Memo To: Vice President Al Gore
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: In Case You Hadn't Heard
When I heard last week that you were seriously considering Sen. Joseph Lieberman [D-CT] as your running mate, a political friend suggested it would be a bold move for you to pick a Jew. Knowing you would not take my advice anyway -- you never have -- I did not send you my recommendation that if you wanted someone who is Jewish, you should pick Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. The difference is that Rendell is a mensch and Lieberman is a wimp. Yes, Lieberman is the kind of fellow who has no enemies, but that's because in the bruising world of party politics, he has never drawn blood. When anyone I know thinks of Joe, they think of how he saved Bill Clinton from expulsion from office. Once Lieberman became the first Democratic U.S. Senator to condemn Clinton for his "immoral" sexual behavior in the Oval Office with Monica Lewinsky, he became the man on the margin.
The fact that he is known as the only Jew of the several in the Senate who observes the strict rules of the Sabbath, making him "Orthodox", elevated his remarks on the Senate floor. In denouncing the President's lies under oath, his conclusion: "In choosing this path, I fear that the president has undercut the efforts of millions of American parents who are naturally trying to instill in our children the value of honesty. As most any mother or father knows, kids have a singular ability to detect double standards. So we can safely assume that it will be that much more difficult to convince our sons and daughters of the importance of telling the truth when the most powerful man in the nation evades it. Many parents I have spoken with in Connecticut confirm this unfortunate consequence."
Alas, when it came down deciding whether or not to convict Clinton because he lied to a federal grand jury, Lieberman used Talmudic logic in finding a loophole: "Whether any of his conduct constitutes a criminal offense such as perjury or obstruction of justice is not for me to decide." Hello? What was the Senate trial all about? Every last Senator knew Bill Clinton had committed perjury AND obstructed justice. Once the only Orthodox Jew among them announced that it was not up to him to decide, well then why should any of his Democratic colleague have to decide? Sorry, kiddies, the case is closed.
Now it is true that Ed Rendell would have been a more controversial pick, Mr. Vice President, but there is nothing wimpy about him. If he were in Lieberman's shoes in the Senate, he would NOT have taken the Senate floor to denounce the President, but to denounce the Republicans for being holier than thou. Rendell is the kind of Democrat I used to admire back when I was a Democrat. He thinks for himself. When Philadelphia faced racial strife two years ago, over an incident involving blacks and Catholics, Rendell solved the problem by inviting Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan to the city for a brotherhood meeting. He wound up on stage holding hands in prayer with Min. Farrakhan! The Jewish leaders of Philadelphia rebuked Rendell for his action, but the mail at the Philadelphia Inquirer ran 10-to-1 in his favor. Some of my Jewish friends told me Rendell wasn't really Jewish. Rendell took a chance, Mr. Vice President. It was a risky thing for him to do and it succeeded. Actually, Rendell told me that before he invited Farrakhan, he checked him out, watched several videotapes of his speeches, and decided he wasn't a bigoted anti-Semite. That's a mensch.
And that's what you really need on your ticket, a risk-taker. Please note that only minutes after Lieberman learned he had been chosen, he went before the Connecticut AFL-CIO to tell them when people in need go to Republicans, all they get is "the back of their hand." So much for Lieberman's Republican friends, so much for bipartisanship, civility on the ticket, gentle Joe. He expects he has to be the pit bull, so he will give it a try. I'm afraid he will wimp out there, too. One thing The New York Times is sure of, though, is that he really, really is Jewish. Here is Ira Stoll, a former editor of the Jewish weekly Forward, who keeps his eye on the NYTimes at smartertimes.