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Sen. Blumenthal remembers colleague and friend former Sen. Joe Lieberman


Joseph Lieberman, the former longtime senator for Connecticut, has died at the age of 82. He spent decades in Congress and gained notable prominence as the first Jewish American on a major presidential ticket when he ran for vice president alongside Al Gore in 2000. Joining us now to discuss Lieberman's legacy is Democratic senator from Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal. Senator Blumenthal, thank you for joining us. And first, please accept my condolences for your loss.

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: Thank you for having me, and thank you for your condolences.

ELLIOTT: He was not only your colleague, but also a friend. How will you remember him?

BLUMENTHAL: He was my friend for more than 50 years, and what I'll remember about him as a personal friend is his kindness and his loyalty. But also he was a ferociously independent advocate, a man of deep conscience and conviction, and as independent as he was, he also tried to bridge gaps and bring people together, so in a sense, his bipartisanship on so many issues, as well as his staunch stand for environmental protection, voting rights, gay rights, gun violence protection - a real legacy.

ELLIOTT: Senator Lieberman, as you noted, was independent. He had a different approach to politics, certainly from what we see today. He wasn't beholden to expectations about party affiliation. He didn't seem to really care about the political winds. What were his guiding principles?

BLUMENTHAL: His guiding principles, I think, were the values of a democratic society - civility and seeking to work together, compromise, but also standing strong for free expression, religious faith. And he was a leader because people sensed about him that what you saw was what you got and that he was always going to tell you what he believed as a matter of conscience and conviction, even when you disagreed with him. And I disagreed with him often and seriously. He was always affable. He could disagree with a smile on his face, and I think that quality is often lost today in the political world.

ELLIOTT: When he left the Democratic Party, he became an independent, and then he went on to found the No Labels movement. What do you think he was looking to change about this country's political system?

BLUMENTHAL: I think he was trying to bring people together through No Labels, and I would have hoped that, had he lived, he would have urged that No Labels not field a presidential candidate because it could potentially elect Donald Trump. And I will say unequivocally that he never wanted Donald Trump to be president of the United States.

ELLIOTT: In the few seconds we have left here, is there a particular favorite story you'd care to share about your friend?

BLUMENTHAL: You know, Joe, when he was elected United States Senator and I was elected to succeed him, said that a friend of his told him that the state of Connecticut now had a better United States senator and a better attorney general.

ELLIOTT: Oh, sweet.

BLUMENTHAL: And we laughed about it because I never would have said a better attorney general, but he had that sense of humility about himself.

ELLIOTT: Senator Richard Blumenthal, thanks for being with us.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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