- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 13, 2000

Sen. Joseph Lieberman is getting the sort of uncritical, often genuflecting press usually reserved for dead war heroes or living saints. The senator has been a good man and a superior politician, but in his admirably candid autobiography "In Praise of Public Life" he admits to being an ambitious and self-interested politician. He argues, and I agree with him, that political ambition is a healthy and good thing. What keeps political ambition healthy, though, is a vigilant, and where necessary, critical press. But all the usual journalistic techniques are being forsworn when it comes to Saint Joe of Arc.
A lot of politicians wear their religion on their sleeve; Mr. Lieberman wears his from collar to cuff. He went so far as to cite approvingly the proposition that one can't be moral without being religious. Had a Republican Baptist made such a claim he would have been pummeled by an outraged press corps. But of the major journalists, only David Broder of The Washington Post raised the matter. And he gently let Mr. Lieberman backpedal from it as well the senator should have.
The proposition echoes the appalling medieval argument that the great philosophers of antiquity must go to hell because they weren't baptized. It is worth noting that Mr. Lieberman's now-forsworn argument is not for morality in public life, but rather for dogma and theology. The expediency of his recantation raises doubts as to its sincerity.
This is a man who uses religion as a sword not as a salve or shield. In Chicago, recently, he defended Vice President Gore's prescription drug plan by asserting that those who disagreed with the Gore/Lieberman proposal were in violation of the Fifth Commandment: Honor thy father and mother. It ought to justify some media attention when a vice presidential candidate attempts to turn a programmatic dispute over how best to deliver prescription drugs into a battle between those who obey God's commandments and those who don't.
Was Mr. Lieberman being careless or cynical when he escalated that policy argument into a religious one? Or does the senator from Connecticut really believe what he said? Being a well-read religious man, Mr. Lieberman must know that failure to honor your parents will deny you a long life (Exodus 20: 12), and that the punishment for cursing your mother or father is death (Exodus 21: 17). Does Mr. Lieberman really believe that George Bush should be put to death for opposing Mr. Gore's prescription drug proposal? And if he doesn't, isn't he just another cynical politician quoting the Bible and ruthlessly using piety as a lure to catch the votes of the innocent and faithful?
But the bulldogs of the press are too busy snarling at Richard B. Cheney for missing a few school board elections in Texas even to take a sniff or two at the door of the redolent senator from Connecticut.
And the outrages continue unreported and uncommented upon. A couple of weeks ago in Detroit, the same senator who famously condemned President Clinton for the immoral seduction of his employee, Miss Lewinski, cheerfully compared Mr. Clinton to Moses: "You might say the Red Sea finally parted, and more Americans than ever before walked through behind President Bill Clinton." He could have complimented Mr. Clinton if he had wanted to as an effective or practical leader. But the serious and religious Mr. Lieberman chose to compare Mr. Clinton to Moses.
Had any other Washington politician so ludicrously contradicted his recent and most famous moral pronouncement, the vaunted Washington press corps would have drowned the hapless sap in a tidal wave of ridicule. But once again, all the serious press corps chin-pullers not only failed to report or comment on Mr. Lieberman's astounding pratfalls; they continue in their hagiographical chronicling of Saint Lieberman's Progress.
It's not just his religious grandstanding that is shielded from inquiry. Usually it is the practice of the press to seek out contradictory statements between running mates. But not with Mr. Lieberman.
The senator has recently said that: "I feel very positively [about the pharmaceutical industry]" at the same time that Mr. Gore has been slamming them for price gouging and obscene profits. The press corps has not seen fit to throw those statements in the face of the two men, with the cameras rolling. Rather, they have permitted Mr. Lieberman to go quietly to big business and as Mr. Lieberman put it: "… try to assure them that a Gore administration would be pro-growth and pro-business." So, while Big Bad Al is scaring the bejeebers out of the suckers out front, Holy Joe is assuring the businessmen in the back room that Mr. Gore doesn't mean it. Praise the Lord and pass the baloney.
E-mail: tonyblankley@erols.com

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