Last week’s debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan got me thinking of another national campaign I covered a dozen years ago that also saw two running mates square off in Danville, Ky. I’m talking about the historic 2000 election that not only ended in the Florida recount but pitted incumbent Vice President Dick Cheney against the first Jewish candidate on a major ticket, Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. The Democrat-turned-Independent is retiring this year but in the fall of 2000, he was a hot political commodity and I was the reporter USA TODAY assigned to travel on his plane during the fall campaign.
From Bangor, Maine, to Seattle and every swing state in between, I was with Lieberman 24/6 (the Democratic veep press corps was the only one that got off for the Jewish sabbath). I reported on the highs — watching in the studio as he did his schtick on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Late Night With Conan O’Brien — and the lows — charges “the moral conscience of the Senate” turned partisan and fickle on the campaign trail. And I was at Gore-Lieberman headquarters in Nashville on Election Night, reporting on the team that covered the fallout that ended more than a month later at the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark decision Bush v. Gore.
A few years later, I traveled to Manchester, N.H. to cover Lieberman’s lackluster campaign for the top job in the 2004 presidential election and, a few weeks later, wrote about his decision to call it quits and stay on Capitol Hill.
Over the years, I’ve weighed in on Lieberman’s ability to infuriate his once-fellow Democrats, his neoconservatism , the political view of his fellow Orthodox Jews and his chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
Whatever you think of Joe, after 24 years in the Senate, all I can say is gey gezunterheyt, which is Yiddish for “go in good health.”