What about anti-Semitism?
USA Today asked this of Vice President Al Gore, referring to Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., Gore's pick for running mate. Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, becomes the first Jewish running mate on a major party presidential ticket. Gore said he expected anti-Semitism to perhaps cost some votes, but added, "Sure, but there is also the American spirit in our country, and it rises to cancel out the tiny portion that keeps bigotry and discrimination going from generation to generation." Tiny portion?
Gore's right. The Anti-Defamation League says anti-Semitism in America stands at an all-time low. The ADL puts anti-Semitism at approximately 12 percent of the American population. But Gore spoke more broadly about "bigotry and discrimination." So this good news applies not only to Jews but blacks as well.
But that's not what Gore said when he addressed the faithful at the annual NAACP conference in Baltimore. At Gore's recent NAACP address, one major theme ran throughout his speech -- white racism remains black America's No. 1 enemy. "Let's struggle together," said Al Gore. Gore thundered, "We need to pass hate crimes legislation, because when we don't stamp out the sparks of hatred, we risk a fire at the very foundation of our house."
So the Democratic Party's pandering to black America continues. So Gore tells blacks that racism remains this formidable force, but picks an Orthodox Jewish senator as his running mate because, after all, only a "tiny portion" of America consists of bigots. What does this say about Gore's message to the NAACP? Can you say pandering? Can you say condescension?
Honestly. Does Gore believe that white racism remains a bigger problem for the black community than, say, under-performing schools, crime, children having children or high taxes and a thicket of regulation that dissuades inner-city business?
Gore's selection of Lieberman is intriguing on other levels as well. Senate colleagues call Lieberman "the conscience of the Senate." Indeed, Sen. Lieberman became the first Democratic senator to speak out forcibly against Clinton's behavior during the impeachment scandal. Lieberman said, "Such behavior is not just inappropriate, it is immoral and it is harmful for it sends a message of what is acceptable behavior to the larger American family, particularly to our children. (Clinton) betrayed not only his family but the public's trust, and undermined his moral authority and public credibility." But then Lieberman promptly voted against impeachment. Is this courage?
Gore's pick also makes Hollywood nervous. After all, Lieberman describes himself as a "cultural warrior" and warns against the "increasingly toxic popular culture" of the fare coming out of Hollywood. Lieberman even suggested legislation if Hollywood fails to clean up its act. The television show "Friends" so offended Lieberman that the senator suggested, if he had his druthers, the sitcom would air only in movie theaters! "Friends!?" Does this kind of anti-Hollywood language offend the industry, which, after all, strongly backs Clinton who pioneered the V-chip? Liberal actor/producer/director Rob Reiner said, "There might have been some knee-jerk kind of reaction because he's so critical of Hollywood ... he's clearly setting down challenges for Hollywood to act more responsibly. And there's nothing wrong with that. He's right about that." Funny, when Republicans like former Sen. Bob Dole called Hollywood "nightmares of depravity," industry people felt unfairly targeted and battered. What a difference a party makes.
Director/writer Lionel Chetwynd, one of the few Hollywood "out of the closet Republicans," characterized Hollywood's embrace of Clinton/Gore as bizarre. What is Hollywood thinking? According to Chetwynd, Hollywood consists of many who started out in humble circumstances, maintaining their knee-jerk empathy with the Democratic Party. Chetwynd also says that many in the industry consider the infamous Hollywood blacklist a "Republican deal," and thus retain an intense distrust of Republicans.
Lieberman, at one time, also spoke harshly against affirmative action. In March 1995, as chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, Lieberman called affirmative action programs "patently unfair" and called for a "radical overhaul" of them. Hyper-liberal Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., withheld support of the Gore/Lieberman ticket until Lieberman assured her that, yes, he does indeed support affirmative action. Lieberman lamely insisted that his support of California Proposition 209 -- to end race- and gender-based preference -- was simply based on his opposition to "quotas." Never mind that courts long ago outlawed quotas.
Richard Nixon once said that a vice-presidential running mate adds nothing to a ticket, and can only hurt it. But in the case of Lieberman, according to conventional wisdom, Lieberman brings integrity and trust, thus distancing Gore from the stench of Clinton/Paula Jones/Monica Lewinsky/Juanita Broaddrick/Kathleen Willey/Dolly Kyle Browning. So, in this case, maybe Nixon got it wrong.
If nothing else, Lieberman's election shows the decline of racism and bigotry as a major force in American life. Two thumbs up for that! Now, somebody tell the NAACP.