The New Lieberman

Eric Fettman - The New York Post - October 20,2000


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 the Aug. 16, 2000 Justice4JP Release.

Joe Lieberman apparently doesn't watch "Meet the Press." How else to explain his astonishing insistence that he's still open to a sitdown with Louis Farrakhan?

On the NBC program this past Sunday, Farrakhan reiterated his claim that Lieberman has dual loyalties and charged that Jews have a "master-slave" relationship with blacks.

Asked point-blank if he regretted his assertion that Lieberman is a citizen of Israel, he said, "I can't regret that which is the truth," adding - no doubt charitably, at least in his mind - that Lieberman "has the right to dual citizenship." (For the record, Joe Lieberman is not an Israeli citizen.)

Two days later, Al Gore's running mate still insisted that a one-on-one with the man who considers him a disloyal American would be worthwhile. "He wants to be more constructive," said Lieberman, insisting that Farrakhan "wants to change," though some of his "earlier remarks" have been "deeply offensive and divisive."

Earlier remarks? On Sunday, Farrakhan also said: "If I stood up tomorrow and said, I regret saying that there is Jewish control over black artists and black athletes and black professionals,' I would be lying. The Jewish people have that control. That may be to their credit, but it is to our pain."

On Tuesday, Lieberman claimed a post-election sitdown with Farrakhan would be harmless: "The worst thing that could happen is, he doesn't change."

No - the worst thing is that the vice president-elect of the United States would be lending his prestige to a man who masks his hate-filled screeds with reassuring messages about family and responsibility.

To quote columnist Clarence Page: "Just imagine how black Americans would feel if a white person talked about black people the way Farrakhan has talked about the Jews."

But then, this is the new Joe Lieberman. And for those of us who thought that selecting the Connecticut senator to be his running mate was the best (and smartest) thing Al Gore has done, Lieberman has been a profound disappointment.

This is not the Joe Lieberman we've seen all these years. That Joe Lieberman spoke his mind, unafraid of the demands of party and of special interests.

That Joe Lieberman was willing to stand virtually alone among Democrats in demanding congressional censure of Bill Clinton for his immoral behavior in the White House. That Joe Lieberman spoke forthrightly about issues like affirmative action, school vouchers and private Social Security accounts.

In short, he was the real epitome of a New Democrat - the kind that Bill Clinton and Al Gore have long pretended to be.

But the new Joe Lieberman is an orthodox (no pun intended) Democrat, newly wedded to the left-liberal policies that the party has preached for decades - all the while claiming with a straight face that he hasn't "changed a single position."

That's about as big a whopper as Louis Farrakhan claiming he's truly "atoned" for his anti-Semitism.

The Lieberman who once sought to hold Hollywood's feet to the fire and called on industry leaders to "clean up their act" now promises those same moguls: "We will noodge you, but we will never become censors."

The Lieberman who once denounced affirmative action as "inconsistent with the law and the basic American value of equal treatment and opportunity" now says, "I have supported affirmative action, I do support affirmative action and I will support affirmative action."

And the same Joe Lieberman who once stood as one of Israel's most vocal and important supporters in Congress now appears cowed by Farrakhan's suggestions of dual loyalty.

The new Lieberman supports the Clinton-Gore refusal to veto a U.N. resolution that the administration itself calls "one-sided" against Israel.

The old Joe Lieberman led the charge in Congress to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The new Joe Lieberman agrees with President Clinton that the time is not ripe - even though U.S. law says otherwise.

The new Joe Lieberman even declined to sign an open letter of support for Israel in the current crisis - endorsed by 95 of his 99 colleagues - until a spate of public criticism got his attention. In fact, we've heard precious little of anything from the new Joe Lieberman about the PLO assault against Israel.

What is he suddenly so afraid of? Remaining silent can only be seen as reinforcing Farrakhan's suggestion that he - and all American Jews - have something to hide, that his and our support of Israel is something to be defensive about.

It's not, of course. But coming to Farrakhan, hat in hand, will send the message - to Farrakhan and his followers - that the Nation of Islam leader must be speaking the truth about Israel, and about everything else.

That's the real danger of sitting down with Louis Farrakhan: legitimizing and emboldening a hater who's convinced that he, and he alone, speaks the truth.

It's a danger the old Joe Lieberman would have understood.

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