Me & “Holy Joe” Lieberman (1942-2024)

So, I hear Senator Joe Lieberman, one of our all-time worst Democrats, died today at the age of 82. Hopefully that’ll be a blow to his “No Labels” movement, a typical dipshit Lieberman idea which would bleed just enough Trump-haters away from Biden to elect Trump again.

But, what memories this death unearths! I was there in Connecticut in 1988 when the guy first slithered into power. (I was a Yale husband, looking after Baby Dorian, and reading the entire New York Times every day.) That was the year, Reagan’s last year, when the Democrats had to choose between like 8 different characters – we liked Jesse Jackson best. (Keep! Hope! Alive!) There was also some dorky bow-tied guy from Ohio named Paul Simon who was my second choice because I heard him speak at Yale. There was some cornpone Congressional insider named Gephardt. Joe Biden was doing well until his aides didn’t sufficiently crop a passage he copped from some Welsh Labor politician, and Biden went on to reminisce on his childhood memories of Welsh coal mines – THAT was hard to live down. Democrats ended up picking a sad-sack Massachusetts governor who’d let out a criminal that went on to rape and murder, and also sat in a tank and everyone laughed at him. Bush the First won pretty easily, despite running mate Lloyd Bentsen’s classic “You’re no JFK” burn on running mate Dan Quayle. But I digress.

For decades Connecticut had had this maverick Republican Senator, Lowell Weicker, who back in the day had opposed the Vietnam War and voted to impeach Nixon. I liked Lowell Weicker, a big humorous guy who wore American-flag neckties. But he was getting older and was caught on camera once or twice snoozing through hearings. And Connecticut’s Democratic Attorney General Joe Lieberman dubbed Lowell “the Sleeping Bear” and convinced Connecticut voters that they really shouldn’t have a Republican Senator, and enough of them believed it. Except not me. I never trusted Holy Joe. Something about him.

Eventually a lot of Democrats came to agree with me – he was the Democrat who most often voted with Republicans. Especially during the Bush-Cheney Wars of Aggression, which he enthusiastically backed not just as a warmonger but as a Likud Zionist. I know, a lot of craven Democrats in those first years after 9/11 supported giving Bush II a blank check on his wars based on lies, but most of em eventually wised up, but not Lieberman. He backed those wars to the bitter end, with his new friends John McCain and Lindsey Graham.

And then Obamacare, which would have had, SHOULD have had, a “robust public option” built into it that we hoped would thrive and eventually lead to the Holy Grail of Single Payer. That’s what Anthony Weiner (who, aside from his dickpickery, was a decent progressive) thought. But when Lieberman heard that – Lieberman funded by drug and insurance companies and whose wife Haddasah was a Big Pharma lobbyist – he put his foot down, and no public option.

So eventually Democrats all over the country and in Connecticut as well got sick of Joe Lieberman, and a nice guy called Ned Lamont beat him in the primary. I don’t remember what year that was, but I know I sent money to Lamont – anything to help get Lieberman out of the Senate. But Lieberman reacted by starting a new Party, named NOT “Lieberman for Connecticut” but, in a typical example of his arrogance, “Connecticut for Lieberman.” Somehow it worked – I know that he stayed a Senator till 2013.

When John McCain ran for President against Obama, it’s said he really REALLY wanted his good buddy Lieberman as running mate, but the GOP wouldn’t have it, so in in a typical passive-aggressive tantrum McCain pulled Sarah Palin out of thin air, and the rest of THAT story is farce.


Okay, now this will sound like a BIG digression, but it WILL circle back to Holy Joe Lieberman.

Fast forward to 2008 and I’d just started writing for this blog, and that year one of my main passions was defeating the anti-gay marriage Proposition 8. I wrote a lot of serious pieces against it under my own name, and helped lead a protest against Jeff Flint‘s Prop-8 consultant-business opening, which frightened and enraged Matt Cunningham, as immortalized in “Jubal’s Terror Unfounded: Schubert-Flint NOT Overrun by Gay Yippie Bloggers!” I even changed dozens of “Yes on 8” signs to “NO on 8,” which I guess was not only illegal but got me yelled at a lot by passing homophobes.

But meanwhile I developed a homophobic alter-ego that wrote here under the name “PHOBIUS.” Phobius took each of the anti-gay marriage arguments to an absurd extreme. One of those was the difficult-to-grasp idea that allowing gays to marry would somehow, in some intangible way, damage and corrupt straight marriage. There was another satirical blogger at the time, “Fafblog,” who tried to explain that concept in a celebrated piece called “The Octopus of Marriage.” Here is the most important excerpt of THAT:

“…as all God-fearing patriots sense by instinct – each time a man and a woman are married, they are touched on a higher plane of reality by one of the tentacles of God’s immense Octopus of Marriage, housed in Heaven, whose countless tentacles stretch out to embrace everyone else joined in the divine institute of Marriage. However, if gays begin to be married in America, the Octopus of Marriage will stretch down – unwittingly! – and touch its tentacle to their marriage as well… and in doing so, will be tainted by Gay.

