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Joe Lieberman, the Yankee Tartuffe
In the Stalinist universe, the central drama was always a ritualistic staging of a theatrical spectacle, in the truth of which no one believed.
Senator Joseph Lieberman (D–Connecticut), is American Democracy’s equivalent of that spectacle. The swirl of cathode tube confetti which greeted his entry into America’s Presidential Sweepstakes glittered intermittently throughout the month-ago photo-op,coverage that resembled in its lightness–the way the story of a wayward zoo hippo might have been reported. There was a je ne sais quoi quiescence to the coverage, as well. The imprimatur of Great White American Man upon an orthodox Hebrew man appeared calibrated to escape much notice, the lighting which surrounded Lieberman was pastel. Or was the second scotch & milk I nursed at a Malibu tavern playing tricks on my mind? Bar TVs played at both ends, yet no one looked, and the drink ice refracted no conspiracies. That the Senator chose to formalize his candidacy at his Stamford boyhood alma mater, was fitting. It was there that young Joe Lieberman caught his first whiff of Potomac fever. "Washington, Jefferson, Lieberman…" He would study, and he would learn. And, when called upon, he would answer.
Platitudinous, moralistic, cuddly-wuddly, blotchy, and off-pink cheeked, Senator Joseph Lieberman is, for all appearances, a shyly confident, not quite fine figure of a man. Like all humble preachers, his reticence is guarded, wisdom held in reserve. I saw a taped broadcast not long back of the Senator addressing a church congregation, somewhere. At first glance the worshippers seemed as hushed, penitent, and glad to be there as any gathered in Reverend Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral. But, a hint of beleagurement swayed off these uncertain pilgrims, as if some game-show cr! owd had traipsed in mistakenly to a considerably more somber event. Their body language was more uneasy than expectant. Something was amiss. As though these folks had been wheedled and cajoled into greeting Joe Lieberman as man of deep faith, a Rabbi, even, who knows.
Cameras cut to the Senator at the pulpit, like he owned it. His bland demeanor concealed a feral readiness, and the orthodox vestment–his coffee-grey tailored suit, proclaimed him as the anti-Schuller, an unresplendent prophet. An unspoken, but implicit message: "Why, in the Hebrew faith, dear people, flash is considered inappropriate, drab is the thing. We Jews are a solemn tribe, my friends, never drawn to the light. Que sera, sera, whatever we are, we are."
The picture of earnestness, he began a hand-wringing exercise, chubby, interlocking fingers kneading doughy palms, relentlessly, montonously, and voila–the maestro was ready. Then, dripping with piety, he lowered his head, and in low, irregular tones, the Senator’s dispensation of saintly wisdom, and unvarnished truth commenced. His sing-songy, constipated whine unsettled the congregation, but Lieberman’s voice has circus calliope rhythms. And, as the sermon built, the calliope softened the dirge. It was all the encouragement he needed. A schmaltzy exhibition designed to win converts one at a time, lest panic set in. TV anchors were whispering mid-sermon that Joe was rolling, and the Senator had that spry look only carnys get with a tent full of rubes. I just knew he’d worked this circuit before.
Coyly, he measured their gaze, one dirty-angel forelock astrew. Cooing sounds emerged sotto voce, metronomic trills designed to tranquilize us all before prayer. Then, the Senator broke the meditative quiet with a limpid nod, a solicitous, Shandling-esque smile. Had he settled the crowd? Who could really tell? I’d wait for Ben Wattenberg, wise old Ben–to get a good read. My black cat Noriko, had her tail up in the air, and it formed a question mark. Sure, the old Buddhist trick, but I’d wait for Ben, nonetheless.
And, mirabile dictu–there he was, on PBS no less!: "Joe Lieberman is quality goods." It was heartwarming. Ben’s owlish smile said: "And, if weren’t for the goyim, who’d buy retail?", and I knew I’d done the right thing waiting for Uncle Ben. "Quality goods." Word up, Ben said it. And, although it was reassuring that Joe and his wife Hadassah got Uncle Ben’s White Housekeeping Seal of Approval, my checkbook remained unopened. What had this "quality goods" done for the 2000 Democratic ticket, I wondered, t! hat warrranted a step-up into the bigtime? Ben was mute.
But, on CNN, Howie Kurtz picked up the slack, remarking cheerily that: "Senator Lieberman was a real boost to the ticket." Was it true? Or a suburban myth? Alas, I found it was the latter…
In truth, Gore’s fortunes plummeted once Lieberman signed on. For all the "Shecky Lieberman" talk, his kibbutzing with Conan O’Brian & Co., VP candidate Lieberman’s impact on the voters was nil. Gore/Lieberman fumbled the entire South, including Crazy Al’s home turf, Slick Willie’s Arkansas, and Democratic stalwart West Virginia. And, the clincher–the debate which introduced them nationwide, it was Lieberman’s klutzy, lamentable performance which allowed Dick Cheney to win the day. A button-down automaton was able to comer across as a kinder & gentler version of cranky "Mr. Wilson", from "Dennis The Menace". Mr. Kurtz was a most unreliable guide.
