It's always dangerous when politicians claim to be doing God's will. So,
as the novelty fades from Al Gore's selection of Joseph Lieberman,
journalists should ask some probing questions about the ticket's
Over the years, Republican policymakers have been fond of saying that they
rely on divine guidance. Cementing his alliance with fundamentalist
Christian groups, President Reagan loved to perform at high-profile prayer
breakfasts and the like. All too often, political leaders -- especially
conservative ones -- have tried to blur the separation between church and
Now, the Gore-Lieberman campaign has launched itself with a very public
display of devout posturing. For them, the Old Testament has become fine
grist for the centrist mill. The New Democrats are morphing into New
At the formal announcement of his selection for the V.P. slot, Lieberman
declared that Gore "has never, never wavered in his responsibilities as a
father, as a husband and, yes, as a servant of God Almighty." The vice
president stood a few feet away, beaming.
Evidently, in the current political milieu, private beliefs and personal
prayer aren't sufficient. To really do the trick, faith must be flaunted.
What good is religiosity if you don't wear it on your sleeve and get a lot
of good press?
Colleagues laud Lieberman as someone of impeccable morality, a judgment
echoed by countless reporters and pundits. Yet a strong argument could be
made that he promotes extremely immoral policies -- if we look beyond such
matters as sexual behavior and public profanity.
By all accounts, Lieberman is personally nice. But he is politically
cruel. For instance, his scrupulous morals do not extend to Iraq, where
several hundred thousand children have died in recent years due to the
U.S.-led sanctions that he enthusiastically supports.
Connecticut's junior senator urges quick deployment of the perilous
"missile defense" boondoggle. And this Bible-quoting moralist has continued
to push a wide range of new multibillion-dollar weapons systems, which just
happen to mean huge revenues for the arms manufacturers that have fattened
his campaign coffers. For military contractors, Lieberman is a visionary
prophet for profits.
Whether Al Gore is truly "a servant of God Almighty" can only be a
subjective matter. But the guy he chose for his running mate is certainly a
devoted servant of Dollar Almighty. Few Democratic members of Congress are
more eager to undermine the public sector. Lieberman wants taxpayers to
subsidize vouchers for private schools. He has been outspoken in support of
partially privatizing Social Security.
In contrast to his media reputation as a consumer advocate, Lieberman
joined with only three other Senate Democrats in 1995 to put a cap on
punitive damage awards in product liability cases. He's on record in favor
of slashing capital gains taxes. Like Gore, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney,
he is a fervent backer of NAFTA, the World Trade Organization and other
devices for globalization on corporate terms.
The world's poor people rank quite low in Joe Lieberman's universe of
values. As for Palestinians, his brow does not even furrow for them. A
down-the-line supporter of Israel, he has proved to be comfortable with the
systematic violations of human rights in occupied territories, underwritten
by billions of dollars from the U.S. government.
"Lieberman may be a committed Orthodox Jew in his personal practice, but
in his role as a public spokesperson he has gone far away from the best
aspects of the Jewish tradition," Rabbi Michael Lerner points out. "He has
none of that prophetic voice that leads Jews to criticize our own Jewish
community and Israel in the name of Torah values. He has none of that
Jewish sensitivity to the oppressed that would place their needs above the
needs of the wealthy."
Like most other senators, Lieberman has built his career by serving the
interests of the rich. Now that he looms very large on the national
political stage, Lieberman is well-positioned to further corporatize the
Democratic Party. Lerner is on target when he comments: "Lieberman is
likely to accelerate the process in which the two major parties seem to be
merging into one pro-business, pro-wealthy, elitist and morally tone-deaf
The men on the 2000 Democratic ticket represent a new theocratic style.
Eager to evoke Judeo-Christian unity, they make a show of rejoicing in
shared monotheism. But judging from policy priorities, the one god that
they most revere is Money.
Corporate media outlets keep praising Joe Lieberman as a paragon of moral
virtue. But actions speak much louder than pious words. He is a disaster.
Norman Solomon is a syndicated columnist. His latest book is "The Habits of
Highly Deceptive Media."