WSJ Ed: I Can't Stand Lieberman

J4JP New Senator Lieberman Series - January 16, 2003

J4JP Preface

On January 13, 2003 Senator Joseph Lieberman announced his candidacy for President of the United States in the 2004 elections. How can anyone - Jew or gentile - trust a man who subordinates truth to promote his own political image?

Justice4JP presents a new series of articles which shed light on the character of Senator Lieberman. They all corroborate the political ambition which drives Senator Joseph Lieberman and the dubious morality that he espouses - something which has always been very obvious to us from Lieberman's long history of exploiting the plight of Jonathan Pollard in order to further his own ambitions. The first article appeared in October of 2002 when Lieberman's candidacy for President was just a rumour. It was written by Tunku Varadarajan, a deputy editorial features editor of The Wall Street Journal, and appears below.

I Can't Stand Lieberman

Has no one else noticed that the man is a phony?

Tunku Varadarajan - The Wall Street Journal - October 9, 2002

My 58-year-old mother gave me some good advice about this column. She said, "Sweetheart"--as she is prone to call me--"remember, be positive, and know that I will love you no matter what your readers say about you." Well, mom, as always, that was both reassuring and wise.

Now readers, answer this question: Did my introduction strike you as ... no, not as emetic, that is too strong ... Did it strike you as perhaps a touch too treacly? Did it nauseate you a trifle, make you feel mildly ill, instill in you the urge to open the nearest window and let in a gust of fresh air? I'd be surprised--gobsmacked, even--if you didn't, at the very least, say "Yuck."

Since not all of you are steeped in politics, I must reveal swiftly that these words are not my own. I have lifted them from the opening remarks made by Sen. Joseph Lieberman in his television debate last week with Dick Cheney. Mutatis mutandis--his mother is 85, and he referred to his opponent instead of his readers--the words are entirely Mr. Lieberman's, words that he was utterly unembarrassed to speak before an audience of millions.

I don't like Mr. Lieberman. In fact, I can't abide him. Whenever I see him on television, I'm inclined either to mutter angrily at him or to change the channel. The funny thing is that my wife, who is a Democrat, is not at all offended by my behavior, or by my antipathy to Mr. Lieberman. This tolerance is not the product of some elaborate marital pact, whereby political disagreements are ignored in the interest of domestic harmony. The simple fact is that she doesn't understand why, as she puts it, "he's being treated like a saint."

The liberal elements in our media have, indeed, anointed him as some sort of Old Testament patriarch. But he's just a politician, a professional politico. He has said nothing spontaneous for two decades at least, his life being a carefully calibrated exercise in unassailability. He has plotted every aspect of his persona as carefully as the best cartographer, measuring precisely how much of a Jew he can be, and as a Jew how Orthodox, and as an Orthodox Jew how flexible, and as a flexible Orthodox Jew how credible, and as a credibly flexible Orthodox Jew how electable.

His policy flip-flops have been documented in the press, and I don't intend to reiterate them here. I'm content to say, and then rest my case, that he's skipped from old positions to new ones as nimbly as my young daughters evade bedtime. My objection to Mr. Lieberman is not fundamentally issues-based, although I cannot ignore that dimension entirely. It is grounded instead in impressions I've come to draw from his actions, his statements, and his moralizing code words. I detest his gaudy invocations of God. (After the election someone should do a search through a database of campaign utterances and reveal the precise number of times Mr. Lieberman used the word.)

Most of all, I detest the way in which he casts himself--a Jew--as an outsider in America. After the debate with Mr. Cheney, he thanked the American people effusively, and ingratiatingly. It was the effusiveness of a man posing as an outsider, of a man giving thanks to his generous "hosts." Consider these words, which I quote in full from his closing remarks at the debate: "If my dad were here, I would have the opportunity to tell him that he was right when he taught me that in America, if you have faith, work hard and play by the rules, there is nothing you cannot achieve. And here I am, even the son of a man who started working the night shift on a bakery truck can end up being a candidate for vice president of the United States. That says a lot about the character of this nation and the goodness of you, the American people."

These are the words of a man who went to Yale. But the man who went to Yale would like us to believe that he is akin to an immigrant. More: These are not words that bear a proletarian message. These words are about his Jewishness. And they are thanking America for welcoming a Jewish candidate into the political mainstream. These words are pandering words, playing to an imagined gallery that would see Jews as outside the mainstream, and giving thanks to that same mainstream for letting him, a Jew, run competitively for vice president.

I'm an immigrant, and Mr. Lieberman's spiel is as unappetizing to me as a cold chicken curry. I think Mr. Lieberman's a fraud. I think he's an unctuous and fulsome fraud. He's also a dangerous fraud, because he's taken everyone in, duped them into seeing him--Joe Chameleon--as a moral wind vane. He is, truly, a moral equivocator (to use a word employed by Frank Rich), a moral opportunist, a moral social-climber.

Looking back, I refuse to believe that his criticism of Bill Clinton at the time of the president's impeachment was anything other than opportunist. Mr. Lieberman's words then strike me now as having been made with an eye on the main chance. He knew that there would soon be a new dispensation in the Democratic Party--a new dispensation in America--and he was pinning his colors to a new flag. He wanted to be the first so that he could, later, be among the powerful. How else does one explain his failure to put his vote where his mouth was?

Contrast this with his vote against Clarence Thomas, on evidence that was substantially less compelling than the evidence against Mr. Clinton, and on the basis of charges that were far less severe. No, Mr. Lieberman wasn't really pained, or troubled, or horrified by the president's behavior. He was, in fact, energized by it. He saw his own future in Mr. Clinton's past.

There is less to Mr. Lieberman than meets the eye. And that is why I dislike him. He has puffed himself into a size that is larger than the sum of his accomplishments and merits. With this column, Mom--sweetheart, as I am prone to call you--I take my little pinprick to Mr. Lieberman.

Mr. Varadarajan is deputy editorial features editor of The Wall Street Journal. His column appears Mondays.

See Also: