By Mark Willen, Senior Political Editor June 27, 2008 You can say one thing about Joe Lieberman: He's no political opportunist. With Democrats poised to increase their power in Washington next year, most lawmakers -- even a couple of Republicans -- are eager to ingratiate themselves with the leadership. But Joe's just doing what he's always done, marching to the beat of his conscience. Love him or hate him, Lieberman is nothing if not his own man. Often allied with social conservatives on issues of values and cultural decline, he was among the first in his party to publicly criticize Bill Clinton after the Monica Lewinsky affair, Lieberman became Al Gore's loyal running mate, at least until he decided that Florida was lost. But after 9/11 and the start of the Iraq war, he began to drift to the right, especially on foreign policy matters, becoming one of President Bush's biggest Democratic supporter on Iraq. That led to his defeat in Connecticut's Democratic primary two years ago. Undeterred, he ran as an independent and easily won re-election. That put him in the position of deciding who would control the Senate. He chose to caucus with the Democrats, giving them a 51-49 edge and giving Lieberman the chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee. It was a bargain nether side especially liked, but it gave each what it needed and wanted. Now comes another election, and with Democrats sure to increase their majority, they know they won't need Joe in 2009. So does he find other ways to make himself indispensable to Democrats so he can hold on to his committee chairmanship? Just the opposite. He breaks ranks completely and endorses John McCain, even writing an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal and going on conference calls with reporters to criticize Barack Obama. Lieberman told NPR this week he may even speak at the Republican convention, much as former Georgia Democrat Zell Miller did four years ago. But unlike Miller, who was retiring, Lieberman will be back next year, and many of his fellow Democrats are already out for blood. There will be a push to take away that committee chairmanship, but Lieberman simply says, so be it. He'll do what he thinks is right today and let Democrats decide what they think is right next year. Can't help but see that as a refreshing breath of air. Whether you agree with him or not, you have to respect Joe. He's somebody who does what he believes in.