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Lieberman’s Independent Streak Carries On | Life After Congress

Former Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, I-Conn., became a household name during his four terms in the Senate but he has remained largely out of the political spotlight since his retirement in January. Since then, the tenured lawmaker has been making quiet, yet purposeful strides in the private sector.

In March, Lieberman joined the American Enterprise Institute as a visiting fellow and as co-chairman of the American Internationalism Project, along with his good friend, former Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz. The two Senate veterans have used their backgrounds in foreign and defense policy to try to build a bipartisan consensus about American leadership as it relates to security, prosperity, freedom and human rights.

“Sometime next year, we’re going to issue a report. We’re committed to it not just being a report that gets read and dumped,” Lieberman told CQ Roll Call.

In June, Lieberman signed on as senior counsel at the New York office of Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman, a firm known for its white-collar criminal defense and investigations practice. His position at the firm will focus on litigation, real estate and bankruptcy practices.

“I always wanted to come back to the practice of law half time, not full time,” he explained. He also moved to New York with his wife, Hadassah.

Lieberman attributes his desire to serve the public, which he has done in various roles for more than 40 years, to John F. Kennedy’s inauguration address in which the president famously said, “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”

Congress, Lieberman recalled, was a different playing field in the early 1960s. As a summer intern for Sen. Abraham Ribicoff, D-Conn., Lieberman was one of three interns in a much smaller office than those of today.

His dream as an intern of becoming a senator came true in 1988, when he defeated incumbent Republican Lowell Weicker. Then in 2000, he made history as the first Jewish candidate on a major political party’s national ticket when he became Al Gore’s vice presidential running mate.

The race came down to the Supreme Court, which ruled 5-4 in favor of Republicans George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

Despite the hard setback, the following morning Lieberman returned to his Senate office with new determination.

“I actually feel that my most productive years came after 2000,” Lieberman said. He made a run for the Democratic nomination for president in 2004, but fell short. In 2006, he lost his bid for the Democratic nomination for Senate in his home state, but went on to win as an independent.

His endorsement of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in the 2008 presidential race alienated him from some of his traditional allies in the Democratic Party, but he continued to caucus with the Democrats. His ability to work with both parties, and to court independents, helped keep him in the limelight.

Lieberman has taken to the printed word to express his views as a tenured politician and a Jewish American, having written books solo and with his wife. He is considering another book, but he said he is still in the process of settling into his new lifestyle.

“I’m waiting for the moment where I feel like there’s something I want to write. The muse has not ignited me but knowing myself, it will come before long,” he said.

CQ Roll Call’s Life After Congress is designed to answer the question “Where are they now?” If that’s something you’ve asked yourself about a former member or members, drop us a line. We’ll do our best to track them down.

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