Lieberman kicks off farewell tour
Lieberman expresses gratitude to state residents, decries gridlock in Congress
Updated 10:45 pm, Monday, December 10, 2012
HARTFORD -- U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman kicked off a farewell tour Monday with words of thanks for the people of Connecticut and warnings about dysfunction in Washington.
The 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee, who is retiring in January after 24 years in the Senate, said he is visiting diners around the state this week to express his gratitude. He also said he will put his leftover campaign money toward a $1 million college scholarship fund for Connecticut high school students.
"As I close this chapter of my life, my professional life, the most persistent emotion I feel is gratitude to the people of this state," Lieberman said at a news conference at the state Capitol.
Looking back on his four decades in elected office, the Democrat-turned-independent senator said he leaves confident that nobody is positioned better for prosperity than the American people, but also concerned about gridlock in Washington. He touted his record of reaching out to lawmakers in the opposing party and said Congress has become dysfunctional and unproductive, in part because of reluctance to compromise and ideological rigidity.
He said he believes Washington will come up with at least a temporary fix to avoid the "fiscal cliff," but a solution depends on strong bipartisan leadership.
"Congress unfortunately has gotten pretty good at doing nothing lately," he said. "In a nation now of over 300 million people, you can't expect to get 100 percent of what you want on every issue."
Lieberman, 70, said he and his wife are selling their home in Washington and will return to his hometown of Stamford, which will bring them closer to their children and grandchildren. He said he will pursue opportunities in the private sector, perhaps with a law firm, but he hopes to remain involved in public policy and also will be raising money for the Joe Lieberman Connecticut Scholarship Program. The program will provide awards of $1,500 to as many as five students annually.
On Jan. 3, Lieberman will be replaced by Democratic U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, who defeated Republican wrestling magnate Linda McMahon in November's election. Lieberman did not seek re-election and did not endorse either candidate.
"I think Chris Murphy will be a great addition to the team," Lieberman said.
Lieberman served as a state lawmaker and attorney general before first winning election to the U.S. Senate in 1988.
While Lieberman's hawkish views on the military and the Iraq war rankled some Democrats, his support for gay rights and abortion rights won him the praise of many liberals.
Lieberman nearly won the vice presidency on the Democratic ticket with running mate Al Gore in 2000 and mounted an unsuccessful presidential bid in 2004.
He was defeated the last time he ran for the Democratic Senate nomination in Connecticut, in 2006, but won a new term running as an independent in a three-way race.
Lieberman said his biggest regrets in the Senate have been the failure to pass legislation that would tackle global warming more aggressively and improve the nation's defenses against cyber-attacks.