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Joe Lieberman Backed the Iraq War and Opposed the Public Option

The former senator and vice presidential candidate died at 82 on Wednesday.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman walks off the Capitol subway after speaking to reporters about the health care reform bill that was being debated in the Senate, on December 15, 2009, in Washington, D.C.

While current and former officials across the U.S. political spectrum shared praise for and fond memories of former Sen. Joe Lieberman in response to news of his death on Wednesday, critics highlighted how some of his key positions led to the deaths of many others.

Lieberman’s family said the 82-year-old died at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital after a fall at his home in the Bronx. He served in the Connecticut Senate, as the state’s attorney general, and in the U.S. Senate — initially as a Democrat and eventually as an Independent. He was also Democratic former Vice President Al Gore’s running mate in the 2000 presidential election.

“Up until the very end, Joe Lieberman enjoyed the high-quality, government-financed healthcare that he worked diligently to deny the rest of us. That’s his legacy,” said Melanie D’Arrigo, executive director of the Campaign for New York Health, which advocates for universal, single-payer healthcare.

As Warren Gunnels, majority staff director for Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), explained, “Joe Lieberman led the effort to ensure the Affordable Care Act did not include a public option or a reduction in the Medicare eligibility age to 55.”

Noting that Lieberman also lied about the presence of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq — which was used to justify the 2003 U.S. invasion — Gunnels asked, “How many people unnecessarily died as a result?”

He was far from alone in highlighting the two defining positions.

The Lever’s David Sirota declared, “RIP Joe Lieberman, Iraq War cheerleader who led the fight to make sure Medicare was not extended to millions of Americans who desperately needed the kind of healthcare coverage he enjoyed in the Senate.”

Former MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan noted that Lieberman declined an opportunity to apologize for the disastrous war, sharing a clip from his on-camera interview with the ex-senator in 2021.

“We lost a giant today. I often disagreed with Joe Lieberman but he was always honorable in the way he called for American troops to murder people abroad so he could get his jollies,” said Matt Stoller of the American Economic Liberties Project in a series of sarcastic social media posts.

“Joe Lieberman balanced his love of other people fighting in immoral wars with a commitment to preventing Americans from getting healthcare,” Stoller added. “Even after his Senate career, he showed his strong democratic values by lobbying for Chinese telecom firms. We will miss this man.”

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