Obama Puts Lieberman on the Defensive with Challenges About Religion

Election '08

Last week, in an eye-catching moment on the Senate floor, Barack Obama led Joe Lieberman to the back of the chamber and, according to one report, “engaged in what appeared to reporters in the gallery as an intense, three-minute conversation.” No one could hear the senators, but Roll Call noted the body language, and said Obama “leaned in very close at times, and appeared to be trying to dominate the conversation.”

Not surprisingly, a lot of us have been anxious to hear more about what, exactly, transpired. Newsweek quoted an anonymous campaign aide who said Obama “told Lieberman he was surprised by Lieberman’s personal attacks and his half-hearted denials of the false rumors that Obama is a Muslim.”

Lieberman’s office is not at all pleased. His spokesperson told the National Review:

“The anonymous Obama campaign staffer’s characterization of the private conversation was entirely false and fabricated.”
And an anonymous Lieberman staffer told Time’s Mark Halperin:

“If the Obama campaign thinks they are going to intimidate Joe Lieberman with these sleazy tactics then they are sorely mistaken.”
Given the context, I assume Lieberman’s aides were referring to the comments to Newsweek as “sleazy,” not Obama’s discussion with Lieberman on the Senate floor (which Lieberman’s office described as “a cordial and friendly discussion“).

Either way, we’re watching the end of Lieberman’s relationship with the Democratic Party. At this point, it’s a matter of “when,” not “if.”

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