So, as Ed Muskie’s tears well in the grave, the questions must be asked: Who’s selling Senator Joseph Lieberman ? Who’s buying? Who’s crying? Who is this King to be?
A Connecticut Yankee Of Sorts In The Bush King’s Court, Joe Lieberman is the embodiment of classic literature’s most infamous fraud, French playwright Moliere’s TARTUFFE. A pious, mealy-mouthed man of the cloth, whose mock-faith, and rank hypocrisy conceals an enormity of sin, Joe Lieberman is a twenty-four carat charlatan. Hark the angels scorn.
The sound of one mass media hand clapping in the forest, heralding this new Tartuffe as Presidential timber, echoes every time he pops his head out of his shell. The cool hum of his Presidential persona is calculated to muffle glee or distaste . He is the air-conditioner in the room, silently filling the room with pleasantries and zephyrs. Joe’s a Pisces (February 24, 1942), so it should be no surprise his plan of conquest is by submarine. Kerry, Edwards, Dean, Kucinich are land animals. Joe’s a slip-streamer, he’s sub-aquatic. A few days after Stamford, he cruised into Israel. Fast curr! ents. Once on dry land, Aqua Joe struck quickly, in a canny six-point maneuver:
1) Confab with Sharon
2) A "no mas" hint on settlements
3) A stern look, then a happy face at the photo-op
4) Back in the Homeland
5) Statements: #1–"Attack Iraq!", #2–"Wait to attack Iraq."
6) Wait and see attitude
Afterwards, Aqua Joe submerged, again. Looking through the periscope, he spyed Kerry running this way, Edwards running that way. Slow and steady, 5 knots for now. Just like his seven years in New Haven. When he ran for Yale student-president, Joe let campaign manager Bill Clinton run the ship. Joe’s moves were below deck. Always below radar.
His political rise was exquisitely timed. William F. Buckley had aligned himself ever closer with Jewish neo-cons in the eighties, he’d seen the writing on the greenbacks, and he warmed to the idea of helping Connecticut Attorney General transform into U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman. Lieberman, the Democrat would run as a right-winger challenging Weicker on his positions on Cuba (too liberal!), and Israel (too independent!). Lieberman outspent Weicker by millions, and his generous supporters formed a four-point grid of fascism, greed, hatred, and extremism that is his bulwark today:
1. Zealous wacko Cuban-Americans. Beaucoup bucks to Joe.
2. Zealous wacko Zionist-Americans. Joe is their boy.
3. Greedy Pharmaceutical and Insurance Companies. Go Joe!
4.Weapons of Mass Destruction Manufacturers. Such a patriot!
That is Joe "The Enron Democrat" Lieberman’s base. He is the Democratic Leader of the rich’s successful class war against the poor and needy. He is the corporate oligarchy’s Main Man Democrat. He convinced Clinton to pass through Welfare reform. Lieberman’s pride is stoked by it. In defending it, he always takes care to toss a few sops out about how he personally took care to make it go down gently, "helping the helpless", things like that.
His work on behalf of shielding Enron’s mega-ponzi scheme from shareholder and legal scrutiny robbed many more thousands of Americans of their life savings. "The Patriot Act" was conceived by Joe Lieberman. He wishes to protect the richest Americans from any future tremblings of the poor and dispossessed. Lieberman has worked assidulously throughout his career to create an America in which 5% live like Saudi Royalty, 15% scrape by, and the other 80% are forced to beg or steal.
It is why Lieberman has always championed the death penalty, "three-strikes", and the "war on drugs." Imprisoning or eliminating poor people of color, and white people of disadvantage is Joe Lieberman’s domestic agenda. Privatizing Social Security is his idea of assisting the elderly. Doubtless, Joe will be seen walking old ladies across the street. After they cross, they’re on their own.
Joe Lieberman, in short, is the Anti-Democracy Democrat. He is the friendly fascist, the polite totalitarian, the man whose loyalty to a foreign country is unquestionably deep, and destructive. Using America to annihilate the neighbors Israel won’t make peace with, is the sina qua non of his foreign policy. His assurances of patriotism are kept to a minimum. Why lie, when the media will do it for you?
In sum, Senator Joseph Lieberman is a traitor to America, its Principles, its Liberties, and its Values. He is an insincere, hypocritical, morally repugnant, venal politician, who worships the almighty dollar, and craves the highest office in the land. He aims to win, and his chances are better than you think.
The next time he gets on his knees to pray, just remember this:
Joe Lieberman pretends to be a very good man. He’s anything but.
ROSS VACHON is an actor-producer based in Los Angeles. Pleased about the new call for cinematic French villians, his email is: ROSVAC@msn.com