The Corner

The one and only.

McCain Defends Lieberman


Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) tells NRO that he is disappointed with how Sen. Joe Lieberman (I., Conn.) has been treated by the Left. “I’m sorry to see how some Democrats and liberals have attacked him in such ferocious fashion,” says McCain. “No one should question Senator Lieberman’s integrity or principles.”

McCain’s comments follow Lieberman’s announcement on Sunday that he will not support the Senate’s Obamacare bill in its current form. Since then, Lieberman has been attacked by many liberal bloggers, such as the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein, who writes that Lieberman “seems willing to cause the death of hundreds of thousands of people in order to settle an old electoral score.”

“Senator Lieberman has a long record of standing up for what he believes in and is acting accordingly,” says McCain. “From the beginning, he has made his concerns about this health-care bill very clear. He articulated that a government option or any option that led to a government takeover wasn’t acceptable. Unlike many in Washington, he’s matching his actions to his rhetoric.”

McCain adds that he’s uncomfortable with how many of the attacks on Lieberman are personal in nature. (For example, some bloggers have called for Hadassah, Lieberman’s wife, to be fired from her position at the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation.) “Since they can’t attack his position, they’re attacking him personally,” says McCain. “I don’t think that tactic will work with Joe Lieberman. I know [the criticism] isn’t pleasant for him, but he’s a pretty strong man with very strong beliefs.”

Democrats know that as much as the left wing of their party dislikes Lieberman, they may still need him to get the 60 votes required to move their health-care bill forward.

“Democrats have tried to punish Lieberman before, when they took away a subcommittee chairmanship of his, but they let him stay as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee,” says McCain. “That decision was partially driven by a spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation following the presidential campaign, but it was also fueled by the cold-hearted fact that he is their 60th vote. I’ll leave it up to the Democratic observers to figure out which impulse will win out this time.”

Is McCain giving Lieberman advice? “I only talk to him in the way that a friend talks to a friend,” says McCain. “I tell him that I know whatever he does, it will be the right thing.”