Joseph Lieberman is a political bad penny.
The Connecticut senator and pseudo-Democrat just won't go away - or stop undermining the political party that he clings to like a barnacle to the side of a ship. Since Al Gore selected him as his vice presidential running mate in 2000, Lieberman has been more contemptuous than caring about the Democratic Party's claim to national leadership.
By seeking re-election to the Senate at the same time he was running for vice president, Lieberman signaled to the nation a half-hearted support for the Democrats' chances of winning the White House in 2000.
Last year he sought re-election as an independent after losing the Democratic Party's primary to Ned Lamont, a political newcomer who waged a largely anti-war campaign against the three-term senator.
"I am in this race to the end," Lieberman said at the time. "For me, it is a cause, and it is a cause not to let this Democratic Party that I joined with the inspiration of President Kennedy in 1960 to be taken over by people who are far from the mainstream of American life that I fear we will not elect Democrats in the numbers that we should in the future."
Electing Democrats was his goal then. Now, it's foisting a Republican into the White House.
"I know it's unusual for a Democrat to be endorsing a Republican," he said recently in announcing his support for GOP Sen. John McCain in the presidential race. "It's even unusual for an independent Democrat like me to be endorsing a Republican.
"You know, political parties are important in our country, but they're not more important than what's best for our country. They're not more important than friendship. They're not more important than our future. And that's why I'm proudly here to urge Republicans and independents in New Hampshire to come out on Jan. 8 and make John McCain the next president of the United States," Lieberman said.
In endorsing McCain, Lieberman effectively opposes all eight Democrats vying for their party's presidential nomination - including fellow Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd.
Of course, Lieberman is free to back whomever he wants. But if he feels the entire field of Democratic candidates is unacceptable - from Dennis Kucinich on the far left to Dodd and Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden closer to the center - then he ought to cut his thin ties to the Democratic Party.
Sure, such a move would put control of the Senate back in the hands of Republicans, but it would also help Democrats regain their soul.
Currently, Democrats and Republicans each hold 49 seats in the Senate. The other two seats are held by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent, and Lieberman, who calls himself an independent Democrat. By aligning themselves with Democrats, Sanders and Lieberman have given Democrats a one-vote majority - and thus control of the Senate.
It's this thin margin that likely caused Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to soft-peddle his objections to Lieberman's endorsement of McCain.
"I have the greatest respect for Joe, but I simply have to disagree with his decision to endorse Sen. McCain," Reid told CNN in a written statement.
Lieberman is a fifth-columnist whom Democrats should chase from their ranks. The short-term consequences would be to lose control of the Senate. (In a 50-50 split, Vice President Dick Cheney would use his vote as Senate president to give the GOP a majority.)
But in the long-term, this political house-cleaning might help Democrats win a comfortable majority in 2008 - if voters believe Democrats will push their political agenda as aggressively as Republicans have pushed theirs the past seven years.
That won't happen if Democrats are seen as hostages of Lieberman's whimsical political behavior - and afraid to get rid of a bad penny.
DeWayne Wickham is a columnist for Gannett News Service.
Copyright 2007, Enquirer.com