Lieberman announces retirement
January 19th, 2011
01:22 PM ET
7 years ago

Lieberman announces retirement

(CNN) – Sen. Joe Lieberman, the independent from Connecticut, announced Wednesday that he will not seek re-election, telling reporters at a midday press conference "I have decided that it's time to turn the page to a new chapter."

"I've loved serving in the Senate and I feel good about what I've accomplished. But I know that it is the right decision, and I must say, having made it, I am excited to begin a new chapter of life with new opportunities," said Lieberman Wednesday.

The move by the four-term senator caps off a roller-coaster political career in which Lieberman came a hair short of becoming vice president in 2000 before epically striking out at his own bid for the presidency four years later and then losing his party's senate nomination a mere two years after that.

Lieberman, once among Connecticut's most popular politicians, has also seen his poll numbers dip precipitously over the last two years and political observers have long predicted the four-term senator would have had a steep climb toward reelection.

"I know that some people have said if I ran for reelection it would be a difficult campaign for me," said Lieberman. "So what else is new? It probably would be a difficult campaign, but I've run many difficult campaigns before."

The decision is somewhat of a surprising one given Lieberman's ongoing appeal with independent voters and the respect, however tepid, he garners from both sides of the aisle.

While Lieberman is now an independent, he has aligned himself with the Democratic leadership for organizational purposes, a move that helped boost the Democratic majority on key issues like health care reform and most recently the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

At the same time, Lieberman has endeared himself to Republicans with his early condemnation of President Clinton during the Monica Lewinski affair, his strident support of the war in Iraq and his endorsement of Arizona Sen. John McCain in the 2008 presidential election.

But Lieberman's "party of one" status has at times frustrated Democratic leaders and the liberal wing of the party, leading one Democratic source to privately express a "sigh of relief" the senior senator is departing. At the same time, Lieberman was never fully embraced by the GOP given his relatively liberal voting record and reluctance to seriously break from his former party more than only a handful of times.

"I have not always fit comfortably into conventional political boxes, maybe you've noticed that. Democrat, Republican, liberal or conservative. Because I've always thought my first responsibility is not to serve a political party but to serve my constituents, my state, and my country," Lieberman also said Wednesday.

Ultimately the move adds further murkiness to Democrats' hopes of hanging on to its slim majority in the Senate in the 2012 election, especially coming on the heels of a similar retirement decision by Sen. Kent Conrad, a Democrat from North Dakota.

The race for his seat is wide open and the state's Senate race in 2010 showed a well-funded Republican has more than a decent chance of wresting control of the seat from Democrats. Still, Democrats are quick to point out President Barack Obama will be on the top of the ticket in 2012, boosting turnout among the party faithful.

Earlier on Tuesday former Connecticut secretary of state Susan Bysiewicz announced that she is planning to mount a bid while Reps. Chris Murphy and Joe Courtney are also thought to be considering campaigns of their own. Meanwhile, various Republicans are mulling their options.

A Lieberman aide stressed that the senator made his own decision some time ago and it was not influenced by Bysiewicz's announcement Tuesday or any other maneuvering.

"I do not intend today to be the end of my career in public service," Lieberman said. "I will keep doing everything in my power to build strong bridges across party lines."

Ultimately though, Lieberman offered few hints about his future plans. But McCain, perhaps his closest friend in the Senate, has at least one suggestion.

"I really hope that the president would consider [for Secretary of Defense]," McCain told CNN. "I sure hope, whatever happens, he will play a major role on national security issues."

- CNN's Dana Bash and Ed Henry contributed to this report

Filed under: Joe Lieberman
soundoff (73 Responses)
  1. Protect and Defend Freedom of Speech in the USA

    It REALLY looks like the Democrats are going to have a tough time maintaining their minimal grip on the Senate in 2012. I'll bet HALF of the Democrats up for re-election in the Senate decide not to run again. They saw what happened in 2010 and if Obamacare isn't repealed because they wouldn't vote for it then they will also have a hard time getting re-elected. 2012 will signal the rebirth of this country when the Democrats lose their grip on ALL branches of government and we can truly move this country forward to independence, freedom and self-reliance, not government dependence and control, debt and bankruptcy.

