A Troubled Joe Lieberman
Jude Wanniski
August 16, 2000


Did you appreciate my memo last week saying that if I were Al Gore looking for a Jewish running mate I would have chosen you, not Joe Lieberman? This isn't because I think there is anything wrong with the senator from Connecticut. I actually think he would make a better president than Vice President Gore, because he at least will listen to any side of any argument and then do what is best for Joe Lieberman. Gore is a man of principle, at least on one topic, but it happens to be a fetish about global warming. He would happily shut down the world economy to protect Mother Earth. Every new life that breathes in oxygen and exhales carbon dioxide becomes a threat to the planet, given his belief that Earth is in the balance.

If you read the July 30 issue of The New Yorker, there is a profile of Gore by Nicholas Lemann that persuades me anew Gore is just kooky enough to cause serious problems. I'd feel better if global warming were one of the issues on which Gore and Lieberman disagreed, but Lieberman seems to have bought into the Greenpeace insistence that Earth is teetering on a knife edge and another deep breath will tip us over. I'd recommend you read a Gore critique by Gordon Prather, a nuclear physicist, based on The New Yorker piece, which appeared yesterday in WorldNetDaily.com. I seriously doubt that Lieberman has spent any time thinking about global warming, but like so many of his other positions on public policy, he can go either way.

This speaks to my general concern about Lieberman -- the flip side of my positive observation that he will listen to any argument. Except for his global warming fetish, Gore has been willing to represent any side of any argument, depending upon who is buttering his bread, which is what we expect of a good lawyer. The voters, though, want a politician in the Oval Office, a leader who thinks of overcoming obstacles by risk-taking -- not someone who thinks like a lawyer, who wants to eliminate risk. It's hard to think of a president, successful or not, who thought like a lawyer. Harry Truman used to complain about economists who gave him an option on the one hand and then an option on the other, wishing for a one-armed economist.

We all know Al Gore is afraid of "risky schemes." The columnist Ann Coulter has gone over Senator Lieberman's record and discovered that he is constantly being "troubled" by some issue or another. She writes of "The hand-wringing Hamlet from Hartford." I quote at length, but you can find the entire commentary at Jewish World Review.

"The press has been demure in listing Lieberman's many accomplishments. He is not only the first Jew on a national ticket, but also has the distinction of being a member of the World's Smallest Group: Orthodox Jews for Partial-Birth Abortion. No doubt he's troubled about sucking the brains out of a half-delivered baby. Lieberman spends half his life being troubled. Always troubled, but never troubled enough to do anything.

"He was, of course, famously troubled about President Clinton 'willfully deceiving the nation about his conduct,' -- conduct Lieberman called 'not just inappropriate,' but 'immoral,' 'harmful,' 'sad' and 'sordid.' Lieberman said his 'conscience' compelled him to express his 'concerns forthrightly and publicly.' His conscience did not, however, compel him to vote to remove the source of his troubles from the office of the presidency.

"This is the way liberals always avoid taking action against other liberals. They furrow their brows and dutifully register some vague consternation, for which they expect great admiration. With their impeccable consciences duly placed on the record, they believe no further action should be required of them.

"Sen. Joe Lieberman is the master of agonizing before inaction. Explaining his acquittal vote to Tom Brokaw on 'NBC Nightly News,' Lieberman suggested he had seriously considered voting to remove Clinton, noting that 'every time I've been forced to go into the facts of this case, I get repulsed, and I get troubled and torn up.' Gee, thanks for that display of scruples.

"When asked on 'Fox News Sunday' about a passage in the Starr report in which Clinton and Monica discuss the possibility that their phone sex was being tapped by a foreign government, Lieberman said: 'Yes, that part of the report troubled me deeply.' At a National Press Club lunch on Oct. 1, 1998, Lieberman allowed as to how even his daughter was 'troubled' by the president's behavior, and a woman he had met on the beach was also 'very troubled.' But of course, amid all this sense of 'trouble' in the world, he voted to keep Clinton in office.

"Lieberman was also troubled by Anita Hill's accusations against Clarence Thomas. (If Hill's unsupported allegations against Thomas had been all Clinton were forced to admit to, he would have been dancing a jig). But somehow Lieberman managed to emerge from his anguish and vote the party line. In a letter to constituents explaining his vote against Thomas, Lieberman assured them that he had spent 'many agonizing hours of deliberation,' before casting his vote.

"In 1995, Sen. Lieberman signed a letter with Bill Bennett urging corporations to establish standards of decency for the airwaves. They wrote they were 'deeply troubled' by trash TV. Then a year later, Lieberman joined with Rep. Lamar Smith in a similar campaign against Fox -- this time saying they were 'especially troubled.'"

If you watched the senator on the talk shows this last weekend, Ed, you would have found him being "troubled" several times about this or that. I'd been trying to reach for a word that would describe him, but Frank Rich of The New York Times supplied it in his Saturday column, when he chose "equivocator" to sum up the senator. Perfect. Al Gore is totally risk-averse. His running mate is willing to take some risks because he is troubled by what he sees, but then hedges his bets in case he may be wrong. You see what I mean, Ed?