|I arrived about 15 minutes before the event was to start, and the place was virtually empty other than about 20 Lieberman staffers roaming around. I was only the second person to sign in. Although other people had been told that the event was closed to the public, I had no problem whatsoever getting in.
While waited for the event to begin, we heard the news that Joe Biden missed his train that morning and would not be attending. I met Eileen Heaphy, Chair/Treasurer of Irish-American Democrats in Connecticut, the organizer of the event. She was very cordial when I said I was there to learn more about the organization.
Soon after, Joe Lieberman himself arrived. He came through the back entrance followed by staffers holding signs. After shaking hands with a few people, he was introduced by Eileen Heaphy, who shared the background that her organization was founded to support President Clinton in his leadership in pursuing the Good Friday Agreement and that they were supporting Joe because of his longstanding support for the Good Friday Agreement and for illegal immigrants from Ireland.
Lieberman, wearing a tie featuring green shamrocks, joked that he was turning his "Cup of Joe" tour into a "Cup of Irish Joe" tour and made a few other predictable jokes about how much he enjoys being with Irish-Americans and people who wished they were Irish-American.
He mentioned that Joe Biden was not able to attend because he got back from Iraq very late last night and was not able to make the train this morning.
He also mentioned that Congressman John Lewis was in Hartford today to support Congressman John Larsen and that Rep. Lewis was enthusiastically supporting him and said if he was a Connecticut Democrat, he would vote for Joe in the primary. It struck me as hilarious that, after praising himself effusively, Joe said he was far too modest to repeat all of the great things that Rep. Lewis said about him.
Lieberman went on to talk fairly predictably about how great Clinton was in helping to broker a peace deal in Northern Ireland and how important the Good Friday Agreement is. He said that the unionists have really failed to live up to the agreement while Sinn Fein and the IRA have done their part to disarm and keep their word. He also covered his bases by keeping Irish nationalists happy by saying he remembered his "Irish math", that 26+6=1 (refering to the Six Counties of the North of Ireland joining with the 26 counties of the Republic to form a united Ireland).
What really got me to change from "fly on the wall" to "gadfly" was when, in response to press questions, Joe Lieberman repeated the lie that Ned Lamont is running a "one issue campaign" and that Ned Lamont was running against George Bush rather than having the "courage and integrity" to run aginst him.
Hearing Lieberman impugn Ned Lamont's "courage and integrity" at the same time as Lieberman is repeating lies about Ned Lamont and threatening to ignore the Democratic primary results if he loses (hardly an example of courage and integrity) really got my Irish up.
So when the press questions were over and Joe started drinking Guinness and schmoozing with the crowd, I joined the people waiting to shake hands with him. When it was my turn, I shook his hand and introduced myself as a lifelong Democrat who also grew up in Stamford and went to Stamford High, like him. I said my dad had been a longtime customer of his dad's package store on Hamilton Avenue, and he said, "Really? What was your dad's name?"
I said, "Frank Keaney."
And said something like, "Frank Keaney? Oh, I think I know him well..." (which is not true, but Joe's definitely a masterful schmoozer)
So I told him that my dad passed away in March, and he said he was sorry and asked how old my dad was. I said he was 82 and that he voted for Democrats in every election after he became an American citizen, and then said I something like (paraphrase):
"My dad was a very loyal Democrat until he died. You mentioned how Irish American Democrats are great supporters because they're not fair-weather friends, and I totally agree. So why are you being a fair-weather Democrat, saying you'll only respect the results of the Democratic primary if you win?"
All of a sudden I found myself with a bunch of microphones in my face. Joe looked slightly stunned, and then started in on his usual talking points about how he wants even more Democrats to have a chance to vote for him in November and that not all Democrats know that they have to come out for a "hot day in August".
I said, "Don't you think Connecticut Democrats are smart enough to know on what day to vote?"
He said, "I hope so" and then started to wave me off.
I forget exactly what words I said after that (there is video and audio out there somewhere) but I said something like, "Look, if you win the Democratic primary, I'll be supporting you and I wish you would agree to support the winner, too" and he said, "Well, let's make sure I win in August, then!" and waved me away, after which I was mobbed by reporters asking how to spell my name.
I was really shocked at how much attention my comment got, since I didn't shout it out to get attention during Lieberman's talk, but rather approached him one-on-one. Apparently, some Lieberman staffers told reporters who were talking to me that I was a Lamont campaign plant, which is completely untrue.
Joe Lieberman needs to realize that ordinary Irish-American Democrats aren't just going to lap up his pandering without asking tough questions, and if he wants to talk about fair-weather friends, he should stop being a transparent "fair-weather friend" to the party.