When it comes to Lieberman, you can ask, but Malloy won’t tell

He was good-natured about it, but Gov.-elect Dan Malloy refused today to get drawn into a debate over whether U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman should be welcomed back into the Democratic fold as a reward for leading the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

It’s a favorite topic for some Washington reporters these days, but it is hard to find anyone in Connecticut who thinks Lieberman suddenly can get the Democratic nomination after a number of political transgressions, not the least of which was campaigning for (and nearly running with) John McCain in 2008.

A reporter tried to nudge Malloy, noting that the governor is regarded as the de facto leader of the state party, so the topic is one that Malloy eventually might have to address.

“Thank you for acknowledging that,” Malloy said of his leadership status. “I very much appreciate it. And the leader is saying I’m not getting involved in that at this particular time. Thank you very much.”

Malloy, who is a strong supporter of gay rights, said that his friends, U.S. Reps. Joe Courtney and Chris Murphy, both Democrats in good standing, have expressed interest in the seat.  Lieberman, of course, was re-elected in 2006 as an independent after losing a Democratic primary to Ned Lamont, who was Malloy’s primary opponent this year.

“This has got a long way to go,” Malloy said.

He did not hesitate, however, to compliment Lieberman for his leadership on repealing the ban on gays serving openly in the military.

“I do want to say that I appreciate his leadership in bringing about what I thought was a historic moment in the U.S. Senate, where Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is on the road to appropriate extinction. Didn’t support it 17 years ago. Don’t support it now. Understood that it probably was a necessary compromise by President Clinton at the time,” he said.

“But I applaud Joe and Chris and every U.S. senator who voted for removing that scar on our road to human rights in this state, in this nation. At the same time I want to recognize people who joined my administration, like Andrew McDonald and Mike Lawlor, for their leadership” on gay rights.

McDonald and Lawlor, who both are gay, are the co-chairs of the legislature’s judiciary committee. McDonald is about to become Malloy’s legal counsel. Lawlor will be Malloy’s point man on criminal justice policy.

Malloy was quizzed on Lieberman at a press conference introducing Dr. Jewel Mullen as his choice for the commissioner of public health. At one point during the exchange, he turned to Mullen and asked, “Doctor, what do you think about that?”

Like her new boss, she smiled and declined to take a position.