Lieberman and Florida
A subject that you wrote a book about, "Too Close to Call," which covered the controversy over the Florida recount. How did Lieberman acquit himself in that affair? How involved was he in the strategizing? And what does his handling of it say about him as a politician?
I think that Lieberman's performance in the recount was very revealing. In the first few days after the election, he was a hawk, that is, he wanted Gore to file every legal challenge to the results in Florida. But as the conventional wisdom turned against Gore Lieberman became more cautious. In a key moment, which I describe in my piece, Lieberman capitulated in public on a very important issue—whether the Gore campaign should challenge the ballots of military absentee voters. Lieberman is a cautious man…
Where does Lieberman sit on the ideological spectrum? You describe how he spends a lot of time working on his bona fides with business interests and indicating that he is not a "traditional" Democrat. What is he, exactly?
Lieberman is definitely in the right of the Democratic Party. He was and is a stalwart of the Democratic Leadership Council. He believes in market-oriented solutions to most problems, and he thinks that tax cuts are the best way to stimulate the economy. He is a very big hawk on Iraq, and he is a great fan of the anti-Castro lobby in Florida…
Lieberman's measured distinctions seem a bit soft compared with the righteous anger of many Democratic partisans, but he just laughs as I point out the rhetorical gulf between a "distorted system" and a "stolen election." Does he believe the election was stolen?
He pauses. "In part, And in part I guess I don't know." It's still unclear what would have transpired had every vote in Florida been properly recounted, he says, going on to detail various twists and turns in the still far from resolved recount madness that got him steamed. Well, not "steam," exactly. More like a very light mist. "You're getting me back into some anger here," he says, sounding not a bit angry. "This is good, Jake. It's very therapeutic." But still he resists, falling into his usual circumspection. "I'm hesitating to say stolen. I won't say it. Because the vote in Florida was, after all, very, very close."