On the program, Lieberman denounced "moral relativism" and praisedRobertson for helping to lead "another spiritual awakening in America." "And one of the hopeful signs that I see as I look back over three decadesnow in public life, is that people of faith are taking their principlesinto the political arena," Lieberman said.
He went on: "I really [call] for more of that. I know in some ways this iscontroversial, but I don't think America suffers from...too much [religionin public life], we suffer from too little of it."
It takes guts for a Democrat and a Jew to say things like that, and ittakes even more courage to do so on a TV show hosted by the evangelicalleader liberals love to hate. That's why many conservative Catholics andProtestants admire Joe Lieberman. It doesn't hurt that he's a devout Orthodox Jew who refuses to work on theSabbath and Jewish holidays, abiding by the principle that God is moreimportant than politics--a heresy inside the Beltway.
But will these same conservative Christians actually vote for a Lieberman ticket? The answer, many will probably conclude sadly, is no. Despite Lieberman's exemplary position on a range of moral and social issues, he hews to the liberal Democratic commitment to abortion on demand, which to them is anathema.
It's certainly true that there is much about Lieberman's political life conservative Christians can admire. Don't tell the American Civil Liberties Union, but Lieberman is one of a handful of Congressmen boldenough to post the Ten Commandments in their offices. And he enjoys areputation as a man who would rather stay home with his family than schmoozeon the Washington cocktail party scene.
And there's more: Lieberman is also cherished by Christian conservatives forsupporting school vouchers, which the Clinton-Gore administration stronglyopposes. They also cheer Lieberman's activism against entertainment industrysmut. He teamed up with conservative Catholic William Bennett to lead a campaignembarrassing Time Warner into selling off its violence-glorifying gangsta rap label in 1995.Hollywood stars and executives are major contributors to the Democratic Party, and Lieberman hasbeen unafraid to attack them repeatedly for what he sees as theentertainment industry's assault on civilized values.
"He has his feet planted in the Talmud, not on focus groups," Bennett oncesaid.
That, and his courageous denunciation of Bill Clinton's goatish Monica-gatebehavior--Lieberman was the first national Democrat to do so--is what earnedthe Connecticut senator an invitation to appear on "The 700 Club," eventhough Lieberman ultimately declined to ratify the House's impeachmentverdict. Lieberman serves in interfaith organizations with Christian conservativeleaders such as Ralph Reed, Chuck Colson, Gary Bauer, and Richard JohnNeuhaus--all bêtes noires in liberal Democratic circles. He is not ashamedof these men, even though their friendship does him no favors in Democratic groups.
Now that Lieberman's been tapped to be Al Gore's vice president, one mightexpect that observant Christians would be thrilled that a man unwilling tocompromise his traditionalist religious identity in public can rise nearly tothe summit of American life.
Privately, they may be. But they won't vote for the Gore-Lieberman ticket.Not a chance. For all his religiosity, Lieberman is an unwavering supporter of abortionrights. "He couldn't be worse on the issue," says Douglas Johnson, legislative director of theNational Right to Life Committee. Lieberman even voted to sustain PresidentClinton's override of Congress' ban on partial-birth abortion, the gruesomeprocedure in which a baby is partly delivered before her skull is piercedand brains suctioned out by the abortionist.
That's all conservative Christians need to know to rule out Joe Lieberman,whatever his many virtues. "It's not going to be anti-Semitism," says Daniel Lapin, an Orthodox rabbi who heads Toward Tradition, an organization of conservative Jews, Christians, and others. "It's his view on abortion."
Indeed, abortion has been one of the urgent social issues that has brokendown longstanding socio-political divisions in American life. The 1973 Roev. Wade decision brought conservative Catholics and evangelicalProtestants together in protest and resistance. Some Jews, such as BrooklynRabbi Yehuda Levin, have also joined the informal pro-life coalition.
It will surprise those who haven't been paying close attention to Americanreligion in the past 30 years that religious liberals aren't the only oneswho have learned to work closely with those of other faiths.