The Lieberman Dilemma
by Joseph Lieberman (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Jewish Press (NY) - September 8, 2000
Disclaimer: Justice4JP does not endorse or oppose any candidate in the Presidential elections. Justice4JP does however see it as our responsibility to the public to reveal how any candidate's position on the Pollard case is a reflection of that candidate's commitment to the truth, or alternately a reflection of his willingness to subvert principles of honesty, justice, and fair play to political goals. See Justice4JP Release Aug. 16, 2000.
Ever since Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut was picked by Vice President Al Gore to be his running mate in the upcoming national election, Jews all over the world, and in this country in particular, have been voicing their passionate opinions out loud. To most Jews, the monumental and historic selection of the first Jew, an Orthodox one to boot, to a national ticket, is a source of great pride, which brings with it strong hope for a brighter tomorrow. There are, however, two sides to every story, and this political saga too has a second side worth telling.
Up until Gore chose Lieberman, the senator enjoyed a reputation matched by few in the American political scene. Members of both major parties regarded him as a man of great principle and integrity, and he was considered as the one voice of the U.S. Congress willing to fight for the American family, as unpopular as this sometimes may have been. With his arrival to the presidential race, those qualities, which he was so famous for, have been attracting the attention of tens of millions of Americas who are potential Lieberman supporters. For us in the Jewish community, Joe Lieberman's candidacy has become the subject of excitement, debate, and, to many others, of concern.
The vast majority of Jews look favorably upon the senator's ascension to national prominence. Firstly, it is a well-known fact that most Jews are registered Democrats and vote that way anyhow. But this ticket also serves to validate a long held belief that in this country, the opportunities for success are endless. All that stands between a person and success is the will of G-d and the sheer will-power to succeed in life. Lieberman is, for them, a prime example of the good finishing first. His being Torah-observant only adds to that pride and boosts the argument for supporting him even further. "Joe Lieberman is and will continue to be the greatest Kiddush Hashem to come along in a very long time," is what people are actually saying verbally and in print. Every time Lieberman receives praise, they feel, the image of the American Jew will be enhanced immeasurably. He will set an example for the world to see, of what a good decent Jew is really like.
Unfortunately, this is not a clear-cut case of supporting right vs. wrong. A very strong case has been made against Joseph Lieberman's candidacy and a very valid one at that. Mr. Lieberman did have some very moderate views before he accepted Gore's invitation to the race. As a matter of fact, the initial reaction of the Republican leadership was one of great surprise. They could not understand how Gore was going to explain the great divide between his own positions and those of his newfound running mate. To Orthodox Jews these issues in question are of even graver concern. They are abortion, affirmative action, school vouchers, and U.S. foreign policy vis-a-vis the State of Israel.
If Lieberman's flip flopping would have been, for example, on the issue of whether to relocate the endangered spotted owl, whether to promote off shore drilling, whether to cut taxes across the board, or whether to recognize Cuba, he would be of very little concern to Jews. However, Lieberman has changed his views, overnight, on the very key issues that hit home to every one of us, who take our faith seriously. People all across this land have already begun to wonder how an observant Jew can support a law keeping partial birth abortion legal. For those not familiar with this heinous 'medical" procedure, this article will spare you from the disturbing details. Let's just say that it is nothing less than murder. Any Jew who supports partial birth abortion is simply ignorant of Jewish law. Additionally, the combination of Lieberman newly stated support for affirmative action and gay rights have the ingredients for disaster as they relate to our schools.
Speaking of schools, the voucher type program that our great mayor, Rudolph Giuliani has been a great advocate of, will have no chance of ever seeing the light of day, on a national scale, in a Gore/Lieberman administration.
Finally, we must examine whether the remote chance of Lieberman causing a Kiddush Hashem outweighs the almost certainty of him creating a massive chillul Hashem. If, G-d forbid, things flare up in the Middle East, as they are always prone to, will this nation look at its Jewish vice president, as an objective leader? Or will they think of the U.S. as an extension of the State of Israel?
These scenarios have not been thought out well enough, and this is surely the time to apply the eternal words of our sages who said, "Who is wise, he who sees what will develop." That Mishna does not ask of us to be prophets, but rather to think with our minds and not follow our hearts blindly. A non-Jewish leader, sharing our concerns, will, certainly be perceived as more even-handed when facing issues that concern our community. Al D'Amato is a great example of a Gentile who did more for the Jewish community than most other Jewish politicians ever did. He did not have to worry about the voters thinking of him as being too biased, since he is not Jewish. Henry Kissinger, on the other hand, has been blamed by many pundits for causing the loss of many Jewish lives during the Yom Kippur War, due to his fear of being too outspokenly supportive of the Jewish state in its time of crisis.
We live in a very dangerous time. It does not seem that way, on the surface, but the world is still a very volatile place to live, and will probably be so until the final redemption. We can only do so much to try to protect ourselves from the dangers that lurk. The rest is truly up to our Father in Heaven, who knows full well what will be the outcome of the 2000 election, and whether Joe Lieberman will make us proud our not.
Joseph Lieberman is a long-time contributor to the Jewish Press (NY). He lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.