Sen. Joe Lieberman tells Oklahoma crowd: ‘We’re damn lucky to be Americans’

 U.S. Senator Joseph
Lieberman of Connecticut, arguably the best-known independent elected
official in America, said the message of Tuesday’s election is that “the
American people are fed up with the status quo. They want the
government in Washington to live within our means. We now have divided
government, and so we have to work together.”

Lieberman was the Democratic vice-presidential candidate, but his
nuanced views on some cultural issues, combined with support for some
foreign policy views of the George W. Bush administration, led to fierce
opposition within his own party when he sought reelection to the Senate
in 2006. In one of the most dramatic political maneuvers of that year,
he gained ballot status as an independent and easily defeated his
opponents in the two major parties.

Visiting Oklahoma City this week for a gala fundraiser on behalf of the Chabad Community Center for Jewish Life and Learning,
Lieberman was reflective on both his own experiences and the state of
national politics. He told CapitolBeatOK: “The message to Barack Obama
is that he must deal with the economy. The message for both parties is
the imperative to move to the center, where most of the American people

Lieberman continued, “On Wednesday, the president was certainly right
when he said that he took a shellacking. Clearly he got that right. I
actually think it’s important that he not try to sugar coat or try to
spin it away, and I hope he got the message.

“I’m an independent now. It’s significant what happened with independent
voters in this election. In 2008, they were a ‘plus-18’ for Obama; that
is, he had an 18 percent advantage with Independents. On Tuesday, the
advantage was 16 points for the Republicans. In other words, the shift
among independents was 34% in favor of the Republicans. That is a
remarkable statistic.”

On that term “shellacking,”  Liberman said, “I won’t quarrel with that.
People will give him a chance to focus on the economy and move to the
center. If he does, he might be all right for 2012.”

Asked about his status within the U.S. Senate, Lieberman said, “I will
remain an Independent, but will caucus with Democrats in the Senate.
That’s my tradition and I’ll stick with it.”

Known as an advocate of a strong national defense and homeland security,
Lieberman was asked to give a “letter grade” to the Obama
administration in terms of the recent U.S. relationship with Israel. He

“I have to say his grade
is an ‘I’ – and incomplete. Obviously he has made some mistakes,
including his insistence on focusing on the settlements issue, which was
something that was not a real priority for the Palestinian leadership.
This distracted from some of the other issues. Now he’s working hard to
improve the special relationship that America has with Israel. He is
doing better.”

Sen. Lieberman, whose sister lives in Oklahoma, has frequently visited
the state and is familiar with both its political conservatism and the
ardent pro-Israel views of most Oklahomans. The program for the Chabad
event, held Wednesday night in north Oklahoma City, included a letter
from U.S. Jim Inhofe in which he predicted Lieberman would be “an
inspiration to all in attendance.” Inhofe and Lieberman have worked
closely together on security and defense issues.

Lieberman concluded his narrative on the U.S.-Israel relationship this
way: “In Congress there is strong support for Israel. To back Israel is a
natural because support for Israel is so phenomenal among the American
people. American Christian support for Israel is phenomenal.”

 Lieberman’s speech Wednesday evening included several articulations of
American exceptionalism and the role of religion in private and public
life. He reflected on his own career, and on a sense of purpose for

Lieberman told the packed house of more than 300 people, “We’re not here
by accident. Each one of us has a spark of Divinity within us.”  He
said that the work in Oklahoma of Chabad, a branch of Orthodox Judaism,
assures, “This community is brighter and more tightly woven that it
would otherwise be.”

He called for civility even in the midst of robust debate: “We should
disagree with the civility we would show, we should show, to other
creations of God. We’re all damn lucky to be Americans.”