If only he was just a bit different sort of guy Iíd be a lot more excited about Joe Lieberman being put on the national ticket as a candidate for Vice President.
Here we have a guy who is a lot like me Ė intellectual, a Connecticut native, Jewish and moderate in his positions. Well okay, I didnít exactly go to Yale and some of you donít think Iím all that moderate. But you still might think Iíd be fired up about this somewhat historic moment.
Iím not. And Iím not sure why.
Itís just a hunch, but I think the reason Lieberman makes me uncomfortable is that he embodies some of the persistent stereotypes that American Jews have tried to shake off for so long: His oratory can be whiny. He wrings his hands a lot. He has a history of taking political stands which are more calculated than courageous.
If only his resume had more to it than the story of a nice Jewish boy from modest beginnings who studied hard, went to good schools and worked his way up to a distinguished and well-respected position in public service.
What I would have wished for is a Silver Star for gallantry in Viet Nam and maybe a stint as a back-up point guard for the New York Knicks. I would have settled for a couple of years in the Coast Guard and a season as the place-kicker on the Yale football team. Iím still hoping Lieberman turns out to be a distant relative of Nadav Henefeld.
Just a little more well-roundedness and the Vice Presidential nomination would put him right up there with Sandy Koufax, Sid Luckman, Mark Spitz and Hank Greenberg. But the biography to which weíre being treated is a cross between "Yentl" and "The Revenge of the Nerds."
Connecticut elected a Jewish governor in 1954, so perhaps most of us in the Nutmeg state got past this sort of thing long ago. When itís not news in the rest of the country, thatíll be news.
I have a minor grudge against Lieberman for disappointing me in 1978. I was a campaign volunteer for former state Attorney General Bob Killian in his effort to get the gubernatorial nomination. Lieberman was running for the Lieutenant Governor spot. When the nomination went to Ella Grasso and Bill OíNeill at the convention, Killian announced a primary challenge. The Killian people hoped Lieberman would do the same and thereby add his supporters to the challenge slate.
Lieberman mulled over his options for a day or two and then came out and endorsed Grasso. In retrospect, it was the right decision for him, but it was a nod to politics over principle.
A phrase which has been repeated ad nauseam since Liebermanís selection refers to his "courageous stand" in condemning President Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair. What qualifies as courage in politics is, for everyone else, the common ability to cite the difference between right and wrong.
I might even vote for Gore and Lieberman. In the six Presidential elections for which Iíve gone to the polls, I voted three times for Republicans and three times for Democrats. Iíve been leaning towards George W., for the sole reason I think he will take on the trial lawyers and do something about the runaway litigation bleeding our country dry. Lawyers, by the way, comprise the largest group of contributors to Liebermanís senatorial campaign.
On the other hand, it would be nice to have a guy from Connecticut in there and you have to give Gore some credit for choosing him. And Lieberman has, so far, handled all the attention with modesty and humor.
In the end, my ballot will go to the pair who has the fewest negatives when I tally it all up on ten fingers. Most Americans who vote have gotten accustomed to choosing the better of two flawed choices.
If only things were different than that. It sure would be nice to have something better to talk about than how a candidate exercises his faith.
August 7, 2000