Joe Lieberman was born on February 24, 1942, in Stamford, Connecticut. The son of a Jewish family, he studied at Yale University, where he graduated with a degree in economics and political science, and then studied law at that same institution. After a brief legal practice, he jumped to the political arena in 1970, when he was elected to the state Senate.
A few terms later, added to a term and a half as attorney general, he surprised the 1988 midterm elections. He defeated Republican incumbent Lowell Weicker and reached the United States Senate, where he served for 24 years.
Already in Washington DC, he was chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees. He was key to creating the Department of Homeland Security, introduced the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010, worked to reduce violence in video games, and managed to remove the public option from the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
He was the Democratic nominee for vice president in the 2000 presidential election, supporting Al Gore's candidacy. The formula was 538 votes away from reaching the White House (the difference with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in Florida).
Regarding his management as a legislator, he was considered one of the most moderate and conservative Democrats in the Senate, to such an extent that he ended his term associated with another party. It turns out that a more progressive challenger beat him in the 2006 primary. Far from silently saying goodbye to his seat, he decided to run as an independent. Without the financial and infrastructure support of the Democratic Party, he won the general elections by more than 50% of the votes. At the end of his fourth term, he said goodbye to public life in January 2013.
Now, eleven years later, he leads the political group known as No Labels, which seeks to promote a moderate third-party presidential candidate. Joe Manchin and Eric Daniels are some of the names rumored to be on his presidential ticket.
In an interview with Voz Media, Lieberman discussed the group's intentions, the modern Democratic Party, Joe Biden's management style and was encouraged to name the greatest threat to the United States in the 21st century.
No Labels, an "insurance policy" to confront excessive partisanship
Although he appears on the group's website as the "founding chairman," the former senator clarifies that the original idea was Nancy Jacobson's, who had worked with the Democrats for a long time but became a little disenchanted in 2010. With the idea of increasing bipartisan culture on Capitol Hill, No Labels was created.
"We have a caucus in the house, one in the Senate bipartisan equal numbers of members of both parties and they work together and they've been at the beginning of some of the big accomplishments of the last four or five years," Lieberman indicated, and then named the Infrastructure Investment and Employment Law as its most notable achievement.
Regarding the organization's ultimate goal, which includes former governors such as Larry Hogan and Pat McCrory among its directors, Lieberman assured that they simply want "the government to work again."
The name No Labels was created based on the central problem they want to solve, ending the excesses of "partisanship."
"In other words people seem the people who are active in the Republican and Democratic party seem to be more loyal to their party than they are to the country or even to their own constituents and that's not the way it was meant to be," Lieberman explained.
To solve this problem, the group is raising money to push a moderate and strong third-party candidacy, with the intention of "being on the ballot in all 50 states ."
"We call it an insurance policy project, by that it meanswe're not sure we're going to use it, which is what we always say when we buy insurance on our house or car, but if we have to we will and hopefully that'll have the effect of bringing the two major parties Republican Democrat back more toward the center and working together", he added.
The modern Democratic Party, between progressivism and classical liberalism
Lieberman spent 24 years in the Senate, 18 of them as a Democrat and the last six as an independent. He even spoke at the 2008 Republican National Convention, defending the candidacy of his friend John McCain.
Analyzing the modern Democratic Party, particularly the tensions between progressivism and classical liberalism, he recalled that ideological internal struggles are not exclusive to the 21st century. "In fact I when I came to the US Senate in 1989, there was a group called The Democratic Leadership Council uh which I got involved, in which believed that the Democratic party had gone to left and they wanted to bring it back to the center and and the chairman of that group was Bill Clinton."
Returning to the present, he pointed out that Joe Biden's administration "has been influenced a lot by the left of the democratic party". Observing the sidewalk in front of him, he marked that Donald Trump led the Republican Party towards a more "populist" trend, away from the Bush family party.
In turn, Lieberman stressed that the real danger in modern parties lies in the fact that "there is a minority of activists that is dominating them."
"Republicans pulling it you might say to the right Democrats pulling it to the left and it leaves out most of the American people and that's why I think to today most Americans are really fed up with the two parties," he added.