“From there, this disaster leads to apocalyptic proportions, for once the Octopus of Marriage is itself corrupted with Gay, the corruption will spread through every marriage in America – tainting every happily married straight couple from Joe and Hadassah Lieberman to Newt and Marianne Gingrich with Gay. The epidemic of Gay would inevitably lead to the extinction of the human race, as well as the fatal corruption and death of the Octopus of Marriage, which in turn would cause a lethal wave of Gay to spread through [the universe.]”

Well, when I, I mean Phobius, read this excerpt, mentioning as it does Joe Lieberman and his wife Hadassah, he knew what needed to be done: spell out in painful detail, in an a cautionary allegory, exactly what that would look like, the gay corruption of Senator Lieberman’s marriage. [This also includes a cameo by Larry Craig, the closeted Idaho Republican Senator known at the time for his “wide stance” in bathrooms.] Without further ado, here is:

THE GAY Corrupts Senator Lieberman’s Marriage!

by Phobius, September 27, 2008
exclusive to The Orange Juice Blog.

The psychic and spiritual damage done to traditional marriage by Legalized Gay is subtle and near impossible to discern for the first several weeks, so let’s look in on the happy Lieberman couple at, say, six weeks after Connecticut’s legalization of same-sex marriage. Congress is in session; Hadassah is contentedly gardening in the back yard of the Liebermans’ elegant but modest West Haven home, while, down in DC, Joe attends a subcommittee meeting on an issue dear to his heart—tightening the screws on Iran with a naval blockade.

He feels he is not making headway with this plan which is so crucial to his friends in Israel. A slim majority of the other Senators seem to fear the blockade will be taken as an act of war, lead to some rash reaction on Iran’s part, and escalate into real hostilities, which doesn’t seem a problem to Joe. But just as he is preparing to retort, he feels a slight tap on his right foot, and then a slow, almost sensual rub up and down. He glances over at Senator Larry Craig (who’s been sitting to his right), experiences the strangest sort of warm vertigo, and quickly looks away to conceal what feels like a blush.

Catching his breath, he makes his belligerent points—quite eloquently too, he thinks, all things considered, and then quickly scrawls on a notepad, “Wide stance, huh? Knock it off!” But he can’t help smiling as he pushes the notepad toward his colleague, and the next time he looks over, Senator Craig gives him a furtive, rakish wink.

A day and a night go by, and then another day, but Joe can’t forget that delicious feeling. Suddenly on the second night, on the spur of the moment, at the hour he usually calls home to Hadassah, he picks up his Senate directory and dials Larry’s cell. “Craig here…who’s this? Speak up, I can’t hear you!” The Idaho Senator’s voice comes across mixed with disco music and laughing voices.

“It’s Joe. Joe Lieberman … I was just thinking about the other day, and… and I wanted to talk to you a little more about the Iran blockade thing.”

Larry chuckles, “Sure, Joe. Come over and let’s talk about the blockade. Let me give you the address here… Let’s see, 1432 22nd St Northwest. The Apex. Used to be The Badlands.”

“Yes, I’ve seen it.”

“Oh, and you should probably be discreet. Hat, dark glasses. Remember you’re famous.”


“Yes, Joe.”

“This… this is all so new and strange to me. All I want to do is hold hands.”

Hearty laughter at the other end. “Sure, Joe. See you in a few.”


As Joe Lieberman stands in the foyer of the Apex, his senses adjusting to the pulsing lights, pumping music, and boisterous crowd, he scans the room for his colleague. After a moment a voice cries out, “Joe! Over here!” and he makes his way toward a corner table. Senator Craig is completely unrecognizable in his dark wig, sideburns, and shades. “Jesus, Joe, you’re not in disguise at all! You’re a Senator, man!”

“It’s all right, Larry,” Joe giggles. “I’m a Democrat, a social liberal. Connecticut just legalized gay marriage. I’m just meeting my constituents.”

“This isn’t Connecticut, Joe, it’s DC.” For some reason, this sensible comment makes Joe laugh uncontrollably.

“Here, sit down and have a drink. There’s some folks I’d like you to meet.”


