August 11, 2000, - 12:05 pm

Confessions of an Orthodox Jewish Candidate: Why I Won’t Vote for Joe Lieberman

By Debbie Schlussel

THE POLITICAL PUNDITS and prognosticators can pontificate all they want. But I’m the one of a few who really knows what it’s like to be an Orthodox Jewish candidate. And I won’t be voting for Joe Lieberman.

Yes, I’m an Orthodox Jew. And in 1990, at the age of 21, I ran for the Michigan House of Representatives . . . and lost by just ONE vote — the closest race in Michigan history. I ran again in 1998 and came close again. Sure, I was never U.S. Senator or a vice presidential candidate. But still, I know what it’s like to be an Orthodox Jew running for public office.

And I also know that Joe Lieberman does not represent me or most of my “branch” of Judaism.

Sure, I identify with Lieberman. I know what it’s like to be criticized for not campaigning on Saturday.When I was running for the House, my handlers and advisors were apoplectic about this prohibition. Couldn’t I get a dispensation of some sort — just for during the campaign — they asked? Because Saturday is not only the Sabbath; it’s unfortunately also the best day to go door-to-door getting votes.

Lieberman and I were both at a disadvantage here. But the fact that we had a day of rest — just like the Creator did — gave us the renewal and rejuvenation to outcampaign anyone and more than make up for it the rest of the week.

I’m sure Joe and I have a lot in common at political gatherings and dinners. We’re no “regular Joes” there, because the food’s not kosher, and we can’t eat it. I’m sure — until now, at least — that, like me, Lieberman always had to explain why he wasn’t eating. (At one point, I started saying I was vegetarian, just to get away from going into the “strange” rules of keeping kosher) which was usually the follow-up question.

I like being different, but . . . .

Lieberman never went to conventions that fell on Saturdays, but I went to Michigan Republican conventions as early as high school, so that I could become a Jack Kemp delegate to the 1988 Republican National Convention. Since Orthodox Jews do not drive or turn electricity on or off on the Sabbath, I can remember hiking three miles or more on frozen, icy sidewalks just to get to the convention venue. I remember taping over the computerized lock on my hotel room door, to disable it, because on the Sabbath we are prohibited from even activating the green light that signals it’s okay to get in the room.

I remember when, in high school, I was a candidate for Michigan Youth Governor, my Dad and I stayed at a seedy, infested motel so we could be close enough to walk to the election venue in third-world-esque Pontiac, Michigan, on the Sabbath.

So, it makes me laugh when people question Lieberman’s ability to work on Saturdays as a VP. After all, what did Bill Clinton do on Sunday’s — his Sabbath? He usually posed with Hillary and his Bible on the way out of church. And then, it was straight to the Oval Office for a session with Monica.

Yup, it’s a real loss that Joe can’t work on Saturdays.

I can also identify with Lieberman’s family. Like Lieberman’s, my Dad’s parents were immigrants. His wife, like my Mom, is an immigrant daughter of Holocaust survivors, and they are about the same age. Hadassah Lieberman was born to Czechoslavakian Jews in a refugee camp and lived there ’til she was three. My Mom was born in Bergen Belsen camp in Germany and lived there ’til she was six. She and my Mom both grew up here, went to college (and for two years the same college —Yeshiva University in Manhattan), and married professionals (my Dad’s a doctor). But unlike Lieberman — and Cheney — my Dad got no deferments, serving proudly in the Army during Korea and Vietnam.

Like Lieberman, I was one of a few Jewish students at a public high school, and like him, I was elected the head of my class. And while, with all of the similarities, there’s some pride in the Lieberman choice, it’s not enough to get my parents and me to vote for his ticket.

It’s not really a breakthrough for us that he’s running for Veep . . . that he’s so welcome in the Democratic Party. Because we know he’s not really welcome there. And if it weren’t for Bill Clinton’s pro-gravity zipper and a stained blue dress, Lieberman would never be the Dems’ pick for any national office.

There are a lot of things, that for us, as Orthodox Jews, but — even more importantly, as proud Americans — that would truly be breakthroughs in the Democratic Party. But this is not one of them.

