Sen. Joseph Lieberman, OBM

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Sen. Joe Lieberman (Photo credit: Wikicommons/roanokecollege)

Joe Lieberman, a former longtime U.S. senator from Connecticut who was the first Jewish American nominated to a major party’s national ticket as the Democratic Party’s nominee for vice president in 2000, died on March 27. He was 82.

Lieberman’s political career began in 1970 when he was elected to Connecticut’s state senate where he served for more than a decade, followed by six years of service as the state’s attorney general. He then challenged and beat three-term incumbent and liberal Republican Sen. Lowell Weicker in 1988 and went on to serve four terms in the U.S. Senate.

Lieberman was a moderate Democrat turned independent, who was known for his deep religious faith, his commitment to fairness and morality and his attempts to build bridges in an increasingly polarized Washington. But above all, Lieberman was known for strong adherence to his beliefs and convictions — putting principle over politics.

Lieberman angered many Democrats with his support of the Iraq war, his 2008 endorsement of GOP presidential candidate and close friend, the late Sen. John McCain, and his reluctant support of the party line on the health care overhaul known as Obamacare. But he was cheered by his party as he led the charge for repealing the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military, advocated for restricting greenhouse gas emissions tied to climate change and played a significant role in the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.

Lieberman was a proud Jew, a tireless advocate for the advancement of pro-Israel policy and legislation and a leader on religious liberty, civil rights and school choice issues. In addition to his observance of Jewish law and ritual, Lieberman spoke with conviction on the importance of religion, urging that “we in government should look to religion as a partner, as I think the founders of our country did.”

Lieberman gained national attention when he spoke on the Senate floor of the importance of morality and condemned former President Bill Clinton’s behavior as “wrong and unacceptable” and called it worthy of “some measure of public rebuke and accountability,” even though he voted against Clinton’s impeachment.

In recent years, Lieberman continued his pursuit of principled independence — taking positions that frustrated many of his former Democratic colleagues. He opposed efforts by the Obama administration to broker a deal with Iran over its nuclear program. He was the founding chair and one of the leading spokespersons of No Labels, the political organization that is seeking to field a third-party candidate in the 2024 presidential election.

And a week before he died, Lieberman wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed in which he asserted that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) “crossed a political red line” when he called for Israelis to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But beyond the world of politics that was so much a part of his public life, Lieberman was known and respected as a mensch, who used his quick, wide smile, mild manner and engaging personality to bring people together to solve problems.

We need more people like Joe Lieberman in public life. May his legacy and memory be an eternal blessing.

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