Even if Joe Lieberman is, as humorist Harry Shearer <harryshearer.com> quipped on "Le Show," "a Baptist dressed in a Jewish suit," it's nice that one of the tribe is running for vice president. But as a lefty used to voting for the lesser of two evils, which usually means Democrats like Al Gore <www.algore2000.com>, if the election were held today, I'd have to vote for Republican George W. Bush <www.georgewbush.com>.
Though it may not rate more than an asterisk following the Democratic National Convention, the last straw for me was the Loretta Sanchez fiasco. Sanchez <www.house.gov/sanchez> is the Hispanic female Democratic congresswoman from Orange County who wanted to hold a fund-raiser at the Playboy Mansion <www.playboymansion.com> during the DNC. A rising star in the Democratic party, she twice defeated Republican arch-conservative and Clinton-hater Bob Dornan. But Gore's people were so terrified that Republicans would use her fund-raiser to accuse Democrats of lose morals that they bullied Sanchez into moving the venue to B.B. King's Blues Club on the Universal CityWalk <www.universalstudios.com/citywalk>.
Lieberman <lieberman.senate.gov>, of course, is the Democratic senator from Connecticut who is an orthodox Jew and the first Jew of any kind to be on a major party's national ticket. It was widely reported that the main reason Gore chose Lieberman was because he rebuked President Clinton for having an affair with that nice Jewish girl Monica Lewinsky. However, if Gore was hoping Lieberman would help him distance himself from Monicagate, on "The Tonight Show" <www.nbc.com/tonightshow>, Jay Leno pointed out that if elected, Lieberman would become the first person of the Jewish faith to serve under a sitting president since, well, Monica Lewinsky.
Another political humorist, Bill Maher of "Politically Incorrect" <abc.go.com/pi>, suggested the Lieberman selection revealed panic in the Gore camp. That Gore is letting Republicans set the agenda as being about character -- Clinton's character -- even though character shouldn't be an issue for Gore, since most people think there's only one part of him that's NOT stiff.
What sort of Baptist is Joe Lieberman? At such nonpartisan Web sites as Issues2000.org, which tracks candidate stands based on their voting records, position papers and media reports, Lieberman is a mixed bag. He voted against outlawing partial birth abortions but is for parental notification laws. He supports affirmative action but wants it gone by 2010. He supports gay rights but not gay marriages. And he voted to strengthen the embargo on Cuba yet to end the embargo on Vietnam.
Compared to former Wyoming congressman and defense secretary Dick Cheney, Lieberman is a liberal. But on social issues, leaders of the Christian right consider him an "ally." During his 12 years in the Senate, Lieberman has been called both the "conscience of the Senate" and a moralizer. In 1998 he joined forces with former drug czar and culture wars commander-in-chief William Bennett to issue "Silver Sewer Awards" to scold producers of sex and violence in movies, music, TV and video games. He has also denounced rap music and sponsored legislation to create the V-chip to block TV shows that parents find offensive.
Finally, Lieberman was the first Democratic senator to condemn President Clinton for his peccadilloes, calling them "inappropriate, immoral and harmful," although (to maintain his political viability?) he eventually voted against impeachment.
But for every voter suffering from "Clinton fatigue," two are still outraged over the tactics of special prosecutor Ken Starr and the hypocrisy of Republicans Newt Gingrich, Henry Hyde, Bob Livingston, et. al. And many voters are eager to send a message that the Republicans have gone too far in trying to legislate morality. But how can voters send that message when Gore selects a social conservative for a running mate; his wife, Tipper, is best-known for crusading for music censorship; and his campaign "gores" a bright, liberal, Hispanic congresswoman just to show his disdain for "Playboy," as if he never leafed through one while inhaling pot at Harvard.
In this "Through the Looking Glass" election, everyone is taking a page out of the Clinton playbook and trying to sound more like the other side than the other side. So Republicans preach inclusion while Democrats talk about family values. Republicans become compassionate conservatives while Democrats no longer have room in their tent for the publishers of girlie magazines, and by extension, those who ever read them or agreed to be interviewed by them, as President Jimmy Carter did, to his everlasting heart-lusting grief.
The final argument for holding one's nose while voting for Gore can be summed up by the phrase, "it's the Supreme Court, stupid." In other words, vote in a Republican and abortion will become illegal. But as my favorite contrarian columnist, Alexander Cockburn <www.counterpunch.org>, recently noted in my favorite leftist publication, "The Nation" <www.thenation.com>, political affiliation is no guarantee of judicial orientation. Liberal Justice Earl Warren was appointed by Republican Dwight Eisenhower. The Roe v. Wade decision was written by Nixon appointee Harry Blackmun, while Roe dissenter Byron White was appointed by John F. Kennedy. Bush the Elder appointed David Souter, considered the court's most liberal justice today, while Clinton never nominated anyone who would raise the eyebrows of Orrin Hatch <www.orrinhatch.com>.
So it's possible that when, for instance, Gore
says he's for family values, or George W. says he won't make abortion a
litmus test on court appointments, that sometimes politicians actually
mean what they say. Because if welfare reform, globalization, Star Wars,
the death penalty, national health care, don't ask don't tell and Supreme
Court nominations are any indication, Clinton often acted as well as talked
like a Republican.