Lieberman and the Mommy Party
Jude Wanniski
August 9, 2000

There is much less than meets the eye about Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the Connecticut Democrat who has been chosen by Vice President Al Gore to be his running mate on the Democratic ticket. In the dozen or so years he has been in Congress, Iíve never had occasion to meet him or talk to him, and in our annual client conferences with Bob Novak and Rowland Evans, his name never has come up as someone who might make an interesting guest. Iíve thought of him as a friend of Jack Kempís and Bill Bennettís, at Empower America, and have known that he has voted with business interests from time to time. But he never has been the kind of politician who makes things happen. When he supports an idea, it comes in the form of his signature on a letter or a vote cast, but no waves. In todayís, contributing editor Seth Lipsky, who had been editor of the Jewish weekly Forward , writes fondly of Lieberman but says he wishes Joe were more of a fighter. He shies from combat, but thatís why he has no real enemies.

In the Clarence Thomas confirmation fight, Lieberman was for Thomas until Anita Hill spun her story that her boss Clarence made suggestive remarks to her while on the job. So high are his standards as an Orthodox Jew that Leiberman became one of only three Senators who switched from support to vote against confirmation, when national polls indicated by two-to-one margins Americans believed Judge Thomas, not Anita Hill. He behaved similarly in the Senate impeachment trial of William Jefferson Clinton, who engaged in repeated sex acts in the Oval Office with a young White House intern, Monica Lewinsky, and when discovered began a campaign accusing her of coming on to him and then spreading false stories of having sex with him, and Ė to top it off -- lying to a federal grand jury under oath. So high are Liebermanís moral standards that he took the Senate floor to denounce and condemn the Presidentís immorality. The expectation was that he would call for Clinton to resign, but instead he announced that it was not his job to decide whether the President committed obstruction of justice or perjury. He wimped out, voting for acquittal, thus providing spiritual cover for his Democratic colleagues.

He definitely is not a risk-taker, which is why I think of him as being in the Mommy Wing of the Mommy Party, which is where Vice President Gore is anchored. The difference is that where Gore is a Christian Mommy, Lieberman is a Jewish Mommy, a fervent advocate of security. There is no issue more ďMommyĒ that global warming -- and the Kyoto Treaty that would halt economic growth on the chance that burning fossil fuel is heating up the planet. Gore and Lieberman are practically the most fervent enthusiasts for Kyoto. There is no balance on this Democratic ticket, the way Clinton and Gore provided balance -- Clinton clearly being a risk-taker to the point of recklessness. In a memo I wrote on my website yesterday, I argued that if Gore wanted a Jewish running mate to counter the Bush theme of inclusiveness, he should have picked someone in the Daddy Wing of his party, Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell, for example, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee and a mensch who makes things happen (which is why we invited HIM to our client conference in Florida last year). This ticket is so risk-averse that I would be extremely surprised if it ever gets off the ground. The last time there was such imbalance was the 1964 GOP ticket of Barry Goldwater and Bill Miller, both representing the Daddy Wing of the Daddy Party. It crashed on takeoff. This may be the flip side.