- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 7, 2000

The Democrats are kvelling which, as defined by the inimitable Leo Rosten in "The Joys of Yiddish," means they are beaming with prideful pleasure as they watch one of their own, Sen. Joe Lieberman, come under attack for appearing to be get this too religious. That's right. A leader of the Democratic Party is being castigated for avowing allegiance to God, not for breaking oaths to Him. Happy days really are here again.

This latest campaign contretemps erupted when the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) last week asked Al Gore's running mate to "refrain from overt expressions of religious values and beliefs" on the campaign trail, calling such appeals contrary not only "to the American ideal," but to the First Amendment. This statement represents a staggering misreading of both the historic religiousness of the American people and the First Amendment itself, which, of course, goes no further than to bar the establishment of a national religion.

But does Mr. Lieberman's candidacy augur some long-awaited restoration of religious principle to public life? Please. Just listen to the Lieberman rhetoric, and see if the words "religious principle" come to mind. First, he calls his vice presidential nomination a "miracle," something of an overstatement, perhaps, but we'll let it pass. Next he spouts scripture. Fine, dandy even, although things bordered on unctuous last month when he and Al Gore saw fit to finish each other's biblical quotations.

Then, last week, Mr. Lieberman had the audacity to tell us that "Medicare coverage of prescription drugs" is just another way of living up to the Fifth Commandment (Honor thy father and mother). This boggles the mind. Linking a political plank of the Democratic Party platform with one of the Ten Commandments is a profanity, not a piety. And how about this biblical metaphor: The 1992 Clinton-Gore victory, says Mr. Lieberman, took the nation to the political promised land with you-know-who as Moses. "You might say the Red Sea finally parted, and more Americans than ever before walked through behind President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore," Mr. Lieberman said to a gathering of religious leaders last week.

Mr. Lieberman turns out to be someone who is not loathe to use the vocabulary and imagery of scripture to push political objectives. The Weekly Standard's J. Bottum and William Kristol label this mode of communicating "faith talk," perceptively defining it as "the new political idiom that seeks to dress up political partisanship in the language of personal religious emotion." It should come as no surprise that this is hardly an adornment to the public square.

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