Connecticut Senator on Palin's Upcoming Speech

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This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," September 3, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: To the man who wowed them at this convention last night — and he's not even a Republican — Joe Lieberman, who no doubt will be considering food-tasters when he returns to the Senate.


CAVUTO: Senator, very good to have you.


Video: Watch Neil's interview with Senator Joe Lieberman

Are you available for the food tasting?


CAVUTO: Man, oh, man, I was thinking after watching — I think, A, do I have this right?


CAVUTO: And, B, did I hear Republicans in the audience cheer for Bill Clinton?

LIEBERMAN Well, it was quite a night.

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I must say that I — of course, I thought about it. And I — one of my — one of the reasons I'm for John McCain so strongly is that he really has had a record of bipartisan accomplishment in the Congress and being willing to take on interest groups, including ones within the Republican Party, if he disagrees.

Senator Obama — and that's what we need if we're going to really change Washington. Senator Obama hasn't done any of that. And, so, I thought it would be interesting to compare Senator Obama's record to the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton, who, no matter what else you say about him, he took on interest groups within the Democratic Party and worked across party lines to pass welfare reform, free trade agreements and a balanced budget.

So, it was a special delight. I kind of — I wondered what President Clinton, if he was watching, was thinking.


CAVUTO: Well, that — you know, it's funny...

LIEBERMAN And it got a round of applause.


CAVUTO: Right. That was the moment for me when I was watching. I said, I just heard Republicans applaud Bill Clinton.


CAVUTO: Hell has frozen.

All right, so let me ask you a little bit about the fallout from this. Have you heard from any of your former Democratic colleagues — they're not former, you're the former Democrat — but and their reaction? They knew you were doing this. It was well-telegraphed, trumpeted, advertised.


CAVUTO: What have you heard?

LIEBERMAN I haven't heard anything. But I can tell you in the lead- up to this — look, when I supported John McCain last December, people in the Democratic Caucus and in the Democratic Party in Connecticut were upset. A lot of them were not shocked because they know that Senator McCain and I have worked together on a lot of things, and — and we're friends.

There was an effort, when the rumors started that I might speak at the Republican Convention, to really urge me not to do it by my Democratic Senate colleagues. And, you know, I just said, I support him. If he thinks I can help him by speaking at the convention, really to speak to the independents and Democrats watching, then I will — then I'm going to do it. I'm not go to spend a lot of time attacking Barack Obama.

But I'm not kidding myself. I know that a lot of the Democrats are unhappy I'm here. I'm here, as I said last night, because country matters more than party, and I'm just so convinced that John McCain is the best for our country as president in the years ahead.

So, I'm — I'm — with all that I have been through, I'm not thinking much about — you know, people ask me if they're going to take political action against you next year...


CAVUTO: Well, let's just say this. If Harry Reid were to offer you a croissant when you come back, I would think twice.



CAVUTO: All right, now, what do you — do you worry, Senator, that, you know, let's say the Democrats build their majority...


CAVUTO: ... in the House and the Senate, particularly the Senate, that then they're going to stick it to you?


LIEBERMAN That was a well-turned phrase. You mean the croissant?

CAVUTO: No, the croissant will be just for the warmup act.



Look, it may happen. I'm a realist. I have been around politics a long time. But to me the choice of the next president at this moment in American history — tough times at home economically, we got dangerous enemies in the world — with all respect to Senator Obama — very gifted — I don't think he's ready to take on the role of commander in chief in January.

CAVUTO: You are almost dismissive, though. I mean, you say, yes, he's a gifted, very good speaker and all that — I'm paraphrasing here — but you almost shoo-shooed him.



CAVUTO: And I thought back, Senator, to the time when you were in the Senate chamber, and he pulled you aside. I never know what happened there.


CAVUTO: But is there bad blood between you guys?

LIEBERMAN Well, I'm probably not at the top of his popularity list, but I think we have had over the years a good, cordial relationship.

And I know it's tough when you go for the opponent, particularly if he's in the other party. But the reality is that I do have great respect for Barack Obama. I'm just saying, at this hour in American history, it's John McCain that's ready to be our president.

And, so, to answer your question about next year in the Senate, you know, I'm not going to think much about it, because I think the — the presidential election is so important to our future so much that I — I hold dear.

Look, part of speaking last night was to speak for John McCain to independents and Democrats, but, frankly, part of it was for me to make essentially an appeal for bipartisanship to a partisan convention. And I was touched about the extent to which the crowd responded to some of my comments about how Washington has been basically gridlocked.