The danger of factions
Regarding the origin of excess partisanship in the United States, Lieberman recalled the words of George Washington, who, in his time, warned about the danger of "factions."
"He worried that um people in the factions would be more loyal to their faction uh than to the overall government," he added.
He exemplified this trend in both parties' primaries in each electoral cycle, where the incumbents generally do not want to take risks and, therefore, align themselves more with the party.
Lieberman would also not be pleased with another face-to-face between Trump and Biden in 2024. "Regardless of who is elected, I don't have much hope that there will be more partisanship, less division, and most important of all, more work by elected officials in Washington," he said.
Joe Biden "has people around him pushing him to the left"
Lieberman met Joe Biden in 1974 when he was a state senator and the now-president had been elected as the youngest senator in history. They participated in a campaign event and then had dinner together at a pizzeria in New Haven.
They were colleagues in the Senate between 1989 and 2009 and built a professional and personal relationship.
"It's just a decent human being, he likes people and he's very kind. Now, I mean, over and over the years we've worked a lot together I haven't agreed with everything he's done as president", Lieberman said, later adding that Biden is a good person and a friend.
Regarding Biden's way of working in the Senate, Lieberman recalled that he always tried to be bipartisan, given that he had to coexist with Republicans on powerful committees like the Judiciary and Foreign Relations committees. "He didn't give up his principles, but he knew that to achieve something he had to reach a compromise, and they also had to reach a compromise, and that's how he got some things done," he added.
However, according to him, progressives within the Democratic Party are not allowing him to build many bridges with the GOP.
"But he's had people around him now as president, to pull him back to the left and say ‘be careful don't you can't trust the Republicans don't uh even really negotiate with them or certainly don't compromise too much to them'", the former senator stated.
What is the solution? Simply trust.
"There was a famous statesman in American history, Henry L. Simpson, who was Secretary of War during World War II under President Roosevelt. He said, 'on the set after the war, sometimes the best way to make a person or a country trustworthy is to trust them,'" he added.
A success and a mistake for Biden as president
Lieberman began with what stands out from his former colleague's management: the bipartisan Infrastructure Bill. With support from some Republicans, it passed the House of Representatives and the Senate and was enacted in mid-2021.
"I mean, sometimes you travel the world to see countries that are not as rich as ours or developed and have better roads and bridges. We know that is not good. It is also not good for our economy, because if you build good infrastructure, people will invest in it. So I would say that was probably the best thing he did," he explained.
He then assured that there are two reasons that make the withdrawal from Afghanistan the worst decision of the administration so far: the withdrawal itself and the message that was sent to the world.
"A group of Americans were murdered by terrorists and of course the Taliban came back and imposed the same brutal policies on the Afghan people, including women in particular. The other consequence of President Biden's withdrawal of our troops from Afghanistan and the return of the Taliban was that many of our enemies around the world said: 'don't worry about the United States they won't hang in there', and our allies said, 'maybe we can't trust them anymore,'" Lieberman said.
The greatest threat to the United States
"Unfortunately we have many," he responded almost with a tone of resignation. He listed China, Russia, North Korea and Iran as the countries that represent the most danger to the United States.
After describing each one, he chose Iran as the biggest threat of all.
"They really hate us and have a religious background. They and the others think that we're vulnerable in part because we're divided politically here at home. We got to end that for the sake of our security and our prosperity and our freedom really because for your enemies think you're divided and weaker they'll take advantage of you or your allies," he highlighted.
Another nuclear deal with Iran?
Lieberman wrote an op-ed in July claiming that a new nuclear deal with Iran would be something like "trying to negotiate with a poisonous snake."
In the interview with Voz Media, the former senator said that the agreement would have to be very good for him to sign it. Furthermore, he does not have much confidence in Ali Khamenei's regime.
"There is tremendous opposition to this government among the Iranian people and I fear that we will not be safer in that region and in general while this government is in power. Therefore, I believe that we must do everything we can to support the freedom fighters in Iran," concluded Lieberman.