- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 16, 2000


This is Joe Lieberman's big night, the night he's likely to remember with a good deal of sadness. If he's the man we all think he is, he has the most to lose in this election, and he probably will.

Not just because he'll have to compromise the convictions that are so important to him that sad process has already begun but he will inevitably become the focus of angry controversy within his own party.

That process has already begun, too.

Mr. Lieberman is caught in the cross fire of cynicism and selfishness, the two poisons in our national life. The cynics are skilled at massaging the growing selfishness of the American electorate, split as it is into so many pressure groups demanding their share of the American pie and defining "share" as as much of it as they can carry home.

The right blames the media for cultivating the selfishness, the left blames "the corporate culture," or what used to be called Big Business. Both right and left have a point. The pols, as always no better than they have to be and as cynical as they can be, are just happy to be of service.

The Republicans, who have learned a lot about how this game is played, put the religious folk in the closet in Philadelphia and promoted the gays to the podium. In Los Angeles, the Democrats are playing the God card with enthusiasm, and relegating the sinners to the sidelines, counting on them, as the Republicans are counting on the religious conservatives, to the get point with a nudge and a wink.

Some old hands thought they had seen everything in Philadelphia, watching Republicans trying to boogie to Latin rhythms and trying not to think about what the homosexuals on the platform do when they get home at night.

But Al Gore's traveling revival of the old-time religion, the really, really old-time religion, is playing to equally puzzled sinners here in Los Angeles, where Democrats are more accustomed to hissing preachers and harassing prophets than trying to learn the words of "Amazing Grace."

Convention managers held their breath when Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, invited personally by Al Gore, opened the convention with a prayer on behalf of "values that protect all human life, but especially unborn children." Almost nobody was in the seats at Staples Center, for which the managers no doubt said another prayer of gratitude of their own. But nobody threw an egg or a tomato.

The mere presence of Joe Lieberman gives some delegates heartburn. "I am supporting Mr. Gore and Mr. Lieberman, and I'm doing it as enthusiastically as I can," the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who looked particularly glum when the cameras panned across his face during President Clinton's valedictory, told the New York Times. "This is about pragmatism."

His son, Jesse Jr., the congressman from Chicago, agrees. "When we started getting into this personal litmus-test we are deep in Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson territory, and that is unfamiliar Democratic territory."

Indeed it is, but you might think a Baptist preacher's son would not be so uncomfortable with God talk, as mild as the God talk has been. But preacher's sons are notorious for sometimes sleeping through daddy's sermons, even a daddy with his daddy's gift of rap and rhyme.

Some of the the fattest cats in Hollywood are so far content to hold their nose and say nothing, though it certainly galls them that they must smile and be nice about the man who calls their trash trash, their greed greed and their motives base. The teachers union, the largest single source of dollars for national Democratic tickets, can barely abide the man who thinks middle-class parents ought to have the right, and the wherewithal, to send their kids to the kind of decent private schools that were good enough for, for example, Jesse Jackson Jr.

The tort lawyers who have so mangled the judicial system, converting it into a vast Ponzi scheme for the sharpies and shysters who chase (and catch) the right ambulances, all but gag and retch at the prospect of making a vice president of the man who has been so determined to reform the tort malpractice.

But so far the liberals and here, like the conservatives in Philadelphia, all understand it's a game that any number can play. George W. went to Bob Jones University early, and declined to meet with gay Republicans in February. In July all that changed. Al Gore spent the winter and spring massaging his lefties so they would hold still for the God talk of August.

Soon enough the campaign will turn the stomach, if it doesn't break his heart first, of a man who grooves on Joshua, Jeremiah and the prophets of the Old Testament, and who isn't likely to acquire a taste for pottage.

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