Lieberman on His Private Chat with Obama, Rev. Wright, and How McCain is Picking Up the Gore-Lieberman Foreign Policy Mantle

By Jennifer Parker

Jun 26, 2008 5:13pm

In an interview on the ABC News Shuffle Podcast today (listen HERE) Sen. Joe Lieberman, the independent Democrat from Connecticut, made his case for the presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., saying, "I’m going to make a provocative statement: in many ways I think John McCain on Foreign Policy is closer to where Al Gore and I were in 2000, then Barack Obama is."

Lieberman made the comment in the midst of acknowledging that on domestic issues ranging from the economy to health care his positions more closely align with Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois. "On domestic policy, you’re right. I’m closer on a lot of issues, not all, to Obama," Lieberman said. "But the big difference for me is, McCain will actually get something done. It’s one thing to say where you are on a policy and give a good speech, but McCain as president will actually get something done."

That’s because of McCain’s willingness to take political risks to hammer out bipartisan compromises, Lieberman argued, saying that and McCain’s position on foreign policy/national security issues are why the 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee would consider speaking at the 2008 Republican National Convention, a step that might cause the Democratic Senators with whom he caucuses to revoke his chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security Committee should they win more seats this November and no longer need his vote.

"It might, I don’t know," Lieberman acknowledged. "Obviously that’s up to my colleagues in the Senate Democratic Caucus, presumably they’ll be more of them next year than there are today. But, of course, I hope that I’m judged on my voting record, on my life-long membership in the Democratic Party, and on the job that I’ve done on all the committees on which I serve, including the Homeland Security Committee, which I chair."

Lieberman elaborated to ABC News on his much-discussed conversation on the Senate floor with Obama, where the presumptive Democratic nominee expressed displeasure that Lieberman hadn’t pushed back enough against the false rumors Obama is a Muslim.

"You know originally I thought, this conversation, like all conversations of its kind ought to remain private, cause that’s what it was, and we said that we thought it was private and it was friendly, which it was," Lieberman said. "Unfortunately somebody on his staff leaked this question about my reaction to the rumors, that are really lies, that he’s a Muslim, and he said that he heard that I had not responded well, he thought, well, to it, and I said I honestly don’t know what you’re talking about  .I only remember one time on which I was asked which was during a Florida primary which I was there for Sen. McCain in January. Long before, incidentally, the whole controversy with Rev. Wright. So I answered the question and that was just one part of it."

The first part of the conversation, Lieberman said, was much more upbeat. Lieberman told him that "the fact that the Democratic Party has nominated an African American for the first time as its candidate for president is a very significant event. When I mentioned it to Senator Obama he was kind enough to say to me, look, part of the reason I’m able to do this is, you broke a barrier being the first Jewish American on a national ticket in 2000, and the way you did it, and the way the public reacted to it, in a way, partially cleared, partially cleared a path for me."

Some of their conversation was about "him breaking this barrier, some of it was just plain politics. it began friendly and ended friendly."

And the middle?

"If there was any moment of disagreement it was on the question of his religion and he presented it not in a hostile way," Lieberman said. Obama said, "’I was disappointed when somebody told me that,’ and then I said ‘I don’t know who told you that but that was not the way it was and I would never say that.’"

As a man of faith, an Orthodox Jew, Lieberman said he was "surprised" at "the words that Rev. Wright was saying" since they were so different from the Barack Obama he’s come to know.

"In fairness we don’t know if Rev. Wright said these inflammatory, anti-American, racial comments every Sunday, but I would not continue to go to a synagogue where that kind of rhetoric was spoken," Lieberman said, adding, "I think it did raise questions in people’s minds about why did he stay in the church that long," but he said he would "take (Obama) at his word" and move on.

Lieberman said he wasn’t interested in being McCain’s vice president and had not been contacted about the job by the McCain campaign. "If he ever asked me I’d urge him to think about that, he can find somebody much better," Lieberman said. "I’m just real happy to be a senator after what I went through in 2006."

You can listen to the ABC News Shuffle Podcast on iTunes or HERE.

The Podcast’s executive producer is Julia Hoppock and producer is Natalie Gewargis.

- jpt

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