It would be a breakthrough, if — once and for all — the Democrats had the guts to really stand up against bigotry. Their claims to be against hate are belied by the Democrats’ absolute refusal to ever denounce Jesse Jackson’s various comments about Jews. “Hymietown” was the tamest and only publicized of his many such comments. As early as the Nixon Administration, he made other similar anti-Jewish comments against Erlichman and Haldeman, who weren’t even Jewish. It would really be a breakthrough if the Democrats would renounce Louis Farrakhan and his ilk, but they will not. Lieberman has apparently forgotten that his is the party that refused to denounce anti-Semitism in its platform in the late 80s and early 90s, lest Jackson and Farrakhan be insulted. This is an outrage.

It would really be a breakthrough if a candidate who calls people “F—— Jew B——-s” in front of three witnesses is disassociated. It would really be a breakthrough if the same candidate, who also stood by silently while Suha Arafat says Jews poisoned air and water to give Palestinians cancer, were kicked out of the Party. (That candidate’s friend, Suha, sounds like she’s vying with Farrakhan for the biggest Jewish conspiracy tale.) It would really be a breakthrough if the party permanently shunned guys like Al Sharpton, who in 1991, incited riots, terrorism, and murder against Jews in Crown Heights, New York, and who, in 1995, incited the burning down of Jewish-owned “Freddie’s Fashion Mart” (which Sharpton called a “White interloper”) that employed Blacks (one of which was killed in the fire, along with a Hispanic), while the rioters he lead yelled, “bloodsucking Jews”).

Instead, these two candidates — Weird Al and Weirder Hillary — are the darling leaders of this Party. Lieberman’s Party. And Lieberman has been and will continue to be campaigning for Hillary to Jewish organizations. This man is no breakthrough. He’s a shill.

It would really be a breakthrough if the Democrats would renounce Arab terrorists and terrorist groups that have cold-bloodedly and brutally killed American servicemen and diplomats. Guys like Yasser Arafat, who instructed the brutal murder of our Ambassador to Sudan, Cleo Noel, who was so badly beaten one couldn’t tell if he was Black or White. But they will not. Instead, the Democrats’ Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, is having this guy for tea at her farm. It would really be a breakthrough if the Democrats would stop surrounding themselves with Larry Flynt, Playboy, Hollywood, and lots of other institutions that disrespect our Judeo-Christian American values (and women). But they won’t.

There are many breakthroughs for us Jews that will apparently never happen in the Democratic Party.

But actually, Mr. Lieberman is even less of a breakthrough because his views couldn’t differ more from the views of most Orthodox Jews in America.

Orthodox Judaism is conservative. But — reality check — Lieber(al)man isn’t. He voted 89% of the time with Bill Clinton, 87% with his party on partisan issues.

He’s so pro-abortion that he’s for the bloody partial-birth kind. Jewish law forbids abortion unless the mother’s life is in danger. Most Orthodox rabbis and Jews are strongly pro-life, and certainly, partial-birth abortion is viewed as almost murder by virtually all.

Lieberman used to be for vouchers, but now he’s running away from them faster than Olympic sprinters Michael Johnson and Maurice Greene. Most Orthodox Jews support vouchers because, like Lieberman does with his daughter Chana, they send their kids to private Jewish day schools, where tuition costs are prohibitive. But he can’t upset the Democrats’ NEA constituency. So now he’s just like the Clintons — sending Chelsea to a good private school, while the rest of America’s kids can rot their minds in public schools.

Lieberman verbally attacks affirmative action preferences for minorities, and Orthodox (and most) Jews are overwhelmingly against those, too, because they keep Jews out of positions they earned through merit. But the NAACP, which strongly supports preferences, gave Lieberman a 90% score, and there’s no record of Lieberman ever voting against preferences or for their elimination.

He’s for gay rights, another thing with which his co-religionists disagree. Under the gay rights and hate crimes bills for which he voted, private Jewish schools like the one his daughter attends could be forced to hire gay teachers, even gay Rabbis. The Episcopal church is currently being sued, under similar laws, for firing a Lesbian teacher.

