- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2008

LONDON — Sen. Joe Lieberman, the maverick Democrat who split with his colleagues just six years after he was their party’s vice-presidential nominee, had a choice to make: Travel to the Middle East and Europe with Republican Sen. John McCain, or celebrate his 25th wedding anniversary at home with his wife.

He chose to join the 71-year-old senator from Arizona, who no doubt feels lucky to have him along.

The two men, at times legislative partners in the past, have now also hitched themselves to each other in this election, so much so that Mr. Lieberman is a state co-chairman of Mr. McCain’s presidential campaign and told a Connecticut newspaper last week that he will attend Republicans’ nominating convention “if Senator McCain thinks it will be helpful to be there in some capacity.”

“I am not going to attend the Democratic convention for obvious reasons,” Mr. Lieberman told the Stamford Advocate.

The two senators — along with Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican and Mr. McCain’s political protege — have become a team, campaigning together and huddling last week in the Senate while Mr. McCain was in town for budget votes.

This week, they have traveled to the Middle East, where Mr. Lieberman has even saved his friend twice from prolonged embarrassment.

In Jordan on Tuesday, Mr. Lieberman whispered in Mr. McCain’s ear after the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee declared that Iran was training al Qaeda members.

“I’m sorry — the Iranians are training extremists, not al Qaeda,” Mr. McCain said quickly.

Video:McCain thanks British troops

Video:McCain meets Jordan’s king on Mideast tour

A day later in Israel, with Mr. Lieberman, a Jew, by his side, Mr. McCain called the Jewish holiday Purim “their version of Halloween.” This time, Mr. Lieberman took the blame: “It’s my fault that I said to Senator McCain that this is the Israeli version of Halloween,” the Connecticut independent said a few moments after Mr. McCain spoke.

Yesterday in London, Mr. McCain didn’t mention his longtime friend when he sought to reassume the lion’s share of the blame — and slap at Democrats, including Sen. Barack Obama, who have derided the errors.

“We all misspeak from time to time, and I immediately corrected it. Just as Senator Obama said he was looking forward to meeting the president of Canada, we all misspeak from time to time,” the senator told reporters just after meeting with Prime Minister Gordon Brown at 10 Downing Street.

“So we’ll just move on,” he added optimistically.

The partnership goes back years, developing fully after both men failed in their quests for higher office in 2000. Mr. McCain lost to President Bush in the Republican primary, while Mr. Lieberman and the Democrats’ presidential nominee that year, Al Gore, lost the general election.

Soon after, the two were teaming up on the first McCain-Lieberman legislation, a bill to change gun show rules to require background checks.

More recently, they have found common ground on a climate-change bill, pushing the Senate further than it had gone before in taking action on global warming.

So close is the partnership that pundits have suggested, and some conservatives fear, that Mr. McCain would consider tapping Mr. Lieberman to be his running mate.

As for the Liebermans’ 25th anniversary, they have bigger plans: They plan to stay behind in Paris tomorrow after the congressional delegation meets with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

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