Lieberman's Flip-Flops

Jewish Press - August 18, 2000

After an initial period of almost universal elation in the Jewish community over Vice President Al Gore's choice of Senator Joe Lieberman as his running mate, some are now beginning to deplore the selection as Mr. Lieberman has brought himself closer to Mr. Gore on two core issues. Thus Mr. Lieberman, although he has heretofore been a leader in calling upon President Clinton to comply with the Embassy Relocation Act of 1995 and promptly move the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in recognition of Israel's sovereignty over the city, has now said that the move should be postponed so as not to undermine current (emphasis on current) efforts at making peace which have brought the parties "this close" to a deal.

Similarly, although he had long been viewed as an outspoken advocate of publicly funded tuition vouchers for children in private schools as a way of providing equality of public education benefits for all children, he now says that what he really had in mind all along was to make it possible for poor children in public schools, whose parents were dissatisfied with the education they were receiving but who could not afford private school tuition, to attend non-public schools. While we have a negative reaction to these changes, we would hope that our community will keep its eye on the ball as the campaign unfolds.

First and foremost, Joe Lieberman will not be running for president Al Gore will lead the ticket. So the fact that Sen. Lieberman changes his position should be viewed in context. He cannot very well agree to run with Mr. Gore and advocate policies which are at odds with him. We would expect that he will advocate his beliefs prior to a decision. However, once that decision is made, his responsibility will ordinarily be to be a team player. And that Mr. Lieberman should have declined to run is not something we believe can be addressed this early on.

But having said this, there is significance to Mr. Lieberman's transformation. It is one thing to change position to bring oneself into sync with the head of the ticket. It is quite another to say there was no real difference in the first place, which is what seems to have happened here. Thus, while modification could perhaps be explained away, stretching the truth cannot, certainly when it is Mr. Integrity who is the prevaricator.

Nor is this to say that we should not continue to offer our views on public issues and decide whom to support based upon how the candidates come out on them. And as we have said, one of the things that rankles us about Sen. Lieberman is his position on the release of Jonathan Pollard, in which he went even beyond Al Gore's. Indeed, that is precisely the point. We deal with issues. Nothing personal about it.

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