a credit to his character and to the exemplary quality of his public service, and to the public’s too often frustrated desire for leaders who seek office to do something not just to be someone.
“He’s been a tireless advocate for the rights of the oppressed, the misfortunate, the disenfranchised, and tireless, too, in his concern for the security of the United States, for the strength of our alliances, the excellence of our armed forces, and the global progress of our values. He came here to do justice, Mr. President, to love mercy and to walk humbly with his God.
“It’s hard to find anyone here who doesn’t like and admire Joe. He’s impossible to dislike even if you only know him a little. Most of his detractors seem to be people who don’t know him and who tend to view people very strictly through the perspectives of their ideology and partisan identity. The only thing to resent about Joe Lieberman is that he’s so damn considerate of everyone that you can find yourself feeling a little ashamed when he catches you raising your voice to someone or behaving in other ways that fall short of his unfailing graciousness.
“He isn’t an easy example to emulate. I’ve fallen short of his standard more often than I care to concede. But I know, as I suspect most of us know, that our constituents deserve and our country needs more public officials who keep their priorities in the right order as Joe always has, and who offer their respect for their colleagues without expecting anything in return but your respect.
“We’ve spent a lot of time together, Joe and I. We’ve traveled many thousands of miles together. We’ve attended scores of international conferences together, met with dozens of world leaders, with human rights activists and the occasional autocrat. We’ve visited war zones and shared the extraordinary experience, with equal parts gratitude and awe, of talking with and learning from the Americans who risk everything so that the rest of us may be secure in our freedom.
“I’ve been able to study Joe at close quarters and he’s never failed to impress me as a dedicated public servant, a loyal friend, a considerate gentleman, a kind soul and very good company. I have also been privileged to witness the sincerity of his faith. I’ve woken in the middle of the night on a long plane ride to find Joe in his prayer shawl talking to the God he tries very hard to serve faithfully every day. I’ve witnessed the lengths he goes to always keep the Sabbath, and occasionally, I’ve even filled in as his Shabbos goy. I’ve enjoyed every minute of our travels together. He’s just a quality human being, and time spent in his company is never wasted.
“I’ve worked with Joe on many issues, and opposed him on more than a few. But I have always been just as impressed by him when we disagree as I am when we agree. He is always the same: good natured, gracious and intent on doing his best by the people who sent him here and the country he loves.
“He’s leaving the Senate, and I’m going to miss seeing him here a lot. But I doubt any of the many friends he’s made here will let him stray far from our attention. We will still rely on his wise counsel and warm friendship. I know I will.
“I hope we are not done traveling together. I hope to seem in other conferences and meetings abroad. I want to go back on the road and learn from him, and just pretend he hasn’t left the place that brought us together. He’s as fine a friend as I’ve ever had, and irreplaceable in my life, and I cannot let him go.
“Thank you, Joe, for all you’ve done for me; for your many kindnesses, your counsel, your company, and for teaching me how to be a better human being. I’ll see you again soon.”