Did Lieberman feel the love?

He's back in the Senate for the first time since losing the Democratic primary.

Published September 8, 2006 3:52PM (EDT)

Joe Lieberman returned to the Senate floor Thursday for the first time since losing to Ned Lamont in the Connecticut Democratic primary and announcing that he'll run as an independent.

How was he greeted by Democrats in the Senate? It depends on whom you ask.

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank, under a headline that reads, "For Lieberman, the 'I' Stands for 'Ignored,'" says that you could "feel the temperature drop" as Lieberman entered the Senate chamber. Dick Durbin and Chuck Schumer "kept a safe distance," Chris Dodd "gave him a perfunctory handshake," and Harry Reid "indulged him in a quick handshake then quickly busied himself in another conversation."

The Hill, on the other hand, tops a story by Jonathan Allen and Alexander Bolton with "Senators: Welcome Back, Joe." If Lieberman's colleagues are "anxious to get rid of him," Allen and Bolton write, "they gave no indication of it in their first gathering since Lieberman lost a Connecticut primary to Ned Lamont last month and launched an independent bid."

The New York Times' Mark Leibovich goes for the middle ground: Lieberman's lunch with the Democratic Caucus may have been "an awkward family meal with senators from his own party," but there were "no reports of plates hurled in his direction."

And indeed, if plates or anything else had been hurled, Lieberman would have been protected, and not just by his invisible aura of Joe-mentum. When he wasn't getting warm greetings from some Republican senators, Lieberman was being chaperoned through the Capitol by Mary Landrieu, Ken Salazar and a handful of other moderate Democrats Milbank is calling "the Lieberman caucus."

So why the divergent stories on Lieberman's first day back? Maybe it's because at least some Democrats find themselves torn between their personal loyalty to Lieberman and what they see as an obligation to support their party's candidate. Case in point: Sen. Joe Biden, who offered this wouldn't-it-be-better-to-say-nothing-at-all endorsement of Ned Lamont: "I dont have a relationship with, nor do I even know, Joes opponent. Ive endorsed him because hes the Democratic [nominee]."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

MORE FROM Tim Grieve

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

2006 Elections Joe Biden Joe Lieberman War Room