CAVUTO: Well, they obviously — it obviously resonated.

But the bigger issue now, Senator, is what happens? Because you could have left it at that and said, "I'm being bipartisan; I like John McCain."


CAVUTO: But then you were quite complimentary of Governor Palin, in other words, saying this is the ticket.


CAVUTO: It's not just John McCain; it's Governor Palin, too; I like the whole package.

LIEBERMAN Well, look, like everybody else, I'm just getting to know Governor Palin. I mean, I never knew her before I met her two days ago here.

But John McCain is my candidate for president, and he selected her. That's the first thing. Second, as I said last night, and what I wanted to point out, I think Senator McCain, in selecting Governor Palin as his running mate, is highlighting a fundamental part of his political record and his character, which is that he's a reformer. He has no patience for a governor that's not working or a political system that's being foolishly partisan. And that's her record. She's fought that — the power of establishment in the Republican Party in Alaska.

CAVUTO: So, you would prefer her over someone like Senator Biden, who you've known probably for decades?

LIEBERMAN Look, I prefer the ticket.

I have great...


LIEBERMAN I have great regard for Senator Biden. He's a dear friend, and I could go on at length about that.

But, look, Joe Biden and I also have disagreements.

CAVUTO: Right.

LIEBERMAN I mean, like Senator Obama, he was opposed to a resolution Senator Kyl and I put in to try to call for economic sanctions of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which supports terrorists that kill American soldiers. He came up with really a plan for Iraq, to dismember it into three...

CAVUTO: Divide it into three parts, right.

LIEBERMAN ... that to me didn't make sense.

So, I think you've got here — John McCain was really looking to open a door and bring some fresh air from Alaska into Washington, which needs fresh air.

CAVUTO: OK. Did you hear from Bill Clinton after the speech?


CAVUTO: You were complimentary of him.

LIEBERMAN Yes. And, of course, I mean that. I was very close to President Clinton...


LIEBERMAN ... one of his earliest supporters in '91, '92...

CAVUTO: Yes, you were.

LIEBERMAN ... and worked closely with him. And, you know, I'm — I'm proud of all he accomplished in that period of time.

The Democratic Party has changed dramatically since 2000.

CAVUTO: How about you and Al Gore? How do you guys get along?


LIEBERMAN We're — we're — let me say this first.

I will always be deeply grateful to Al Gore, because, by his personal act, he gave me the privilege of running for vice president in 2000, and, incidentally, breaking a barrier, being the first Jewish American to have the honor to do that. So, we — we see each other occasionally. We e-mail occasionally.

From that experience, incidentally, I have a sense of what Sarah Palin is thinking about tonight. Somebody said to me when I got the nomination there are going to be three moments in this campaign when you're going to matter, your announcement — and I think she did very well at that — your acceptance speech — that's the challenge tonight — and the debate.

And the rest of the time, this...

CAVUTO: Then, you go into a bunker, I guess...

LIEBERMAN Yes. Well they say...


LIEBERMAN Let's hope you get local news coverage when you go around the country. That's what they said.


CAVUTO: But, finally, you're not concerned about any ill will, and that, you know, you expect to be treated respectfully by your party?

LIEBERMAN I really don't know, honestly.

What I'm really saying, Neil, is that, to me, electing John McCain as our next president is...


LIEBERMAN ... honestly more important than that. And I'm going to let that take care of itself when we get there.

CAVUTO: One last question, if you don't mind indulging me, Senator.

There was talk that you were very, very close, and if John McCain had his druthers, you would be his running mate. How close did that get?

LIEBERMAN I have no idea. I really don't.

I must tell you, when they asked me to be on the short list, I was very surprised, and I honestly said to Rick Davis...

CAVUTO: Right.

LIEBERMAN ... John's campaign manager, you know, "Please, tell John he doesn't have to do this to thank me for supporting him."


LIEBERMAN And Rick said, "No, no, he's serious about it."

CAVUTO: I'm told that, in a potential McCain administration, you're a secretary of state.

LIEBERMAN No idea. I'm happy to be a senator, and, most of all, want to get McCain elected president.

CAVUTO: All right.

Senator Joe Lieberman, very good to see you. Thank you, sir.

LIEBERMAN You, too, Neil. Thank you.

CAVUTO: Very good. Nice job last night.

LIEBERMAN I will bring croissants next time.



CAVUTO: But do — at least sniff them. That's all I'm saying, all right?


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