    January 19, 2011 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  2. civility is cool

    Good . . . it's time in my opinion. Should be an interesting election in CT . . . .although I feel pretty confident that in the end a Dem will be elected.

    January 19, 2011 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  3. Brad 5013

    Good riddance to the traitorous trash . . .

    January 19, 2011 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  4. Rsprings

    To bad. Liebermann often moderated the extreme positions taken by the Dems.

    January 19, 2011 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  5. John Ellis

    Good riddance. I voted for him for vice president, but that campaign ballooned his ego. Connecticut should not have reelected him last time.

    January 19, 2011 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  6. Florence

    Farewell, I sure will not shed tears for any trader.

    January 19, 2011 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  7. Silvertongue62

    He needs to retire. Actually the voters should have retired him. I used to respect him immensely. But when he didnt get the presidential nod from the dems he went to the otherside and tried to play both sides of the fence. It was never about being a civil servant (The Voters). It was all about himself and power. No tears here. I might even throw him a party as long as he agrees to never show his face in politics again.

    January 19, 2011 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  8. Gillian, Atlanta, GA

    2 down. 48 to go

    January 19, 2011 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  9. vivian m.

    Boo hoo! I guess he has done enough of Israel's work while within our own government.

    January 19, 2011 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  10. Sebastian Kent

    He bet on the wrong horse in the 2008 election. Time to pay the piper. So long Joe. Your betryal has consequences!

    January 19, 2011 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  11. joe p

    good riddance Mayor of Israel

    AIPAC of lies

    January 19, 2011 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  12. Guy Hawkes

    Good riddance!

    January 19, 2011 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  13. RAWoD

    Bye bye Joe. Please don't do a Bret Farve on us.

    January 19, 2011 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  14. BubbaGump

    Hey, Joe. Don't let the door hit you on the way out. Buh-bye

    January 19, 2011 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  15. Gurmuk

    he smells like cabbage..the reed kind!!

    January 19, 2011 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  16. Gurmuk

    By reed I mean pruple

    January 19, 2011 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    "Because I've always thought my first responsibility is not to serve a political party to serve my constituents, my state, and my country," Lieberman also said Wednesday. "

    Silly me. All this time, I thought Joe's first responsibility has always been to first serve himself - either as president or vice president. Guess that didn't work out to well for him after all, did it? Have to give him credit, though. He's become quite good at reading the tea leaves ... he was on his way out regardless of political party affiliation.

    January 19, 2011 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  18. Buh-bye

    Hey, here's a guy who united Dems & GOPs – we all hate him 🙂 Defense secretary – puh-leeze, a rabid pro-Israel warmonger, he's the last guy we need in that post.

    January 19, 2011 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  19. Dave in OHIO

    Don't want to comment on Joe but want to say I can't remember the last time the CNN Home page Ticker teaser headline didn't have the name Palin in it. The regular guy must be out to lunch.

    January 19, 2011 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  20. Bob Ingfrapples

    Well... Bye!

    January 19, 2011 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  21. camberly lillich

    Good riddance! He is a perfect example of a career politician feeding at the trough. He stepped down because he would have never got reelected. The people of Connecticut deserve and will get better. McCain once again is wrong. No way do I want to see him get any type of post with national security. I'm sure the Pres and his staff are happy about that too!

    January 19, 2011 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  22. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    And in the background "Oh, happy day!" is playing while I now have to contemplate what to call myself on this blog after January 5, 2013!

    January 19, 2011 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  23. pjfla

    Good riddance. The man is so self-serving and smarmy.

    January 19, 2011 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  24. Jeff

    Now if all that other deadweight in Congress would only follow him. They all need to be thrown out and term limits need to become the law of the land.

    January 19, 2011 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  25. Willy Brown

    Another progressive gone.

    January 19, 2011 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
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