Beliefnet
Excerpts from the interview of Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, by Steven Waldman, editor in chief of Beliefnet.

Beliefnet: How did your faith help sustain you during the campaign and recount period?

Lieberman: Generally speaking, my faith orders and gives perspective and hopefully purpose to every day. You have a faith in a benevolent God. If things work out, great, but if they don’t work out, they weren’t meant to be.

Beliefnet: You say if it wasn’t meant to be, it wasn't meant to be. Do you think that in essence, it was God's will that Bush win the election?

Lieberman: That's where I cease orating. You accept the judgment. Obviously, those are questions beyond my understanding. Every day that we have is a gift, and we should make the most of it and understand that if things didn't workout the way we hoped, well, today gives us another chance.

My mother embodies all sorts of wisdom for me. The night of the election, when we thought we'd lost, I went to her hotel room in Nashville because I wanted to tell her myself before we conceded. Her line to me was, "Don’t worry, we're proud of how well you did, and remember you didn't lose a life, you lost an election." Which is another way of putting an essentially spiritual insight into effect.

Beliefnet: What was the nature of your prayers during the recount period?

Lieberman: Well, that a just result be achieved, and that I should be clearheaded in the judgments that were being made, and strong and willing to take risks or do some things that were controversial if I thought it was in pursuit of justice. But then [that] whatever happened, I accept it and move on.

I would never get so specific in my prayers as to pray for a victory.

Beliefnet: No? Why not?

Lieberman: It just didn't feel right to me. Of course, I may have felt that in praying for a "just result" I knew what a just result was.[Laughs]

Beliefnet: You had this moment when you were the most famous Jew in the world. What does that do to your own sense of Jewishness and your own identity as a Jew?

Lieberman: I must tell you that I didn't think of that while it was happening. When I first got selected and so much attention was centered on the fact that Al Gore had broken a barrier in choosing a Jewish American to run for a national ticket, I was very grateful to Al for choosing me and very proud that I was chosen. And also a certain sense of almost vindication, because I'd been raised to believe that you didn't have to assimilate or homogenize to be a good American.

One of the things that was not adequately appreciated at the end of the election because of the long recount was the wonderful fact that although my faith was the focus of the attention at the beginning of the campaign, it was hardly mentioned at the end.

I also felt that because of the visibility as a Jew, I wanted to behave well -- I wanted to conduct myself honorably so that it would reflect well on both my religion and others who are religiously observant.

Beliefnet: During the campaign, there was microscopic attention to things you said about religion [as when you were quoted as saying that Judaism condones] interfaith marriage.

Lieberman: Yeah, that was tough. Just to prove my profound human imperfection, I made mistakes. On that morning that I got drawn into that conversation with Don Imus, first about interracial and then interfaith dating, really I was in over my head. One of the religious organizations said very mercifully, when asked to comment, he's running for vice president not for chief rabbi, and I thought that was a good point.

Beliefnet: What I wondered when I heard that was whether you were viewing yourself as having two missions -- one was explaining the views of the Gore-Lieberman ticket and second to explain Judaism.

Lieberman: I didn't feel that. The fact that I was observant created a buzz. A lot of people have told me that "I'm so grateful you ran, because now when I told my boss or co-workers that I'm taking off for this holiday, they understand." Or [there was] some guy who missed the plane and had to get back to New York by sunset and ran to get another plane and the plane had already begun to leave the gate. He said he needed to get back for the Sabbath, and they said, "Oh you mean just like Senator Lieberman." And they called the plane back.

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