Lieberman: McCain is best choice for nation

Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Democratic vice presidential pick eight years ago, on Tuesday criticized his former party's nominee as an untested candidate unwilling to challenge powerful interest groups as John McCain and President Clinton have done.

Playing his former party's spoiler, the Democrat-turned-independent called Republican McCain – not Democratic nominee Barack Obama – the best choice to lead the country forward.

“Sen. Obama is a gifted and eloquent young man who can do great things for our country in the years ahead,” Lieberman said. “But eloquence is no substitute for a record – not in these tough times.”

The Connecticut lawmaker, who sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, argued that Obama has not reached across party lines to achieve anything of significance and has been unwilling to take on Democratic interest groups.

In a clear appeal for backers of Sen. Hillary Clinton, Obama's former rival in the primaries, Lieberman said: “Contrast that to John McCain's record, or the record of the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton, who stood up to some of those same Democratic interest groups and worked with Republicans to get important things done like welfare reform, free trade agreements, and a balanced budget.”

Lieberman addressed the second night of the Republican meeting just eight years after he stood before a cheering throng at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles as Al Gore's running mate.

He broke with his party over the war in Iraq and used his platform Tuesday to criticize Obama's national security record and hail McCain's. Lieberman, one of the strongest backers of the war, said that while Obama was voting to cut off funds for troops in Iraq, McCain took the unpopular position to support a surge in troops.

“Because of that, today, our troops are at last beginning to come home, not in failure, but in honor,” Lieberman said.

Seeking to reach beyond the GOP faithful gathered here, he said anyone who's ever contemplated voting Republican should do it this year.

“Tonight, I ask you, whether you are an independent, a Reagan Democrat or a Clinton Democrat, or just a Democrat: This year, when you vote for president, vote for the person you believe is best for the country, not for the party you happen to belong to,” Lieberman said.

Lieberman's speech also echoed the McCain story line about Sarah Palin: That she is a Washington outsider who courageously took on Republicans in Alaska.