Video: Lieberman 'won't rule out' switch to Republicans
In an interview with MSNBC's Nora O'Donnell, Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) admits that joining the Republican Party is not out of the realm of possibility for him.
"I wouldn't rule [a switch to the GOP] out," Leiberman says to O'Donnell, adding that "my real hope here is to stay and fight for the kind of Democratic Party I joined when John F. Kennedy was president." He also says that he could support a Republican pro-war presidential candidate.
Lieberman said, "And to be as direct as I can be, Norah, in this question of who I will support for president, I'm going to wait until both parties have their nominees, and I'm going to support the candidate that I think is best for our country, regardless of party. And obviously the positions that they take on the war on terrorism will be very important to me."
Earlier, the Hartford Courant reported that "money poured in" from Republican donors after Lieberman lost in the Democratic primary while running for re-election to his U.S. Senate seat. Lieberman later defeated challenger Ned Lamont in the general election.
Transcript of MSNBC interview:
MS. O'DONNELL: As the Iraq war enters its fifth year, the Democratically controlled Congress has been trying to change course and start bringing U.S. troops home, but so far, Republicans have blocked the Democrats. Last week, Republicans in the Senate voted down a plan to enact a timetable to start redeploying U.S. troops.
Independent Senator Joseph Lieberman, who was a Democrat vice- presidential nominee in 2000, voted with the Republicans, and he joins me now live from Capitol Hill.
Good afternoon, Senator. Good to see you.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Good afternoon, Norah. Good to see you. Thank you.
MS. O'DONNELL: Let me ask you, what is wrong with the timetable that your friends, Democrats, have been proposing for Iraq?
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Let me mention two things. First, as a matter of general principle, I think deadlines and timetables -- this was a deadline ordering the beginning of a withdrawal of our troops in 120 days. I think that's wrong. Eisenhower once said that anybody who recommends a timeline or a deadline in war doesn't understand war. Incidentally, I took this same position with most Democrats in the `90s when the Republicans in Congress were trying to get President Clinton to set a deadline for when he'd begin to withdraw our troops from Bosnia. I thought it was wrong then; I think it's wrong now.
The second thing, much more to the point, is that we've got a new general, a new plan, new troops in Iraq. We have a lot on the line in Iraq, and I believe that new plan is showing some encouraging signs of success. We've got a long time before we can say it's totally working. But why in the middle of this kind of moment would Congress come along and instead of giving General Petraeus the more troops that he needs, start pulling troops away from him? It's wrong.
MS. O'DONNELL: Well, let me propose a reason why -- that members are supposed to be elected representatives of the people. And the polls show that the people are tired of this war and that 55 percent oppose a troop increase. Only 27 percent support the president's handling of the war in Iraq.
So are you flying in the face of what your constituents want you to do when it comes to Iraq?
SEN. LIEBERMAN: You know, I have a very personal reading on this, as you'll remember.
MS. O'DONNELL: (Laughs.)
SEN. LIEBERMAN: (Laughs.) Because I went through this --
MS. O'DONNELL: And you still made it, right? (Laughs.)
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Yeah. And I think the fact that I got elected, you could interpret it many ways, but obviously the majority of Democrats who came out in the primary were prepared to deny me nomination based, I would say, almost entirely on my position on the Iraq war. But when it came to the general election, Democrats, Republicans and Independents said, this is more complicated than that.
Joe's doing a good job overall. Let's give him a chance to continue to be our senator in our interest.
I think the public is obviously frustrated, disappointed, angry about the lack of success in Iraq. So am I. But I think most people in this country are not prepared for failure, because they know the consequences of failure could be really bad for us.
MS. O'DONNELL: Well, let me --
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Secondly, I believe I got a responsibility in matters like this, national security, to do what I think is right. And sometimes, yes, it flies in the face of public opinion.
MS. O'DONNELL: Well, let me ask you, then, about the rhetoric. For instance, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow referring to the House bill, that essentially is -- you know, for this $100 billion is establishing a timetable to go along with that -- he said it would provide victory for the enemy. The president's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, says that the House should not go through this charade. Would you agree with that, that this is a charade by the House?
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Well, look, the House is entitled to do and say whatever it wants. I don't think that with those conditions and an amendment ordering the beginning of a withdrawal of our troops or a deadline for most of our troops to be out, it's not going to pass the Senate. I think that's the message that the Senate sent last week in rejecting the proposal to begin a withdrawal in 120 days.
My own preference here would be that we in Washington declare a truce in the political wars here about what's happening in the real war in Iraq for about six months. Let's wait till the end of August, when General Petraeus has told us he'll be able to tell us straight up and straight ahead whether he thinks this is working or not. In the meantime, we ought to support our troops and take care of the veterans, the ones who've come home.
MS. O'DONNELL: Senator, you have broken with your former party, the Democratic Party specifically, on the Iraq war. There have been questions. Can you rule out that you may switch to the Republican Party?
SEN. LIEBERMAN: I wouldn't rule it out, but it's certainly not my intention, it's not my desire --
MS. O'DONNELL: What would cause you to switch to the Republican Party?
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Well, I'm not going to set any conditions. But, you know, my real hope here is to stay and fight for the kind of Democratic Party I joined when John F. Kennedy was president, which was progressive on domestic policy and very strong and muscular on foreign and defense policy. I --
MS. O'DONNELL: But, Senator, arguably, there's not one Democratic presidential candidate that is espousing that particular position, right?
SEN. LIEBERMAN: So far, right. I mean, obviously, it'll be more than Iraq. It'll be how do they feel about Iran and the rest of the threats that we face.
But, look, the central challenge to our security in our time is from radical Islam, the people who attacked us on 9/11. And to be as direct as I can be, Norah, in this question of who I will support for president, I'm going to wait until both parties have their nominees, and I'm going to support the candidate that I think is best for our country, regardless of party. And obviously the positions that they take on the war on terrorism will be very important to me.
MS. O'DONNELL: And, Senator, I think you've made some news here today, not ruling out a switch to the Republican Party and also I think indicating that you may also endorse a Republican candidate for president.
Thank you so much for your time.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Norah.