- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 8, 2000

Joe Lieberman is no Geraldine Ferraro, but gimmicks usually don't work.

Mrs. Ferraro was chosen for her sex. (Her "gender," as the squeamish insist on calling it, inaccurately.) The senator from Connecticut was chosen for his reputation for character and high ethical standards, but the emphasis so far is on his Orthodox Jewish religious faith.

Al Gore, who praised Bill Clinton as "our greatest president," can't rid his clothes of the stink of these past eight years, so he's desperate to find a little innocence-by-association.

Some people call Joe Lieberman "the conscience of the Senate," but the Senate doesn't have one of those. Nevertheless, he's the man we all say we want our pols to be decent, thoughtful, considerate of the opinions of others. But not always a man with the courage of his convictions. After he made a courageous speech to the Senate describing what Bill Clinton had done to the presidency and to the moral authority of the office, he spent the next few days trying to take some of it back. In the end, he voted to acquit, as if perjury and treating interns like hookers and using the Oval Office as a whore's crib was presidential enough. But his convictions are sound.

This choice was bold, but maybe inevitable. Al Gore and the Democrats are not yet ready to hit the panic button, but Al spent the weekend making sure he knows exactly where to find it. Two new polls, both highly regarded, were out yesterday showing George W. Bush up by a remarkable 17 points just as the Democrats pack their bags for Los Angeles. No one expects a margin anything like that on election night three months hence, but the worried looks on Democratic faces are authentic. The two new polls, one by Zogby and the other by Gallup, are not even the worst of it. The party's internal polls show a genuinely bleak map in the Electoral College, whose votes are the only votes that actually count.

Nobody realistically expects Joe Lieberman or anyone else to close the gap by himself, but Al knows he must win back some independent and Republican voters by putting a mile or two between himself and Bill Clinton. Merely by picking Mr. Lieberman, on the other hand, he reminds everyone of the sordid stuff the senator is expected to make us forget.

Beyond that and an appeal to Jewish voters, who would vote Democratic, anyway, it's difficult to see what Mr. Lieberman can do for good ol' Al, who above all needs help with the dreaded white male heterosexual voter, so disdained publicly and so sought after privately, and who already has a candidate. This is the year of the real Gender Gap, though you won't read or hear much about it in a mainstream media obsessed only with the feminist and homosexual-rights agenda. But the size of George W.'s lead among white heterosexual males is flying off the charts.

Nobody knows what that "Jewish effect" will be, but religious Jews will soon know the pain that evangelical Christians felt when they see the tenets of their faith misunderstood and distorted in the way Jimmy Carter's born-again faith was misunderstood, distorted and even ridiculed.

Ed Rendell, the chairman of the Democratic Party, is in a little warm water for his perfectly respectful comment last week that nobody could calculate "the Jewish effect." Said Mr. Rendell: "If Joe Lieberman were Episcopalian he would be a slam-dunk." Everyone knows this is true, but it's the sort of thing you're not supposed to say out loud.

Neither is the fear that Mr. Lieberman's presence on the ticket may depress the black vote in the big cities, since it's not exactly a secret that certain black worthies the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson and Minister Louis Farrakhan leap first to mind cultivate widespread urban black hostility toward Jews.

And what of Mr. Lieberman's Jewish orthodoxy? He keeps the Sabbath so rigidly that he does no work from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. He won't drive or accept rides, turn on the lights, talk on the telephone or even write a letter, since all work is forbidden unless it is necessary to "promote the respect and protection of human life and well-being." That means no Saturday abortions and he won't campaign for votes on the Sabbath.

As odd and even weird as this may sound in our hedonistic modern society, such strictures did not sound that way not so long ago, when all across the land Sunday was the Lord's day, set aside for rest and Christian worship, and the baseball stadiums, movie theaters and Main Streets were shuttered and quiet. The ultimate rap on Joe Lieberman, a nice Jewish boy hanging out with the wrong crowd (risky scheme, risky scheme), may be that he's just not a man for our times.

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