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Joe Lieberman Is More Than an Embarrassment to Me as a Jew

Former U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman-I-Connecticut, is what many left and liberal Jews would call a shonda. A shonda, according to the Forward’s definition is “a disgrace, a shame, a terrible embarrassment, a scandal.“ Some of my coreligionists may object to this stereotype of Lieberman, but from my point of view he fits the poster boy description of  shonda to a T.  It was almost beyond belief that Lieberman, whose law firm has represented none other than the racist, anti-Semite, misogynist and bully Donald Trump, feels free enough to pontificate and to offer up his right-wing comments on the current state of the Democratic Party’s electorate and candidates on the Wall Street Journal’s opinion pages as is recounted at Salon (July 26, 2018) in “Some fear Democrats are veering too far left: But does centrism have a future?”

Lieberman, who readers will recall supporting and sitting behind the present Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, as right wing as any fundamentalist could ever be, during her Senate confirmation hearings that would propel her to take up the position as a bully pulpit from which to attack public education. Now that voters in the Bronx, New York have elected Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as the Democrat’s standard-bearer for the upcoming 2018 Congressional elections, Lieberman says, “I believe that a strong leftward movement in the Democratic Party is a movement in the direction of defeat and minority status” (Salon, July 26). While Ocasio-Cortez is seen as a breath of fresh air among many Democrats, she is hardly a left-wing firebrand looking to bring down the government of the U.S. She is a moderate reformer in the tradition of  both Ralph Nader and Bernie Sanders: nothing more and nothing less.

But for warmongers like Lieberman, who never met a war that he didn’t like, candidates who are even centrist or modestly liberal scare the holy hell out of those beholding to war industries and Wall Street. In fact, Lieberman has been the lapdog-in-chief  of both war industries and Wall Street! Recall that Lieberman supported Senator John McCain in 2008 against Barack Obama. With Lieberman’s draconian views toward civil liberties, it isn’t any kind of a revelation that he supports the far right over his own former political party and supported DeVos, a dyed-in-the-wool right-winger.

Lieberman’s record on civil liberties stands directly beside rabid reactionaries in terms of severity. The Nation reported on May 19, 2017, when Lieberman was being considered for a post in the Trump administration, that the former senator’s “record on civil liberties is the single most alarming thing about his selection,” (“Joe Lieberman Is a Civil Libertarian’s Nightmare”). In the Senate, the article continues, [He] “ consistently showed a disregard for basic Constitutional protections and ambitiously pursued expansions of the government’s ability to surveil and detain Americans without judicial review.” Lieberman even defended waterboarding, saying that “it’s not like putting burning coals on people’s bodies” (Nation, May 2017). Lieberman also has a “near-demogogic focus on Islam as a radicalizing force” (Nation, May 2017).

Lieberman claims that John F. Kennedy was a liberal hero for him when he was growing up. But, with all of Kennedy’s policy warts, comparing himself to anyone who is even mildly liberal is like me recounting a story about walking on the surface of the planet Pluto and expecting a measure of belief. Lieberman, a traitor to anything resembling informed progressive values, is more than even a casual observer can even begin to accept. When he pontificates on the workings of the Democratic Party, a big enough problem even without Lieberman’s outrageous lack of insight or empathy, I feel an abiding need to shower.

Lieberman must be jumping for joy at the present round of threats against Iran by Trump and Pompeo, with Bolton cheering in the background. The extreme right-wing movement within Israel must be also giving Lieberman added comfort. Shonda!

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Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017).

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