Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Independent of Connecticut, last month.(Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)
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Lieberman Will Retire

First Jewish national candidate is four-term senator

Marc Tracy
January 19, 2011
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Independent of Connecticut, last month.(Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

Joseph I. Lieberman, who in 2000 became the only Jew to run on a national ticket when Democratic candidate Al Gore selected him as his running mate, announced he will not seek a fifth term as senator from Connecticut in 2012, after which his tenure will run out.

The ascension a decade ago of the relatively unknown Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, as vice-presidential candidate had the effect of educating much of the country about various facets of Judaism (consider this contemporaneous USA Today primer, which makes for a really entertaining read today). After the 2000 loss, he became polarizing among Democrats: He unsuccessfully ran for the 2004 nomination as a staunch backer of the Iraq War; then, having lost the 2006 Senate primary, he switched his allegiance to Independent and won re-election; in 2008, he supported his longtime friend and ideological ally (on foreign affairs) John McCain; and finally, in late 2009, many liberals felt he flip-flopped on and substantially weakened the health care reform bill—contributing editor Victor Navasky argued in Tablet Magazine that Lieberman had “betrayed his Jewish heritage.” For a great wellspring of Lieberman-hate (it goes back longer than I had realized), see here.

More recently, Lieberman shepherded the successful repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” One of 12 Jewish senators, should he not be replaced by a landsmen, then California, the most populous state, would also be the only to be represented by two Jews in the senior chamber. Time to start scrounging for someone we can groom!

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.

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