Joe Lieberman emerged as the leading candidate to replace James Comey as FBI Director on Thursday, and Democrats wasted no time voicing their strong opposition.
I wrote last week about how important it is that Comey’s replacement be someone who could attract strong bipartisan support in the Senate. As a benchmark, I noted that H.R. McMaster by a vote of 86-10 to replace Michael Flynn as National Security Adviser.
I failed to include one important caveat: Democrats must be willing to vote for such an independent nominee.
It wasn’t that long ago that Lieberman was a giant among senate democrats. He served as a democratic senator from Connecticut from 1989 to 2007. He was chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council from 1995 to 2001,a post previously held by Bill Clinton. Lieberman was Al Gore’s running mate in 2000, and ran for the democratic nomination for President in 2004. In 2006, Lieberman lost a primary for his reelection, and went on to win the general election as an independent. He then served another six years as a “Democratic Independent”.
Lieberman continued to caucus with the Democrats and support most liberal domestic politics, but often aligned with Republican hawks like Lindsay Graham and John McCain on questions of national security and foreign policy.
As an example of his continued defiance to side with one party, Lieberman endorsed John McCain for President in 2008 and Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Apparently, such heresies are not forgotten by the puritans currently comprising the Senate Democratic Caucus.
Sherrod Brown (D – Ohio), according to an interview, isn’t willing to forgive Lieberman for voting against lowering the Medicare age to 55, a policy completely irrelevant to the post of FBI Director.
Brown went on to attack Lieberman’s current employment with Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman, a law firm that represents many high-profile clients. “Look where he works now, a Trump law firm. That tells me a lot.”
That lawyers should be judged by their clients is a silly notion on its face. Hillary Clinton, who once defended a rapist in the 1970s, would agree. That Lieberman, after leaving his law firm to take the oath of FBI Director, would not faithfully execute his duties, is absurd. It flies in the face of his long public career.
But the more common refrain from Democrats is that Lieberman is a politician and does not have the law enforcement credentials to be FBI Director.
“He has a history of angering Democrats and Republicans, which is probably a good experience for being FBI director. But my concern is about someone with a political background. This is a moment for someone with a law enforcement background,” said Senator Chris Murphy, who succeeded Lieberman in the Senate.
“I don’t think there’s going to be much excitement about that from our side of the aisle. Not because we don’t respect Joe Lieberman. But we need a law enforcement professional, not someone who’s run for office before,” said Senator Claire McCaskill (D – Missouri).
Never mind the fact that Lieberman served as Attorney General of Connecticut for six years before his election to the Senate. While in the Senate, he chaired the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. When it comes to the FBI’s task in combating domestic terrorism or investigating Russian interference in our presidential election, Lieberman is uniquely qualified.
Under normal circumstances, the FBI Director should be someone without a political background. Comey’s replacement will inherit an FBI caught up in political turmoil unlike anything the agency has ever faced. Some political aptitude may be necessary to steward the agency out of this mess, and restore confidence in it as a nonpartisan institution. Comey, for better or worse, had no political instincts, which led him to often make matters worse for himself, the agency, and the country. Politics should not factor into criminal investigations, but a seasoned political hand could navigate the agency out of its current troubled waters.
None of this should be construed as an endorsement of Lieberman. There may be, and most likely is, a more qualified and independent candidate out there. And if there is, then Trump should nominate that person.
Trump, however, could do a lot worse than Joe Lieberman. If the President nominates him, it’s my hope that senate democrats would rise above their partisan puritanism and old grudges and give serious consideration to a man who has always striven to do the same.