Former US Sen. Joe Lieberman remembered at hometown funeral service

  • Canadian Press

STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) — Political dignitaries, family and friends gathered Friday to honor the late Joe Lieberman at a funeral service in Stamford, Connecticut, the hometown of the four−term U.S. senator who grew up as the son of a liquor store owner and came within hundreds of votes of becoming the first Jewish vice president in 2000.

Lieberman died Wednesday in New York City from complications from a fall, according to his family. He was 82.

Former Vice President Al Gore, who tapped Lieberman as his 1980 presidential running mate, was in attendance at the service Friday morning along with top Connecticut Democrats including Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy and Gov. Ned Lamont, Lieberman’s one−time rival for the Senate seat. A second public memorial is expected to be held at a future date.

Lamont said his acquaintance with Lieberman started on “an inauspicious note” when they ran against each other in 2006.

After Lamont defeated the incumbent Lieberman in the Democratic primary for his Senate seat, Lieberman ran as an independent and defeated Lamont.

Lamont said Lieberman loved Frank Sinatra songs, especially “My Way.”

“He did it his way,” Lamont said. “He never quite fit in that Republican or Democratic box. I think maybe in an odd way I helped liberate him because when he beat me — he beat me pretty good, by the way — he won as an independent.”

Lamont said Lieberman “was always a calming presence” and a "bridge over troubled waters as you see the partisan sniping from both directions.”

Blumenthal recalled Lieberman’s “tremendous accomplishments,” including helping to form the Department of Homeland Security and championing civil rights, voting rights, women’s reproductive freedom and LGBTQ rights. “But the greatest accomplishment of his life was his marriage to Hadassah and their children and grandchildren,” Blumenthal said.

Services were held at Congregation Agudath Sholom in Stamford. For Lieberman, a self−described observant Jew who followed the rules of the Jewish Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, the congregation played a key role early on in his life.

He once recalled how the congregation’s former synagogue building was “a place that gave me the first sense of religion; a very special uplift," according to a posting on the congregation’s website.

“I feel very lucky −− my adherence to the Jewish tradition is really an asset," he said. "Religious Catholics and Protestants find a bond of common value with my beliefs and stand. It is this that makes me so proud of being an American.”

Lieberman, a former state Senate leader and attorney general, was known for his pragmatic, independent streak. A moderate Democrat who ended up running as an independent to win a fourth term in the Senate, Lieberman came close to becoming Republican John McCain’s running mate in 2008. However, conservatives balked at the idea of tapping Lieberman, who was known for supporting gay rights, civil rights, abortion rights and environmental causes while taking a hawkish stand on military and national security matters.

President Joe Biden on Thursday called Lieberman a friend, someone who was “principled, steadfast and unafraid to stand up for what he thought was right."

“Joe believed in a shared purpose of serving something bigger than ourselves," Biden, who served 20 years in the Senate with Lieberman, said in his statement. “He lived the values of his faith as he worked to repair the wounds of the world.”

Lieberman came tantalizingly close to winning the vice presidency in the contentious 2000 presidential contest that was decided by a 537−vote margin victory for George W. Bush over Gore in Florida after a drawn−out recount, legal challenges and a Supreme Court decision. He was the first Jewish candidate on a major party’s presidential ticket.

Over the last decade, Lieberman helped lead No Labels, a centrist third−party movement that has said it will offer as−yet−unnamed candidates for president and vice president this year. Some groups aligned with Democrats oppose the effort, fearing it will help presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump win the White House.

Lieberman and his wife, Hadassah, have four children.

The Associated Press

Photo: AP