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Chris Black: What's next for Joe Lieberman

Chris Black
Chris Black  

CNN Correspondent Chris Black is in Washington covering Capitol Hill.

Q: Whatís next for Sen. Joe Lieberman following his run as vice president on Al Goreís ticket?

BLACK: Joe Lieberman did something very controversial: He decided to run for reelection to the U.S. Senate from Connecticut at the same time he was running on the national ticket as the Democratic vice presidential candidate.

A number of Democrats, including some of his Senate colleagues, were very unhappy about that, because they expected Al Gore and Joe Lieberman to win the presidency. The concern was that if Lieberman was reelected to the Senate, then his vacancy would be filled by the Republican governor of Connecticut, John Rowland.

But that didnít happen and Lieberman was reelected to a sixth term, so he will pick up where he left off.

This particular Congress is going to be very interesting. The Senate is split evenly, 50-50. More significantly, Joe Lieberman has been a leader among the centrist Democrats. The centrists from both parties potentially could emerge as the key groups bridging the differences between Republicans and Democrats in the new Bush administration.

Q: Does Lieberman need to mend fences with his Democratic colleagues?

BLACK: The interesting thing is that the anger at him has dissipated, because he hasnít left and is still here. A lot of people now, with 20-20 hindsight, are very happy because had he not run for reelection his seat could have gone Republican.

He really doesnít have any problems up here now. Heís really just moving on.

Q: Could he emerge as one of the more viable presidential candidates in 2004?

BLACK: Thereís no question that Joe Liebermanís Excellent Adventure has made him a national figure. He was not a national figure before. He now has a national fundraising network and a national network of supporters that he did not have six months ago.

He is clearly a national player. He will unquestionably be a big player in the Senate and probably a significant player in the Democratic Party.

Whether he can turn that into a presidential candidacy in four years and whether or not he even wants to run for president is a big question.

Joe Lieberman is not someone who grew up wanting to be president of the United States. When he went to the U.S. Senate, he had basically realized his career goal. I covered Michael Dukakis for many years. Michael Dukakisí career goal was not to be president of the United States; it was to be governor of Massachusetts. He was sort of talked into running for president in 1988.

Lieberman has to make a judgment about what makes sense to him. In my experience, if I had to guess, he would not run for president. My experience has been that the people who run for president are quite driven, that they want it passionately, that they want it more than anything.

I donít see that passion in him as Iíve seen it in others.

Q: Some of that was reflected in his bid for the vice presidency, was it not: That he was honored to be asked to run on the ticket and not driven to it by a burning passion to be vice president?

BLACK: He was thrilled about being asked to run on the ticket. He is still thrilled. He is so grateful to have had that opportunity, because he was the first Jewish American on a major national ticket. It was an enormously positive thing in his life and for various minorities in this country.

In his speech on the Senate floor Thursday, he said that his experience on the Democratic ticket told American parents that they should dream the biggest dreams for their children, that anything is possible for anybody in America.

Q: On a separate note, could the great revenge of this election be the ability of Senate Democrats to fend off any potential conservative nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court?

BLACK: Youíre exactly right. There is no way an extremely conservative jurist, particularly one who is opposed to legal abortion, can get through this Senate.

The Senate could potentially be the biggest graveyard in Washington next year. With a 50-50 split and with Democrats as united as theyíve ever been, itís going to be virtually impossible to get anything that smacks of extremism through, including appointees.


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Friday, December 15, 2000

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