The hand-wringing hamlet from Hartford

Posted: Aug 10, 2000 12:00 AM
At least we know Al Gore is still breathing. Choosing Sen. Joseph Lieberman as his running mate may not be the amazingly bold stroke that the press is hyperventilating about, but it does show the presence of brain waves. At last -- Gore did something!

Gore has received wide acclaim for his "risky" move in putting a Jew on the ticket, amid none too-subtle insinuations that anyone who votes against Gore is an anti-Semite. Echoing other Gore campaign staffers, ABC's Cokie Roberts casually remarked on NPR the other day that any "hard-core anti-Semites" are not "likely to vote for the Democratic ticket" anyway.

She must be referring to all those registered Republicans like Louis Farrakhan and Jesse "Hymietown" Jackson. Indeed, in light of recent allegations about her potty mouth, the only vote Al Gore may have lost by putting a Jew on the ticket is Hillary Clinton's.

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."

The one great thing about Gore's choice of Lieberman is that it is now beyond cavil that claims of Clinton's invincible popularity have been greatly exaggerated. Gore can't go to the bathroom without taking a poll, and somehow he ends up with a running mate who is the most vociferously anti-Clinton Democrat in the U.S. Senate. How did that happen?

It happened because the polls were wrong -- maybe wrongly interpreted or wrongly reported, but wrong. Clinton never got 50 percent of Americans to vote for him. But according to the polls, upon discovering that Clinton was molesting interns and hiding evidence, suddenly 80 percent of Americans adored the man. That's not possible.

Because Clinton was never punished, there's a deep sense of unfinished business in the country. This election is the Fred Goldman civil suit of politics. Gore taking Sen. Lieberman as his running mate is as good a strategy as O.J. hiring one of Nicole Simpson's relatives would have been. It's good, it's just not going to be good enough.