Several Democratic insiders are now saying Sen. Joe Lieberman, D- Conn., will be kicked out of the party's caucus and lose his Senate chairmanship next year if he addresses the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., as planned.
Lieberman, the four-term senator from Connecticut who was elected as an independent in 2006 after losing the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 because of his support for the Iraq war, is supporting Republican nominee John McCain for president.
According to The New York Times, Lieberman's Democratic colleagues are upset over his openly campaigning and traveling with the senator from Arizona during this election season and are fuming over his refusal to tone down his rhetoric against the party's presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama. Some Democrats are advising him that speaking to the GOP convention in September will be the last straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Lieberman reportedly excused himself from the weekly lunch of the Senate Democrats Tuesday when his Democratic colleagues began discussing, then criticizing, McCain’s energy policies.
"I just didn't feel it was appropriate for me to be there," Lieberman explained to a Times reporter afterward.
"It was the right thing to do," Ill. Sen. Richard Durbin, the Democratic whip, said after a colleague approached him to complain about Lieberman. "This is a delicate situation."
Lieberman has reportedly not ruled out switching parties, but has not to this point thought that he should, which is increasingly becoming an intolerable embarrassment to Democrats.
"I don't have any line that I have in my mind," Lieberman says about reaching the point of no return with the Democratic Party for speaking out on behalf of McCain. "If it happened, I'd know it when I saw it."
Despite assurances that Lieberman will remain a Democrat from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Lieberman’s colleagues aren’t so sure after he ramped up his criticism of the party’s nominee, Sen. Barack Obama.
Referring to Obama’s views on Iran as “naïve,” Lieberman in an interview with CNN said, "The fact that the spokesperson for Hamas would say they would welcome the election of Senator Obama really does raise the question, ‘Why?’"
Lieberman later said on Fox News: "Senator Obama has really moved. Since he clinched the nomination a month ago, he has altered and nuanced more big positions more quickly than I can remember any other presidential nominee."
Fellow Democrats are especially angered by the prospect of Lieberman being chosen by McCain as a potential running mate, which Lieberman denies will happen.
"I'm not really interested, and I don't expect to be asked," he said about the VP spot or accepting a position as a cabinet member involving national security in a McCain administration.
For the record, Lieberman says he won’t be attending the Democratic convention in late August and will miss it. He would, however, speak at the Republican convention just “to say why I'm supporting John McCain. I would not go to speak to attack Barack Obama.”
But for much of the Democratic leadership, the symbolism of Lieberman speaking out against their candidate at the opposing party’s convention will be just too much to bear. Lieberman, however, unwaveringly takes it all in stride by saying, "I feel badly about this turn of events."
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