Lieberman, Joseph Isador

views updated

Joseph Isador Lieberman (lē´bərmən), 1942–, American politician, b. Stamford, Conn., grad. Yale, 1964, Yale Law School, 1967. A Democrat, Lieberman practiced law before beginning his political career as a member (1971–81) of the Connecticut state senate, where he served as majority leader (1975–81). He was Connecticut's attorney general (1983–88), gaining popularity for his consumer and environmental advocacy, before winning the first of his four U.S. Senate terms in 1988. The first Orthodox Jew to serve in the Senate, Lieberman, who was relatively conservative on many issues, achieved a reputation for seriousness of purpose, pragmatic independence, personal integrity, and moral rectitude. He became nationally known as the first Senate Democrat to denounce President Bill Clinton's conduct in the Lewinsky scandal. In 2000, Al Gore, seeking a moderate running mate who would help distance him from the questionable moral reputation of the Clinton administration, chose Lieberman as his vice presidential candidate in his unsuccessful run for the presidency. He thus became the first Jew named to an American national ticket. From 2001 to 2003 he chaired the Senate governmental affairs committee, and he made an unsuccessful run for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination. His support for President George W. Bush led to Lieberman's defeat in the 2006 Democratic senatorial primary race, but he ran as an independent and was reelected. Caucusing with the Democrats in the Senate, he chaired of the Senate homeland security and governmental affairs committee (2007–13). He further alienated Senate Democrats, however, by actively campaigning against Barak Obama and for John McCain in the 2008 presidential election. Lieberman has written five books, most recently In Praise of Public Life (2000).