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Jewish World Review Oct. 4, 2000/ Tishrei 5, 5761

Wesley Pruden

Wes Pruden
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Consumer Reports

In headlong pursuit
of the bigot vote -- 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.

JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.


10/02/00: A modest proposal for Rick Lazio
09/27/00: When folks at home give up on a scamp
09/25/00: Gore plot exposed! The secret minutes
09/18/00: Playing politics with the blood supply
09/14/00: Al sets out to find his 'tolerance level'
09/12/00: When it's time for a thumb in the eye
09/07/00: Making a daughter a campaign asset
09/04/00: A footnote to the lie: How he beats the rap
08/30/00: Unbearable lightness of a cyberjournal
08/21/00: Clinton chickens on AlGore's roost
08/16/00: The long goodbye to California's cash
08/09/00: Innocence by proxy is a risky scheme
08/07/00: After insulin shock, an authentic rouser
08/02/00: When it gets hard not to get a little giddy
07/31/00: George W.'s legions of summer soldiers
07/26/00: He's set a surprise --- or a trap for himself
07/24/00: How do you serve a turkey in August?
07/19/00: Would Hillary sling a lie about a slur?
07/17/00: Process, not peace, at a Velveeta summit
07/12/00: The Texas two-step, a nudge and a wink
07/10/00: The Great Mentioner and his busy season
07/05/00: No Mexican standoff in these results
07/03/00: Denting a few egos in the U.S. Senate
06/28/00: Bureaucracy amok! Punctuation in peril!
06/26/00: The water torture of American resolve
06/21/00: The happy hangman is a busy hangman
06/19/00: Dick Gephardt finds a Dixie dreamboat
06/14/00: Taking a byte out of innovation
06/12/00: 'Go away, little boy, you're bothering us'
06/07/00: When a little envy is painful to watch
06/05/00: Fire and thunder, bubble and squeak
05/31/00: South of the border, politics is pepper
05/26/00: Running out of luck with home folks
05/24/00: The heart says no, but the head says yes
05/22/00: A fine opportunity to set an example
05/17/00: The Sunday school for Republicans
05/15/00: Hillary's surrogate for telling tall tales
05/10/00: Listening to the voice of an authentic man
05/08/00: First a lot of bluster, then the retreat
05/02/00: Good news for Rudy, bad news for Hillary
04/28/00: The long goodbye to Elian's boyhood
04/25/00: Spooked by Castro, Bubba blinks
04/14/00: One flag down and two memorials to go
04/11/00: Consistency finds a jewel in Janet Reno
04/07/00: Here's the good word (and it's in English)
04/04/00: When bureaucrats mock the courts
03/28/00: How Hollywood sets the virtual table
03/24/00: Dissing a president can ruin a whole day
03/20/00: When shame begets the painful insult
03/14/00: The risky business of making an apology
03/10/00: The pouters bugging a weary John McCain
03/07/00: When all good things (sob) come to an end

© 2000 Wes Pruden