- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 3, 2000

They're already telling Joe Lieberman jokes down at the synagogue.

"Did you hear the one about how there may be a career in medicine for ol' Joe once the campaign is over? He may replace the laboratory rats at the National Institutes of Health, because there's just some things a rat won't eat."

Not very funny, and we first heard a version of this one told about lawyers. But the senator, lately on a diet of crow, isn't very funny, either.

Mr. Lieberman has gone in the space of less than a month from hero of the faithful to pathetic panderer to the Hollywood heathen, cheerfully scratching whatever itch one of Al Gore's focus groups identifies as needing attention.

When Al's campaign managers read in the papers that Louis Farrakhan, the nation's most unreconstructed racist and bigot, was organizing a Million Family March they figured that although no one expects a million families to show up, there might be enough of them on the Mall to make it worth Al's while to send Joe to grovel.

"I am very open to that," Mr. Lieberman said of the prospect of meeting the infamous minister of the Nation of Islam, who once described Jews as "bloodsuckers" and the senator's ancient faith as "a gutter religion." (He hasn't taken any of it back.)

Said the senator: "Look, Minister Farrakhan said a few things earlier in the campaign that were just not informed. But I have respect for him, and I have respect for the Muslim community generally."

What Mr. Farrakhan suggested, just a few days earlier, was that because Mr. Lieberman is a Jew he might not be a loyal American. "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?" he asked. The man who revels in his friendships with Moammar Gadhafi of Libya and Saddam Hussein of Iraq thus passes judgment on the loyalty of a loyal American.

If Joe noticed the insult, he gave no sign of it. He arrived in Kentucky late Sunday to prepare for his Thursday-night debate with Dick Cheney, full of little jokes of his own and eager to let his pursuit of Minister Farrakhan lie, at least for now. But he reprised a few lines from the good Muslim, Muhammad Ali.

"I feel as if this week is going to be like a boxing training camp," he said. "We're ready. We're going to float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. Watch out Richard Cheney." When his bon mot fell flat, he conceded that he is "not quite up to Ali's standards, but I'm trying."

You can't blame Mr. Lieberman for wanting to change the subject to something else, anything else. His co-religionists, who have been embarrassed by Joe's revivalist fervor almost from the time he left Los Angeles as Al Gore's gofer, are seething over what they regard as Joe's sellout.

The Anti-Defamation League, sensitive to the slightest whiff of anti-Semitism, is in full swoon over the prospect of a Lieberman-Farrakhan pact. Abraham Foxman and Howard Berkowitz, the league's senior officers, said: "If he were to meet Louis Farrakhan, he would be legitimizing a bigot, an anti-Semite and a racist, who continues to spout his message of hate." They urged Mr. Lieberman to join Al and George W. in rejecting all attempts to make common cause with Louis Farrakhan about anything.

Anything less than an emphatic rebuke, they said, would give "unmerited legitimacy" to Mr. Farrakhan. "Minister Farrakhan and his Nation of Islam have spread the message of black separatism and anti-gay, anti-Catholic, racist and anti-Semitic bigotry throughout the United States and the world." They talked to the senator's Washington staff over three days, trying to get the message to him.

Mr. Farrakhan clearly relishes having the senator negotiate from his knees. Despite "the flak" that Mr. Lieberman would take from "members of the Jewish community," he says, "only through dialogue can we resolve the differences" between his followers "and the Jewish leadership" and "the whites of this nation."

Despite the minister's big-hearted bonhomie, it's not at all clear how he could communicate with "the whites of this nation," since he has said that whites are "subhuman." Sign language? Barking? Growling? Smoke signals?

The tragedy of Louis Farrakhan is that he has the ear of millions who need to hear some of the common-sense things he says about how so many families, particularly black families, have been plundered by the forces of greed, selfishness and the wanton immorality endemic in our common society. But his blind racism has put him beyond the pale, and he has nothing to say to men and women of good will. Joe Lieberman once understood this. It's very sad.

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