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Toward Tradition panelists denounce Lieberman

The Washington Jewish Week
September 13, 2000

WASHINGTON—Film critic and radio talk-show host Michael Medved said he is proud as a Jew that Joe Lieberman is the Democratic vice presidential nominee, but that "if you love Joe Lieberman, you have to vote for [George W.] Bush."

"Joe Lieberman has taken away his core values and substituted Gore values," said Medved, who spoke during a panel discussion on the Lieberman nomination at Toward Traditions national conference on Monday.

As someone who has known Lieberman for three decades, Medved said he has "warm personal feelings" for Connecticut's junior senator, but that the past month during which Lieberman has modified or muzzled his positions on issues such as school vouchers and affirmative action has been "heartbreaking."

Medved said that Lieberman would be more valuable to the country in the Senate than as vice president and, despite his religion-infused campaigning, doubted that Lieberman would carve out a bigger place for religion in public life.

"While it is true that [Lieberman] would agree that religiosity is a positive force, can you think of one area of policy where he would protect or enhance religiosity?" Medved asked.

Medved, though, also said there is "reason to be grateful that the first Jew selected [to the presidential ticket] was a serious Jew." His own life as a Shabbat-observant Jew is "easier," he noted, because of Lieberman and the attention his religious observance has received.

Medved also gave his perspective on the criticism Lieberman's religious talk on the campaign trail has received from the Anti-Defamation League and other Jews.

Medved said he was struck by the "level of joy and exhilaration" in the Jewish community when Lieberman was selected. "It's not as if Jews are lacking in prominence and power," noting that there are 11 Jewish senators. "What's the big deal?"

But, Medved said, most American Jews "still feel marginalized in this country" and Lieberman showed that Jews are "not as marginal as they thought."

Once Lieberman was "condemned for being too Jewish," Medved realized that "what had marginalized American Jews was not their Jewishness but their atheism and agnosticism."

"Joe Lieberman's nomination didn't undo [the feeling of marginalization], but reinforced it. He's a prominent Jew and he's believing in God," said Medved. "Most American secular Jews would never feel comfortable in that set."

Medved's comments came after two other speakers at the charity organization's conference strongly criticized Lieberman's policy flip-flops and religious authenticity.

Seth Liebsohn, director of policy at the Jewish Policy Center, discussed how Lieberman's voting record better indicates his political leanings than do his words. He pointed out that the American Conservative Union gave the senator a zero rating, while he earned an 80 rating from the liberal Americans for Democratic Action.

Liebsohn criticized Lieberman for changing his stances on affirmative action and on moving the United States Embassy to Jerusalem. He also wondered how Lieberman could justify under Jewish law his vote against legislation to outlaw a late-term abortion procedure.

Referring to the candidate's stance against violence in entertainment, Liebsohn asked, "Does fake violence bother Joe Lieberman so much while infanticide gets a free pass?"

Debbie Schlussel was even more critical of Lieberman. Schlussel, a sports and entertainment agent who writes a column for the Jewish World Review Web site, said that Lieberman's "principles don't stand for anything."

She pointed to a report last month that Lieberman was seen drinking water while campaigning on Tisha B'Av as evidence that the vice presidential candidate was not even faithful to his religious principles. (A source close to the campaign said that Lieberman did fast on Tisha B'Av.)

"I don't want Joe Lieberman one heartbeat away from the presidency if he's willing to backtrack on his principles," Schlussel said, pointing out that he attended a political fund-raiser last month at the home of the Jenny Jones Show producer despite being a strong critic of many daytime television talk shows.

Schlussel also criticized Lieberman for being a member of the same political party as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Reading 25-year-old anti-Jewish quotes from Jackson, Schlussel said that the Democratic Party should "kick out people who hate us."

© The Washington Jewish Week, 2000. May not be reproduced without written permission.


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