Hours later, long after closing time, Joe Lieberman stumbles home in a euphoric daze. He reaches in his coat pocket to make sure he still has that young man’s phone number—Yes! Morris! A handsome, 30-ish gentile hunk just back from Iraq, who was star-struck to meet the senator who’d accompanied John McCain to the Baghdad marketplace. Morris! Joe kisses the napkin, puts it back in his pocket, and pumps his fist in the air, the way he does when he watches a war movie in public.

The phone is ringing as he staggers into his apartment. It’s Hadassah, darn! He’d forgotten to call her. “Joseph, are you okay? I’ve been worried sick!”

“Shorry I didn’t call, honey, I was out talking about the Iran blockade with Larry Craig.”

“The Iran blockade? This late?”

“It’sh for Ishrael, honey, Ishrael! Don’t you care about Ishrael?”

“You’re slurring very badly, Joseph. … Larry Craig? You mean, the Bathroom Senator?”

“He’sh a good man!”

“What are you doing out this late with the Bathroom Senator for God’s sake?”

“Don’t take the Lord’sh name in vain, Hadasshah!”

“I’m worried about you, honey… You’re going to be back in two days, aren’t you?”

“Of coursh, dear… I’m going to shleep now, I’m tired…”

“Good night Joseph. Please behave now.”

Hadassah shakes her head, puzzled. Why Larry Craig? She settles into the comfy chair and flips on the television. They are showing shots of Ellen’s and Portia’s wedding. Ellen is so funny, she thinks to herself, and Portia is so… so gorgeous. And they both look… well, carefree. She pulls the blanket up to her neck and falls asleep in the comfy chair with the television on, and soon the Siamese leaps onto her lap and relaxes into purring contentment.


In the morning Hadassah drives her Prius to the delicatessen to pick up some gefilte fish and challah bread, for her husband’s imminent return from DC, but she can’t stop mulling over his strange new friendship with the disgraced Idaho Senator. She is so preoccupied she doesn’t notice her old friend Rachel, the psychotherapist, in the line right ahead of her.

“Hadassah dear. What’s eating you?”

“Oh, it’s nothing.”

“That means it’s something. Come on, darling, out with it. I know you. How is Joe?”

“It’s just… Oh, I’m sure it’s nothing. But he’s been going out late at night with Larry Craig…”

Rachel involuntarily gasps. “The Bathroom Senator? Oh… you’re right, I’m sure it doesn’t mean anything. All our husbands, all over the state, are … you know, reaching out to each other lately, it’s the oddest thing. But it doesn’t mean they’re gay, they’re just… sort of experimenting.”

“Experimenting? I don’t want to catch anything!”

“You won’t, honey, you won’t. I’m sure Joe isn’t doing anything foolish.”

“This is happening all over Connecticut? Is this because we legalized gay marriage?”

“Maybe. It’s what we’ve been thinking.”

“Joe and I should never have supported that bill!”

“Come, come, dear, you’re sounding like a Republican homophobe. Listen. We’re having a support group at my place, every Tuesday at 11, just for women, to talk this exact thing over. Why don’t you come, day after tomorrow, say what’s on your mind. You’ll feel much better.”

“Rachel, you’re the greatest. I’ll see if I can make it.” And they embrace and part.


When Joe Lieberman comes home to Connecticut the next day, they both behave as though nothing has happened, and Joe is particularly jolly and solicitous toward his wife, showing up with flowers and joking nonstop. As on most Mondays, there’s a “Connecticut For Lieberman” rally [pictured to the left.] Hadassah thinks these events are silly, and a big waste of money (“supporters” are each paid $75 to show up, cheer and wave signs) but she knows it keeps Joe happy as he has no supporters in either major party, so as usual she is a good sport and plays along.

They do have a romantic candlelit dinner afterward, at their kosher home. Joe is as charming as ever, and reminisces at length about their early days in the 80’s before Hani was born, as they share a bottle of Merlot. At one point he grabs her hand and kisses up her arm like Gomez Addams. “Joe, stop, you’re tickling me!’ she giggles.

“My darling,” he croons, with a devilish twinkle in his eyes, “do you remember when we were Orthodox Jews?”

“We are ‘observant’ Jews now, it’s a little less uptight.”

“Yes, but still… You know how they say Orthodox Jews make love through a sheet with a hole in it, because the woman’s body is unclean?”

“Joe, you KNOW that’s just an urban legend!”

“Of course, but still… Don’t you think that would be kind of fun, kind of naughty?”

“Naughty? Not really. Is that what you want to do?”

And “Voila!” he cries as he pulls such a sheet out from under the table.

“You are CRAZY, Joseph Lieberman, what has gotten into you lately?”

A moment later, in the bedroom, he covers her with the sheet, and to her surprise he even covers her face.

