- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 16, 2000


As Connecticut Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman takes the podium tonight in Los Angeles to accept the Democratic Party's nomination for vice president, the question of Mr. Lieberman's religion is one that continues to receive much comment. Most important has been the widespread popular acceptance, indeed admiration, of presidential candidate Al Gore's chosen running mate. For most Americans on both ends of the political spectrum, Mr. Lieberman's religion is simply not an issue. That, indeed, is the good news. The bad news for Mr. Gore is that some Democratic core constituents have felt slighted by this selection, giving the story a peculiar spin.
Like lots of other journalists, Newsweek magazine's Jonathan Alter couldn't help pondering aloud whether a predominantly Christian United States would tolerate a Jewish vice president such as Mr. Lieberman. So he called a rabbi for counsel and received what he considered an optimistic response. Said Rabbi Stephen Kushner, "People who wouldn't vote for a ticket with a Jew on it weren't voting for Gore anyway." The rather ugly implication was that only in the political hothouse of right-wing conservatives would one find sturdy anti-Semitism growing. Ed Rendell, chairman of the Democratic National Committee and himself Jewish, told reporters, "I don't think anyone can calculate the effect of having a Jew on the ticket. If Joe Lieberman were Episcopalian it would be a slam dunk."
No doubt lots of other thoughtful people felt the same way. One could just imagine network anchors hustling reporters out to look through the nooks and crannies of the Republican Party for the bigots who conveniently enough had aligned themselves with the candidacy of George W. Bush. The problem with this story line, however, was that the first bigot the media could find turned out to be on the left. As noted in these pages already, the head of the Dallas chapter of the NAACP, Lee Alcorn, said blacks should be concerned with "Jews at that kind of level because we know their interest primarily has to do with money." This bald stereotyping led first to his suspension and then to his ouster by national NAACP officials.
But Mr. Alcorn is hardly the only minority official guilty of anti-Jewish bias. Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan demanded to know "Would he be more faithful to the Constitution of the United States than to the ties that any Jewish person would have to the state of Israel?" New York firebrand Rev. Al Sharpton on Monday called the selection a case of "political racial profiling." He also expressed dismay that "there were no black candidates even on the consideration list." Meanwhile in Los Angeles, African American members of the Cabinet were dispatched to the floor to ease the concerns of minority delegates who were far from thrilled by the choice of Mr. Lieberman.
Indeed, reporters hunting for anti-Semitism elsewhere came away surprised. "Although bigotry thrives," the New York Times reported, "Jews in this country have never before had so little reason to worry." Why? "Paradoxically," the paper said, "the reasons have little to do with television hits like 'Seinfeld' and everything to do with the nation's intense Christian faith. Visit the most conservative evangelical church in America today and you will hear from the pulpit mention of 'our Judeo-Christian heritage.' "
No kidding. Caricatures of conservative Christians are no more welcome than those of Jewish vice presidential candidates.

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