Former Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn.) is defending Sens. Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaDemocratic frustration growing over stagnating voting rights bills Key senators to watch on Democrats' social spending bill Pragmatic bipartisanship – not hard left intolerance – is Democrats' surest path back to power MORE (Ariz.) and Joe ManchinJoe ManchinKlobuchar confident spending bill will be finished before Christmas Democratic frustration growing over stagnating voting rights bills Key senators to watch on Democrats' social spending bill MORE (W.Va.), saying that while the Democrats are at odds with some in their own party over a sweeping spending bill, the pair are simply being “true to their own conscience.”

“Today the parties seem to apply litmus tests to their members, and you can’t disagree with the dominant party opinions on many things or you’re thought to be a bad member of your party, and you’re chastised, called a traitor and all sorts of things,” Lieberman said. “But that’s wrong — that’s not the way our system was meant to work. And it’s not fair to expect that of members of Congress who have come to Washington with points of view they hold.”

The 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee knows a thing or two about not always seeing eye-to-eye with his party, including when he drew criticism for his support for the Iraq War. After losing the 2006 Democratic primary race for his Senate seat, he won reelection running as an Independent.


Now, the 79-year-old ex-lawmaker has a new book out, about how to tread through today’s even choppier, polarized political waters.

Lieberman said “The Centrist Solution: How We Made Government Work and Can Make it Work Again” stemmed from having more time on his hands to write during the pandemic and a long-simmering urge to address the “increase in partisanship and gridlock” in the nation’s capital.

“Based on my knowledge of American history and my own experience as a senator for 24 years, the best way to overcome this problem — maybe the only way — is for people of different parties, different ideologies to come to the center, and listen to each other, negotiate, compromise, and get something done for the country.”

Lieberman stressed that being a centrist isn’t the same thing as being a moderate: “A centrist can be a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican. The key is, are they willing to come to the center to talk to people with a different point of view and negotiate and compromise to get things done?”

Asked if a call for centrism might be considered an old-fashioned approach in our post-Trump, hyperpartisan times, Lieberman replied that a lot of his former colleagues in Congress might “play it safe” so as not to get primaried. But in a general election, he said, “the public really wants members of Congress and the president to sort of do what they think is right, rather than just follow a rigid party line.”


As someone who knows Manchin “very well,” Lieberman said of the Mountain State’s senator, “The kinds of things he’s arguing for now — that he may be different from most of the members of the Senate Democratic Caucus — are points of view that are quite similar to the ones he’s held for his entire career in public service.”

“So what is he supposed to do? Sort of stifle his own beliefs just to go along with the herd and the party?” Lieberman asked of Manchin, who along with Sinema has said that the price tag of the proposed spending bill is too high. “No, I think they have to find common ground with him, and of course, he has to find common ground with them.”

Part policy-driven approach, part memoir, the book out Tuesday also includes lighter moments from Lieberman’s career.

He recounted attending a White House holiday party in 2006 shortly after winning his Independent Senate bid and being embraced by then-President George W. Bush as they posed for a photo together.

“Liebie, you’ve got big cojones!” Bush exclaimed to him.

Lieberman said he thanked the 43rd president “for that great compliment,” before telling his wife, Hadassah, “Sweetheart, please consider using President Bush’s kind words as the epitaph on my tombstone.”