The Torah teaches us that G-d helps those who help themselves. But Lieberman doesn’t want me to help myself. He’s for strong gun control. As a Jewish candidate for veep, he gets Secret Servicemen with guns for protection. His favored laws say I shouldn’t have guns for protection.

He voted against confirmation of conservative Justice Clarence Thomas. Most Orthodox Jews supported Thomas and didn’t believe Hill, and they like Thomas’ decisions, which are friendly to morality, religion, limited government, and eliminating racial preferences.

And you know the bad sex and violence stuff in Hollywood that Lieberman’s been attacking? Well, then, why did he vote against eliminating funding for the National Endowment for the Arts? The “art” it funds is equally, if not more, offensive and reprehensible. And why is Hollywood rushing to support and defend Lieberman, unlike the conservatives it trashes? Steven Spielberg, David Geffen, and Jeffrey Katzenberg couldn’t havegushed over the guy more, in an August 7 Army Archerd column. Ditto for “Gangsta Rap” chief defender, Hillary Rosen, CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America. “[W]e share the common goal of doing what is right for America’s youth,” she said of Lieberman. Yeah, right! Motion Picture Academy Association of America chief, Jack Valenti, now says, of Lieberman, “In the world of politics . . . there’s room for disagreement.” Except, not with Republicans. And Lieberman’s Chief of Staff, Dan Gerstein, is quick to tell Reuters, “Lieberman has not attacked Hollywood. He has raised some concerns. . . .”

And most Orthodox Jews were outraged by Clinton’s sex-scandal behavior. My entire synagogue wanted him removed from office. But speech aside, that’s not what Lieberman wanted.

It’s against Jewish law (as per the “Mishnah” and “Shulchan Aruch,” two of many multi-volume treatises of Jewish law) to go to a store and try on a dress that you have no intention of buying. But it doesn’t just mean a dress (Blue dresses with stains excluded). It’s a parable for behavior.

By strongly criticizing Clinton’s behavior in his famous Senate speech and then voting against Impeachment, Lieberman tried on the dress he had no intention of buying. The same goes for his rapidly changing positions on vouchers, affirmative action, and virtually everything else. He talks the talk. He doesn’t walk the walk.

While some Jews think Lieberman will be great for the Jewish people — and while some Arabs are worried about this — the facts are otherwise and may be cause for concern.

In 1992, Washington Post columnist David Broder wrote that Lieberman helped the Arab-American Institute (AAI) and its president, Jim Zogby, get in touch with Bill Clinton and George Stephanopolous, when Zogby couldn’t do so on his own. By doing this, Lieberman gave Zogby and AAI considerable clout and a strong relationship with Clinton they never would’ve had, so much so that this year, Clinton was the first U.S. President to attend AAI’s banquet.

Neither Zogby nor many Arabs live in Lieberman’s Connecticut, but Zogby and his organization have a long, strong record of supporting terrorists and terrorist countries that advocate the destruction of America, Israel and the Jews, and that have a long record of torturing, bombing and murdering innocent Americans and Jews.

This week, Sen. Lieber(al)man also reversed course on his long-held position that the American embassy should be in Israel’s capitol, Jerusalem. In fact, he was a co-sponsor of legislation that required America to move the embassy by May 1999.

“Right now I think it would not be a good idea because there is still the flame of hope burning at Camp David,” Lieberman told CNN’s Larry King.

Everyone from the Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan to JWR’s Suzanne Fields to The Washington Post’s Hannah Rosin has compared Lieberman to Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax, Major League Baseball players who wouldn’t play on Yom Kippur in the 30s and 60s, respectively. Sorry, but Lieberman’s no Greenberg or Koufax. Not even close. They were proud men who stood up for themselves and their beliefs. You can’t say that for Lieberman, his conduct, and his association with the Democratic Party.

Lieberman’s no breakthrough. He’s more like the Black guy in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” And while the food on the table might be kosher, Lieberman’s votes and Party aren’t.

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