Matt Drudge reported last week that Joseph Lieberman once suggested
an independent counsel be appointed to investigate Al Gore’s
fund-raising practices.

Lieberman reportedly confided to a congressional staffer, “I think
the attorney general should heed the advice of

Mr. (Charles) LaBella
and appoint an independent counsel to look into all of this.”

There’s plenty of reason to believe Drudge’s sources right on the public record. On July 24, 1998, the Associated Press reported, “Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, a Democrat who participated in the Senate’s campaign fund-raising investigation, said La Bella’s views are ‘significant, and it gives me pause to think about my previous position.’ Lieberman has been skeptical of naming another independent counsel.”

More than a year later, Lieberman was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying, “As it now stands, the law has no teeth. Why else would two of the most prominent figures from the 1996 scandal — John Huang and Charlie Trie — be allowed to plea to charges that resulted in no jail time?”

What happened to Joseph Lieberman on the way to the Democratic vice-presidential nomination on Gore’s ticket? Is he going to defend Gore’s abusive campaign finance tactics? Is he going to rationalize his running mate’s deception and Clintonesque spin?

And, more significantly, is Lieberman going to defend the record of the Democratic president for the last eight years? If he does, he’s got some explaining to do with regard to his own powerful critical rhetoric.

For instance, look what Lieberman told the Record-Journal editorial board that same summer of 1998: “(The president) definitely has a serious problem. I do think the ultimate point here is a question of obstruction of justice and the validity of an oath taken. We have his clear denial and, therefore, if (the DNA testing) comes back differently than he said, then he has some explaining to do.”

We all remember Lieberman’s famous speech on the Senate floor in September 1998: He condemned Clinton’s behavior in the Monica Lewinsky affair as “immoral” and “harmful” and deserving of public rebuke.

“In this case, the president apparently had extramarital relations with an employee half his age and did so in the workplace in the vicinity of the Oval Office,” Lieberman said. Such behavior, he said, “is harmful for it sends a message of what is acceptable behavior to the American public.” He added that Clinton “had by his disgraceful behavior jeopardized his administration’s historic record of accomplishment. … The president’s relationship with Ms. Lewinsky not only contradicted the values he has publicly embraced over the last six years, it has, I fear, compromised his moral authority.”

The talk throughout Washington at the time was that Lieberman was on the verge of calling for Clinton’s resignation.

And it was hardly just the Lewinsky scandal that got under Lieberman’s skin. He was also outspoken in condemning the administration’s role in what has become known as China-gate.

It’s clear, he said, “this espionage has gone on through the Clinton administration and that, in hindsight, the administration’s response — after notification — was not as rapid as it might have been. Indeed, in several respects, that response was obstructionist, counterproductive and clearly antagonistic to long-term U.S. national security. …”

In June 1999, he was quoted in a Reuters story: “From everything that I know the administration … either knew about it or should have known about it. The ‘should have’ is because some of the experts at our labs in the Department of Energy reached a conclusion based on what they saw from Chinese nuclear testing that the Chinese must have obtained, probably obtained, information on our W-88 warhead. Looking back at it, this is critical enough. The president should have been told then, there’s no question about it.'”

Is Al Gore going to be running on his administration’s record of the last eight years? Or is he planning on completely reinventing himself in the next three months? If Gore doesn’t sufficiently distance himself from the corruption and stench of the Clinton years — and, frankly, I don’t see how that is possible — then how does Lieberman explain himself and his rhetoric of the last four years? How will he rationalize his current suck-up to the vice perpetrator? Or will he even be forced to do so?

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