“What are you doing? Are you sure this is how it’s done?” But by then Joe has already begun, and Hadassah relaxes and closes her eyes, and for some reason visions of Ellen and Portia begin to dance in her head, until she hears, unmistakeably, Joe Lieberman moan, “Morris…”


“I said Doris.”

“Doris Who?”

“Lessing, Doris Lessing. I was just reading one of her books.”

“What book?”

The Handmaid’s Tale!

“That’s not Doris Lessing, that’s Margaret Atwood!”

“I mean, The Grass is Singing!”

“Anyway you said Morris!”

“I did not!”


Modesty dictates that we condense the remainder of the evening into the following summary: After all the screaming, sobbing, and door-slamming, Joe Lieberman is forced to sleep on the couch, and his final words to himself before slipping into slack-jawed snoring are “What in God’s name is happening to me?”


In the morning, Hadassah steps gingerly past her snoring husband, out the front door, into the Prius, and heads off to Rachel’s New Haven condo. As she stops briefly at the front door she can hear the sound of gossiping women, “Bathroom Senator? No! Really! The Bathroom Senator? You’re kidding! Poor Hadassah…” The chatter grinds to a halt when she bangs on the door.

Hadassah looks daggers at the seven women sprawled on futons and couches in Rachel’s living room, until one—Vivian—says, “Hadassah, we heard about what happened, and we want you to know we’re here to support you. Similar things are happening with all our husbands, even if they’re not famous like yours. Come on everyone, let’s give Hadassah a hug.”

“Chardonnay, Hadassah?” And soon she is part of the sisterhood, sharing her story which it turns out is less disturbing than many of the others. Husbands caught with gay porn, husbands caught in internet gay chat rooms… but none really known to have done anything unsafe. The consensus seems to be that their men are all “half-gay.” They also either seem to have much less interest in their wives sexually or want to try new “unusual” positons. And all in the weeks since…well, you know when. Hadassah tells about the night before, the sheet with the hole, the moaning of a man’s name; it turns out Margaret’s husband has done the exact same thing!

Nicole blurts out, “Maybe Connecticut never should have legalized gay marriage!” and Rachel raises her hands like a conductor while most of the others chant “Don’t be a Republican homophobe!”

Patti takes a newspaper clipping out of her purse. “This is from the Hartford Courant. The New York Times won’t touch the story, it’s like we don’t exist to them any more. It says, Connecticut obstetricians are reporting a nearly 50% drop in pregnancies in the past month.”

A stunned silence follows. Visions of Children of Men. Hadassah starts, falteringly, “It’s like… it’s like what’s happening in Israel… The Jews are going to be outnumbered by the Arabs any month now…”

“Hadassah, honey, here in the Nutmeg State this cuts across racial lines,” retorts Jill, who is African-American.

Heidi puts her face in her hands. “We are going extinct, aren’t we?”

Rachel stands up suddenly and announces with a big smile, “Well, it’s twelve noon and the support group is adjourned! Thank you ladies, we love you, we are always here for you, and please come back next week.”

Hadassah is a little startled, but gets her purse and starts to leave with some of the others. Then she notices that Vivian, Jill, and Mona are still lounging on the futons along with Rachel, and that there are two bottles of Chardonnay left. “You’re all staying?”

“We’re the Inner Sisterhood,” Rachel replies. Then she explains, “You need to come to ten meetings before you’re part of the Inner Sisterhood.”

“Oh.” Hadassah closes the front door slowly, reluctantly, and heads back to the Prius. She takes a deep breath and raises her gaze to the autumnal New England foliage. Everything seems different, more colorful, breathing with a new life, as she walks to the Prius. It can’t be the wine, can it, she only had one glass. She slowly drives, back to Joe… but then she suddenly slams on the brakes and furrows her brow.

Why did they save the two best bottles of Chardonnay for themselves? And what were those strange colorful rubber toys on the shelf? Hadassah clenches her jaw and makes a U-turn. “Joe can do whatever he damn well pleases. Nobody keeps Hadassah out of anything!”  And as she speeds back to Rachel’s condo she throws back her head and shakes her hair with abandon. “They couldn’t keep Hadassah out of Boston University or the Lehman Brothers, and they’re not gonna keep Hadassah out of the Inner Sisterhood!”


Let me emphasize that this has been a fictional, cautionary tale, intended to scare you into voting YES on Proposition 8, and I can only hope it worked. As the The Only Ones sang in their haunting 1979 song “The Beast,”

“You might think this is funny, but I’m not laughing: I know it could happen to me.”

AND you.

YES on 8!



So anyway, Rest in peace I guess.


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official political troubadour of Anaheim and most other OC towns. Regularly makes solo performances, sometimes with his savage-jazz band The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at, or 714-235-VERN.