Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, the Democrats’ vice presidential nominee in 2000, urged Democrats to cross party lines last night and cast their votes for Sen. John McCain of Arizona, telling they they could “always count on him to be straight with you about where he stands and to stand for what he thinks is right regardless of politics.”
Lieberman, who is now officially an independent but continues to caucus with the Democrats, was addressing delegates at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., but he was really speaking to millions of Democrats watching at home on television.
“What, after all, is a Democrat like me doing at a Republican convention like this?” Lieberman asked.
His answer: “I’m here to support John McCain because country matters more than party.”
Lieberman, who was widely reported to have been a finalist to join McCain as his vice presidential running mate, returned to that theme over and over.
“John McCain’s whole life testifies to a great truth: Being a Democrat or a Republican is important. But it is not more important than being an American,” he said.
Lieberman praised McCain’s support for President Bush’s “troop surge” in Iraq, casting it as a principled stand in the face of widespread popular disagreement.
“When others wanted to retreat in defeat from the field of battle — when Barack Obama was voting to cut off funding for our troops on the ground — John McCain had the courage to stand against the tide of public opinion and support the surge, and because of that, today, our troops are at last beginning to come home, not in failure, but in honor,” he was to say.
Lieberman’s address had been highly anticipated at the convention, four years after another official Democrat, Zell Miller, then a senator from Georgia, gave a fiery address at the 2004 Republican convention urging Bush’s reelection.
Lieberman took a less outspoken tack, but he made it clear where he stood: with McCain, whom he has accompanied on foreign trips as an unofficial adviser on foreign affairs.
By contrast, Obama, the Democratic nominee, “is a gifted and eloquent young man who can do great things for our country in the years ahead,” he said, “but eloquence is no substitute for a record — not in these tough times.”
Speeches by Lieberman and former Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., followed a brief address by President Bush, who spoke to the convention by satellite from the White House. In a break with tradition, the sitting president did not get the marquee speaking slot — during the hour the broadcast television networks were covering the action — reflecting convention organizers’ concern that Bush’s unpopularity could drag down the ticket.