Final- Chicago 2 (A/D)

Joe Lieberman: The Epitome of Political Courage


                Courage is an extraordinary and powerful trait. Not everyone is born courageous, it is a trait that only some are able to act upon and it takes a certain type of person to ignite the flame. Ernest Hemingway, an influential American author and journalist, defined courage as, “grace under pressure” (Kennedy 1956, 1). Courage in the political field has slowly vanished throughout time, for only a select few can handle the weight it involves. President John F. Kennedy uncovered the candid truth behind the scarcity of political courage in his book, Profiles in Courage, as he stated, “With exceptions so rare they are regarded as miracles of nature, successful democratic politicians are insecure and intimidated men” (Kennedy 1956, 3). Although it is rare, once every blue moon there is a Politician who exhibits John F. Kennedy’s definition of courage and shows true bravery. Joe Lieberman, former Democratic Senator of Connecticut, became an exemplary figure of this phenomenon when he made a daring decision to side with the Republicans concerning the war in Iraq for the purpose of capturing Saddam Hussein; ultimately costing him his Democratic position in office.

                Whether or not to enter Iraqi territory was a decision that both Republicans and Democrats had diverse opinions on. The controversy involving both parties frightened some to speak out but strengthened others. Senator Joe Lieberman “stayed true to what he believed” (Felzenberg 2011). Lieberman took a leap of faith and followed his theories even if it meant disagreeing with his own party. It began when Lieberman “penned an op-ed to the Wall Street Journal, in which he beseeches his fellow Democrats to support the war” (Felzenberg 2011). Although it was frowned upon, he took a stance and supported the Republican’s thirst for freedom and liberty against the Iraqis. With grace and respect he agreed with Republican President George W. Bush’s view and “argued that Bush has a strategy for victory in Iraq, has dismissed calls for the president to set a timetable for troop withdrawal, and has warned that it would be a "colossal mistake" for the Democratic leadership to "lose its will" at this critical point in the war” (Elsner- Reuters 2005). Democrats have seen his view as a way of “undercutting their effort to forge a consensus on the war and draw clear distinctions with Republicans before the 2006 elections” (Elsner- Reuters 2005). However, he responded to his party by advising them that "History will judge us harshly if we do not stretch across the divide of distrust to join together to complete our mission successfully in Iraq"(Elsner- Reuters 2005). The Democratic Party wanted a line drawn between them and the other party, but Joe Lieberman thought otherwise and was soon to be punished by his own people for his courageous actions.             

                Joe Lieberman continued his mission for justice and chiefly called for devoting more troops and resources to Iraq (National Journal 2003). He believed that “The outcome of the current conflict will have an enormous effect on the security of the American people, the freedom of the Iraqi people, and the stability and peace of the Middle East and the world” (Lieberman 2013). Lieberman openly stated that every day Saddam remains in power is a day of danger for the Iraqi people, for Iraq's neighbors, for the American people, and for the world (Lieberman 2002). He believed that if people do not understand and act, his next victims, like Osama bin Laden's, could be innocent Americans (Lieberman 2004). Democrats saw his acts of courage as deceitful and viewed him as a traitor.  

                Due to Lieberman’s controversial opinions, “Lieberman lost his state’s 2006 Democratic Senate primary to Ned Lamont” (Kirchick 2013). While most Democrats turned their backs on Lieberman following his primary defeat, the right did not exactly open its arms. Lieberman had become, in effect, a party of one (Kirchick 2013). Lieberman’s potential ban from his democratic party did not stop him from believing in who he was and following the principles he trusts in and voicing them. Joe Lieberman returned to the Senate as an independent (Felzenberg 2011). John F. Kennedy stated in his book that he believes it is difficult to stand up for what one believes in and “to pursue a unique and independent course which would embarrass or irritate the other[s]” (1956, 4). Joe Lieberman is an exemplary figure of a Profile in Courage for he once said, “I know it's controversial, but it comes from my eyes and my heart and my head, and I feel good about it” (Hannity & Colmes 2005). Lieberman’s heart of iron and mind of steel allowed him to become one of the most dauntless men in politics. He has always thought that his first responsibility is not to serve a political party but to serve his constituents, his state and his country, and then to work across party lines to make sure good things get done for them (Editorials 2011). However, The New York Times described him as "an increasingly unwelcome figure within his party” (Adyanthaya 2006). Although his party may not have accepted him, "Lieberman was never one to sacrifice his judgment to anyone else’s opinion" (Felzenberg 2011). As an authentic courageous figure in politics, Lieberman is one who defines himself as “not always fitting comfortably into conventional political boxes"(Christoffersen 2011). To this day, Joe Lieberman’s courage in standing for his trust that war in Iraq would bring American’s the freedom they deserve will always be admired. His actions define John F. Kennedy’s definition of a Profile in Courage.




                                                                                                         Reference List

Adyanthaya, Anil. 2006. “Profile in Courage? Not John Murtha.” Real Clear Politics, March 23. Accessed

             December 19.

Christoffersen, John & Susan Haigh. 2011. “Joe Lieberman Retiring in 2012.” HuffingtonPost, January

            19. Accessed December 19.    

Editorials. 2011. “Senator Joe Lieberman Never Lacked Enemies, but He Earned them by having the

                           Courage of his Convictions.” DailyNews, January 20. Accessed December 19.



 Elsner- Reuters, Alan. 2005. “Joe Lieberman’s Controversial War Stand.” Banderas News, December 16.

                           Accessed December 19.

        Felzenberg, Alvin. 2011. “Joe Lieberman is a Modern Day Profile in Courage.” U.S News and World.

            Report, January 20. Accessed December 19. 


       Kennedy, John F. 1956. Profiles in Courage. New York: HarperCollinsPublishers.

       Kirchick, James. 2013. The Last Liberal. World Affairs, January/ February.

      National Journal. 2003. Joe Lieberman. National Journal Group, Inc. 35, no. 39 (fall): 2974.   

     Lieberman, Joe. 2002. Should we go to War with Iraq? World Affairs, December.  

      Lieberman, Joe. 2004. “U.S Policy Concerning Iraq”. Speech delivered to the Brooking’s Institution,Washington, DC, April 26.  

    “Senator Lieberman: Stay the Course in Iraq,” interview by Sean Hannity & Alan Colmes,

          FOX News, November 30, 2005, Ebscohost.