Lieberman Gets the Last Word

This is a partial transcript from Hannity & Colmes, November 24, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Eight of the nine Democratic presidential candidates took part in a debate earlier today, so which candidate was missing? Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman.

Senator Lieberman initially rejected the invitation, but when he learned that two other candidates would be debating via satellite, he asked to be allowed and join in via satellite himself.

Well, the DNC consulted with some other campaigns and turned him down. Well, the Democrat's loss is our gain. Joining us now presidential candidate for the Democratic side, Senator Joe Lieberman.

Senator, I'm supporting you in this effort. I think you should have been allowed in the debate. How are you, Senator?


And you know, I always thought the Democratic Party (search) was the party of inclusion, but they excluded me tonight. But I got the last word because I'm on your much more highly viewed show than the other channel on which the debate is now showing.

HANNITY: That is absolutely...

LIEBERMAN: Don't turn your dials.

HANNITY: That is absolutely true. And the debate was earlier tonight.

Why do you think that is, Senator? Because by far, and I have my disagreements with you and you know that.


HANNITY: But by far, you have been the least shrill of all of these candidates. You have been the most understanding of the need to combat terror. Do you think politics had anything to do with it?

LIEBERMAN: It must have. I mean, the first thing I didn't understand is why the Democratic National Committee polled the other candidates, to ask them whether I could be there. It set up a kind of blackball system which was not the right thing to do.

And I feel in the end that a lot of big issues were discussed and I would have taken positions that nobody else on the stage did. Strong on security, I'm the only one to recommend middle class tax cuts beyond even what the president has recommended. I'm the only one who stayed strong on trade.

So I feel that I could have added a lot to the debate, and I'm sorry they made the decision they did.

HANNITY: Here's -- I've watched every single debate that has taken place so far senator. And here's my problem.

I'm a conservative. I'm a Republican, and I support the president. I think he's done a great job on the war on terror (search), and I think the economy is turning around.

But here's what I've watched with the Democratic debate, and I used the word shrill before. I've heard your fellow candidates refer to this candidate as a gang leader, as a liar, as a candidate for impeachment, as a miserable failure. I've watched each and every solitary aspect of this very complicated and difficult battle against our enemies, just being pushed aside.

When you hear your fellow candidates make such deeply personal attacks against our commander in chief, does it bother you?

LIEBERMAN: Well, look, I always say from what I know of President George Bush, he's a good man. I'm running for president because I don't think he's been a good president.

But, you know, you're absolutely right. There's one thing for making a case, somebody told me long ago, the folks -- the voters should fire him and hire me. It's another to make him into something evil. And that hurts our politics overall.

So I try not -- you know, I understand a lot of Democrats are angry. I'm angry. But it takes more than anger to be the commander in chief. It takes some strength and experience and the ability to try to bring people together, including people of both parties.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Senator, it's Alan. Be careful. At this rate you might get Hannity's endorsement. You don't want that.

LIEBERMAN: That could definitely hurt my campaign.

COLMES: Look, you shouldn't have been kept out of the debate. It should be -- The Democratic Party -- I'm a Democrat; you're a Democrat. We are an inclusive party.

LIEBERMAN: Right. And it troubles me that the DNC gave other candidates veto power over whether you could be in tonight's debate. That's insane. Of course they're going to say no.

LIEBERMAN: Yes, thanks, Alan. I don't get it. I don't know how the DNC and Terry McAuliffe (search) ended up getting backed into a corner on that.

But anyway -- and as I said before, I have a point of view that I think is different than any of the other candidates, and I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to reflect it there. It wasn't the right thing to do, but there will be other debates and I'll be there.

COLMES: Is it because -- and I want to reemphasize this point -- is it because your point of view is further away from the other candidates, closer to maybe President Bush's point of view, on certain decisions like Iraq and the war on terror, that has the Democratic structure not in your corner?

LIEBERMAN: Well, I hope not. I mean, the DNC has been neutral, as they should be. I just don't know why they gave everybody else the chance to blackball another candidate.

The fact is that the strength of the Democratic Party, the strength of our country, is the diversity of points of view. And I know that I represent a great number of Democrats. I saw a poll a while ago that asked Democrats around the country to self-identify, and two-thirds self- identified as moderate or conservative.

I want to speak for the independent minded Democrats. I want to represent a center out candidacy, which is the only kind that really can defeat the president. We're not going to do it by going too far over to the left, as the president has taken the country, with all respects, Sean, too far over to the right.

COLMES: This is Alan. I'm the good guy.


COLMES: The idea that, you know, Dean has the -- I guess everybody looks at Dean as the front-runner right now. Can Dean beat President Bush?

LIEBERMAN: Well, it's too early to say.

I mean, what I've said throughout the campaign is that Howard Dean has taken a series of positions that are so far away from what Bill Clinton (search) took in 1992 to transform the Democratic Party and reconnect with the mainstream of American politics, that he threatens to take us back to where we were before Clinton ran in '92. And that was in the political wilderness.

And what do I mean? I'm talking about being willing to support tax cuts for the middle class, for businesses to create jobs, to be strong on security, reassuring on that. To talk from mainstream values.

And to have the nerve to say that, while we're going to fight unfair trade, trade creates jobs in America. Almost one out of five jobs are dependent on trade.

So on all of those positions Howard Dean has gone back to where we were before Clinton, and that doesn't give me confidence about how he would do. Any more than that, how he would govern.

COLMES: Is there a major battle now in the Democratic Party between the centrists, the Democratic Leadership Council part of the party, the center of the party, versus those who are perceived as more liberal? Is that a battle royale going on now, and is that going to determine whether or not the Democratic Party is viable going forward?

LIEBERMAN: I believe it will. There is a battle going on.

And frankly, what troubles me is that the surprising success of Howard Dean has had the effect of bringing a lot of the candidates over further to the left where Howard is, and leaving the center for me and maybe one or two others part of the time.

And again, it's in the center where American elections are won. In so many ways, the president has gone over to the right. He ran as a compassionate conservative. That always meant to me that he was saying he was a centrist. He's carried us over to the right on so many different areas. He's left the center open. We can win, but we're only going to do it in the center.

HANNITY: Senator, that Medicare (search) bill is way to the left, but anyway, good to see you. I hope...

LIEBERMAN: Sean, you're the good guy.

HANNITY: It was wrong what they did to you, and I think you had the right to have your voice heard tonight.

LIEBERMAN: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to more people than I would have at the debate.

HANNITY: You're welcome here any time, Senator.

LIEBERMAN: I'll be back. All the best to both of you. You do a great job.

COLMES: Thanks.

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