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Joe Lieberman: He's no Zell Miller (but he sure is a John McCain fan)

September 2, 2008 |  8:41 pm

Four years ago -- almost exactly to the day -- Democratic Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia delivered a high-profile speech at the Republican National Convention in New York and created a furor.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, onetime Democratic vice presidential candidate, speaks at the Republican National Convention on behalf od John McCainTuesday night, Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut -- a Democrat turned, by his own lights, independent Democrat -- assumed the role of renegade at the GOP conclave in St. Paul. But his mission was dramatically different than that undertaken by his erstwhile party colleague.

Miller took the stage at Madison Square Garden to launch a frontal assault on the Democratic nominee trying to deny President Bush reelection. He eviscerated Kerry's voting record on defense systems, suggesting that if the senator from Massachusetts had his way, the U.S. military would be armed with spitballs.

Lieberman, by contrast, came to Minnesota more to praise John McCain than to attack Barack Obama. And for the voters both camps are targeting -- independents -- there's a good chance Lieberman's message will resonate more effectively.

At the least, it ought to lay the groundwork -- if any was really needed -- for Lieberman to land a high-ranking post in a McCain administration (after all, his welcome in the Democratic Senate caucus is bound to grow even more strained than it already is).

Deep into his prime-time speech, Lieberman took a few swipes at Obama. He dismissed him, for instance, as a "gifted and eloquent young man" (emphasis added) who might one day live up to his potential but who has yet to accomplish anything that would now qualify him for the presidency.

But Lieberman's main purpose was to make a stirring bipartisan case for McCain. And that he did, line after line.

After starting his remarks by decrying the political divide that afflicts Washington, he said, "And that brings me directly to why I am here tonight ... I'm here to support John McCain because country matters more than party."

Seconds later came this: "I am here because John McCain's whole life testifies to a great truth: being a Democrat or a Republican is important. But it is nowhere near as important as being an American."

And seconds after that, he said: "Only one leader has shown the courage and the capability to rise above the smallness of our politics to get big things done for our country and our people. And that one is John S. McCain."

Lieberman also fully embraced McCain's choice ...

... of Sarah Palin as the GOP vice presidential candidate -- surprisingly, perhaps, given that he and the governor of Alaska would be hard pressed to find a social issue on which they agree.

Not surprisingly, the Republican crowd ate up the words from the man who, just eight years ago, joined Al Gore on the Democratic presidential ticket.

For many who worked to elect that duo, it must seem a much longer time ago than that ... and in a galaxy far, far away.

-- Don Frederick

Photo credit: Getty images