Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

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Mike's Letter

October 20th, 2000 12:00 AM

What's Joe Lieberman Trying to Tell Us?

Dear friends,

Is Senator Joseph Lieberman a double dipper? In a blatant attempt to have it both ways, he continues to run for vice president AND the U.S. Senate. Connecticut, the state he currently represents (when he's not busy representing Aetna and Bristol-Myers), has a quirk in its election law that allows him to run for both offices simultaneously. As the incumbent Democratic senator on the ballot, with token Republican opposition, his re-election is a virtual guarantee.

But getting elected vice president is not a sure bet. In fact, to some it's looking less sure each day.

But, if he and Gore can pull it off, he'll be giving up that Senate seat to go sit in the vice president's mansion. If that happens, John Rowland, the Republican governor of Connecticut, instead will get to appoint Lieberman's replacement -- a Republican, naturally. Although the GOP still controls the Senate, Democratic challengers this year, according to this week's New York Times, have "an outside chance" of regaining control of the Senate. But losing Lieberman's seat could make all the difference in allowing the Republicans to hold on to power.

So what is Lieberman up to? If he wants, he could still drop out of the Senate race. He has until October 27 to do so. The Democrats in Connecticut are all set to run a popular candidate, state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, whom everyone agrees would win the seat. Democrats in Connecticut are just sitting there waiting for a sign, and a lot of them are pretty disgusted. (It's no surprise to me that Ralph Nader is polling at 11 percent for President in Connecticut.)

Why doesn't Lieberman step aside and ensure the continued Democratic lock on this valuable Senate seat? With the House almost certain to go back to the Democrats, why would he risk his own party's opportunity to take over both houses of the United States Congress? Talk about the ultimate win-win - if Gore is elected, his programs and promises will have no problem becoming law. If Bush wins, he will have an uphill battle with the liberal wing of the Democratic Party that will control many of the committees in Congress. Any of Bush's nominees to the Supreme Court will have to get past a Democratic Senate, although that's exactly how Scalia and Thomas got on the court (thanks to the Democrats who voted for them, including Senator Al Gore, who voted for Scalia).

Why is Lieberman risking all of this? Because Joe is a winner. Hey, we all love a winner, don't we? Lieberman is running for Senate and vice president so that he, Joe Lieberman, is a WINNER on November 7. You see, to Joe, that's more important than Gore winning, or the Democrats winning, or even the Republicans winning. He could really care less.

Either way, come Election Day, HE has already won.

What does Al Gore think of this? Why did he ever consider inviting such an ego-driven individual to join the ticket? I wonder how the conversation went when Gore told Lieberman that he had been chosen to be his running mate...

Gore: "Congratulations, Joe! You're the man! Out of all the candidates, you are the one I trust the most, the one who I want by my side, the one who will be a heartbeat away from me, the only man who could fill my shoes should something happen to me!"

Long silence.

Lieberman: "Uh, yeah... well. Thanks, Mr. Vice President. Listen, I was wondering - you wouldn't mind if I also keep running for my Senate seat, too, would ya?"

Gore: "Hey, you don't need to worry about some dumb little Senate seat now. You're going to be VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES! Whoa! Hey, how does that grab ya?!"

Lieberman: "Rrr-ight. Hmmm. You see, it's just that I love the people of Connecticut so much and I would hate to disappoint them and..."

Gore: "Disappoint them? Why, heck, you're going to be the most famous man ever from Connecticut when you're VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES! You'll be sitting right by my side for the next eight years."

Lieberman: "Don't get me wrong. It's not that I don't appreciate it and I would love to be your vice president. It's just that, well, you know, I'm in the Senate to serve the people and insurance companies of my state, and, as we say in the insurance business, it's all about risk/benefit analysis. So, if you don't mind me asking, what do you think your chances are of winning?"

Gore: "My chances? Are you serious? I just offered you the second-most powerful office in the world! I can't believe this!"

Lieberman: "Make no mistake about it. I'm honored. Thrilled. Really. And if you, I mean we, win, whoa boy, great. But just in case, you wouldn't really mind if I kept running for my Senate seat at the same time, would ya? You know, NOT BECAUSE I don't personally believe that you will TROUNCE George W. Bush. Oh, no. Not that. I love the sound of PRESIDENT Gore - music to my ears! So how 'bout I do you a favor and run with you, and you do me a favor and let me have my insurance policy."

Poor Al.

Folks, what do Lieberman's actions say to you about his own BELIEF in the winnability of the Democratic ticket this year? Not much, eh? 

Yet -- and here's the part I don't understand -- Gore and Lieberman are asking US, though, to believe in THEM, to go with a "winner." Don't be votin' for that Ralph Nader guy, they tell us, he can't "win." But if Lieberman is unwilling to give up his Senate run, what message is he sending us?

I'll tell you what -- he believes that there is a great chance Gore-Lieberman will NOT win. And if that's the case, if that's what THEY think, then why are any of us bothering with them? If you vote for Gore-Lieberman, you are voting for two men who don't even believe in their own election! What does that tell us about the other things they SAY they believe in? Will they really make our schools better, our senior citizens secure, our environment safer? If they don't even have the courage of their own convictions, why are we being asked to not follow OUR convictions and vote our consciences?

Lieberman is like a baby who wants it his way, to have his cake and eat it, too.

This is why most people in this country do not like Democrats. They're a bunch of wimps and whiners and crybabies. And they are so easy to see through. At least with a guy like Big Time Dick 

Cheney, you get a man who believes in what he believes in and f--- you if you don't like it. He's proud of voting against Head Start and equal pay for women and any attempt to get Nelson Mandela out of prison.

He'll even go against his own party and say something civil about gays and lesbians. He just doesn't give a damn. No wonder he and his boob-headed partner may win.

Perhaps the most important lesson in the Great Lieberman Hedge is that, when it really comes down to it, he and Gore and the Democrats don't really care if another Republican ends up being appointed to the Senate. With Lieberman already the number one Senate recipient of campaign funds from the insurance industry and the number two recipient of money from the pharmaceutical companies, he's about as "Republican" as they come. According to the New York Times, 79 percent of his PAC money comes from Big Business, and only 3 percent is donated by labor unions.

Perhaps what Lieberman and Gore are acknowledging is that there isn't a lot of difference between the two parties these days and that the governor of Connecticut can just go ahead and appoint whomever he wants.

Either way, just like Joe, he'll be the senator from Aetna.


Michael Moore

P.S. Tonight, on "The Awful Truth," (Bravo, 8pm and 11pm ET) our good friend and Awful Truth correspondent, Karen Duffy, takes on the nursing home industry by leading a bunch of kung-fu fighting senior citizens as they visit one nursing home under state investigation (check out Also, Karen has written a wonderful, funny book on her efforts to beat back the Grim Reaper over the past few years. When we won our Emmy Award for TV Nation in 1995, we had no sooner come back to our seats with that little gold statue to hear Karen say that she wasn't feeling well. And it was all downhill from there. Or uphill in Duff's case. She wrestled that tumor in her head to the ground and her account of this ordeal and the cast of characters around it can be found in her book, Model Patient, available now in your fine independent bookstores or online.

P.P.S. Hey, Floridians I'll be at Florida State University speaking in the Ruby Diamond Auditorium at 8:00 pm. this Monday evening, October 23, 2000. Hope to see Jeb Bush there!

P.P.S. Be sure to check out Ben Hamper's latest column at It's a hilarious account of his experiences as a correspondent on "The Awful Truth."

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