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Lieberman's Cross

Anti-Semitism in the Second Millennium

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, August 09, 2000.

It's only been a few days, and already we're tired of Joe Lieberman.

That doesn't seem fair, somehow, but sanctimony has its limits. Lieberman is being presented by the lazy press as the one Democrat with the chutzpah to stand up and wag his finger at the President over the Lewinsky scandal last year. In retrospect, it was a pretty wan speech, but because of the nature of the beast, it got a lot of coverage. It was restrained, also, because Lieberman and Clinton had been close friends, going back to college where they were in the same Yale class. Neither went to Vietnam, Clinton because he objected to the war and didn't want to go and Lieberman because he was married underbellies didn't want to go. Wars occur on Saturday. Of the four Vietnam aged people at the top of their tickets this year, only Al Gore served in Vietnam. He also hated the war, was not in combat, but he went. Fire breathers like Cheney avoided military service and mush mouths like Bush avoided combat in the National Guard. In any case, Lieberman fits right in on that score. He also scores on the hypocrisy scale, because for all his supposed religious and moral rectitude, both he and his wife are on their second marriage. I forget, what do Orthodox Jews hold about marriage? Well, hey, you're either a Senator or you're not. In any case, Lieberman is so genuinely highly regarded even Rudy Giuliani said very nice things about him this weekend, things that sounded quite sincere. More to the point, nobody has come up with anything bad to say about the guy at all. Think about that for a second. I have to say that I like the fact we finally have a Jewish person running for the White House, or at least Blair House or wherever they house the Executive trainee these days. And the reason is, I hope Gore wins and that the presence of Lieberman will remove the need to identify his religion every day. Many people my age feel uncomfortable using the word Jew, and like me will use Jewish to soften the impact, although it does not, and fear that this campaign will remove any hesitation from using the word Jew, which we have all heard used too often as an epithet. Your not baseless supposition here, given my obvious discomfort, is that I harbor anti-Semitic feelings and don't like to deal with it but the reality is quite different. My wife was Jewish, I'll bet I've attended more Bas and Bar Mitzvahs in my life than most Jews, primarily for the great food, and when I delivered my high school commencement address back in 1966 it was a heavy handed slap at an anti-Semitic attitude in my classmates. Given that the parents who had inculcated this attitude were there, the speech was a notorious bomb, and I lost many friends over it. But listen, here it is thirty five years later and I still get upset talking about it.

And my views have not changed. The hypocritical and idiotic anti-Semitism of supposedly civilized New England aristocrats still drives me mad. Which is why I hate the word Jew. Only Jews are identified by their religion, often for no evident reason in story or tale, simply to stamp the individual apart. Agreed, some of this is because Jews have had to stay apart in order to remain Jews, given forced baptism and far, far worse, but when the word emerges from the goyim, it shudders me and makes me very uncomfortable, and I avoid it whenever possible. The presence of Joe Lieberman in our lives, now, forces the pathetic issue.

And here, I think Gore was very clever. He knows the deep seated anti-Semitism of elements of the American upper class, the Bush class, and, in fact, his own. He knows that what will win him the election is refocusing the attention of the nation on the far right, dangerously far right inclinations of the Republican powers. He thinks that all this will rise to the surface because of his running mate, blistering the Republicans as badly as David Duke and the militias do, because the racist, anti-Semitic elements will all emerge for Bush or Patrick Buchanan, a genuine anti-Semite who only recently left the Republican party to destroy the populist Reform Party.

Gore's right, they will - they're not bright and they are evil - and the center of the electorate will shift towards Gore, although I remain of the belief that they would have anyway. So Lieberman, in an awkward metaphor, has a big cross to carry for lots of reasons. He will be the focus for many benign and malicious entities, but his presence is not the breakthrough that the press has decided it is. If anything, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger removed much of the glass ceiling for Jews, and in any case wielded far more power than a Vice President ever will. Still, how Americans might react to a Vice President in a skull cap staying alone with his family on Saturday is an open question, since it underlines how few supposed Christians honor their own sabbath. Myself, I prefer it to a President ostentatiously praying with Billy Graham.

This is Dark Cloud.