Hometown voters applaud Lieberman's Senate speech Conn. Democrats relieved by his rebuke of Clinton

September 06, 1998|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman's hometown reacted with relief to his extraordinary rebuke of President Clinton on the floor of the Senate on Thursday, with both Democrats and Republicans saying that he spoke for them, and that it was about time someone did.

Danny Charleston, 53, a bus driver for Connecticut Transit who voted for Clinton twice, said he watched the speech live on CNN, flipped the channels to catch clips Friday morning, then listened to talk shows discuss it as he drove to the start of his route.

"It's good that a Democrat gave that speech, because everybody's going to try to use what Clinton did to hold the Democrats down," Charleston said. "I was wondering when Lieberman was going to speak up. He spoke for Connecticut."

From a working-class diner to the grandeur of Yale University, most people interviewed here Friday said that for all the talk about Clinton's admission of an inappropriate relationship with Monica Lewinsky, Lieberman's measured condemnation of the president was about the most sensible thing they had heard on the topic.

In his 24-minute speech, Lieberman, a centrist Democrat and longtime ally of the president, called Clinton's actions "disgraceful," "immoral," and "harmful, for it sends a message of what is acceptable behavior to the larger American family -- particularly to our children."

On Friday, Clinton said he "basically" agreed with Lieberman and said he was "very sorry" for his relationship with Lewinsky.

Several longtime Connecticut residents said Lieberman's speech reminded them of the repudiation of President Richard M. Nixon by another senator from Connecticut, Lowell P. Weicker Jr., during the Watergate scandal.

Weicker, who was then a Republican, was defeated by Lieberman in 1988 and later, as an independent, became governor.

Thomas Geisler, 55, a lawyer, recalled the string of Republican leaders who had urged Nixon to resign "when the evidence became too overwhelming."

"It looks like it's beginning to head in the same direction," said Geisler, who said he had voted for Clinton in 1992 and Ralph Nader in 1996. "This is so serious that it transcends party."

Pub Date: 9/06/98

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