The Ledger is pleased to dedicate this issue to Senator Joseph I. Lieberman.
This week’s paper is not the last word by any means, but does mark the change we’ve all been anticipating. Joe’s departure from public office as Connecticut’s Senator is a significant event that we take note of here and will talk about again as we move forward.
A few months ago the Senator was the featured speaker at the First Cathedral Church in Bloomfield at a rally for Israel. He was not a stranger to the 2500 assembled. When Reverend Bailey, the pastor of the church, introduced him, the warmth and mutual respect was evident and genuine.
We’ve seen the Senator on the floor of the Senate, in numerous synagogues, on campuses, at union meetings, hearings, debates, dedications, and in many other venues throughout his career and we always marveled at how very comfortable he was in each place.
It all started out with his being comfortable with himself. If this was work as he defined it, it truly seemed that he enjoyed every minute of it.
At First Cathedral this all became clear again as he delivered his presentation. In the context of his venue, his speech leaned heavily on the Five Books of Moses, and his audience joined him every time he quoted a passage from its pages. Here was a speaker and his audience who both knew and loved scripture. This was their book. It was their own. There was no pandering here. No political point-making. Joe was communicating simply by sharing his very real love and respect for the Old Testament with an audience that shared the very same depth of feeling. He was having a conversation with his constituents through the prism of spirituality. It was a uniquely American thing.
This reminds us, too, of the last election.
Six years ago, Joe Lieberman was elected to his fourth term by a majority of Republicans, a majority of Democrats, and a majority of Independents. Not many Senators can cobble together that kind of election day majority. It begs the question: what is it about Joe? And, while Vice Presidential candidates aren’t supposed to be vote getters for a national ticket, his 2000 partnership with Al Gore probably kept that ticket competitive in places like Florida and the Midwest where Joe’s unique qualities and deeply held values were understood and appreciated.
What is it about Joe? Here’s our answer. Two words come to mind when one thinks of Joe Lieberman: integrity and authenticity. Integrity defined as “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty;” authenticity defined as “not false or copied; genuine.” Both words explain the Lieberman candidacy and tenure. Not properties that king makers normally seek out in their candidates nowadays. That voters were able to discern these qualities and vote accordingly gives us hope that our system can overcome the morass of mixed messages and dissembling so prevalent these days.
And so, we come to today. It is hard for us to imagine that a man of such talent and ability will remove himself from public life completely. Slow down a bit, maybe. Focus somewhat, maybe. (There are 12 grandchildren to occupy his time and attention, after all.) But disappear from our vision, not likely.
We may have said this before about Joe, but it bears repeating. Today Joe Lieberman is held in the highest regard by many from every walk of life. That respect will no doubt grow as history recounts his tenure and accomplishments with growing admiration. This is just the first draft of history. There will be many more to follow. They will increasingly hold him in greater esteem. The first Jewish candidate nominated by one of the major parties for the Vice Presidency; a stellar record in the Senate; a persona that is both vibrantly Jewish and staunchly American; certainly a man of faith; a father, grandfather and loving husband; never a moment that would give his supporters pause; a mensch. Joe and Hadassah Lieberman have many more glowing words about them still to come.
With respect and appreciation for his dedication and public service, for his courage and honesty, for his accomplishments and efforts, for his integrity and authenticity, we turn this page with him and wish him and Hadassah all that they desire and more. In a period of increasing rancorousness and partisanship, it is not likely that we’ll see a Senator quite like him again.