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The Hartford Courant
Washington – On Tuesday night, Sen. Joseph Lieberman spoke again to Christians United for Israel — with the tone and biblical references of a sermon — telling Pastor John Hagee’s group, “We Americans have real enemies; we do not need to make enemies of each other.”
At last year’s conference, Lieberman compared the controversial religious leader to Moses. He did so again Tuesday in a speech that offered an extended defense of the Texas pastor and, at the same time, a clear disapproval of some of Hagee’s past statements. But the rest of the senator’s remarks at the group’s third annual Washington summit focused on the ongoing security concerns shared by Israel and the United States.
“There are terrorists out there who really do want to destroy our civilization and murder millions of Americans,” Lieberman said. “They are at war with us.”
Christians United for Israel was started just over two years ago by Hagee, the prominent Christian Zionist who has drawn fire for his opposition to homosexuality and Catholicism and for saying it was God’s will that Adolf Hitler drove Jewish people toward a future state of Israel. Such remarks caused a rift between Hagee and presidential candidate Sen. John McCain. Hagee had endorsed McCain, but the Republican senator eventually rejected Hagee.
Hagee said Tuesday in his speech, “What will I say the next time I’m asked to endorse a presidential candidate? Never again. Never again.”
Though McCain and Lieberman have been nearly inseparable on the campaign trail, Lieberman hasn’t followed McCain’s example and disavowed Hagee. Instead, the Connecticut independent senator has been demonstrating, as in his campaigning for the Republican, that he’ll do exactly what he wants to do.
When McCain was cutting ties to Hagee in May, Lieberman, too, issued a rebuke. He called the preacher’s comments “deeply unacceptable and hurtful.” But at the same time, Lieberman said Hagee should be judged by his life’s work — a defense he again issued Tuesday.
In front of a crowd of more than 1,000 people, Lieberman said, “No, I don’t agree with everything that Pastor Hagee has ever said.” Some of Hagee’s words, the senator said, “were hurtful and offensive to some people.”
Lieberman again drew a parallel between Hagee and biblical figures, this time saying biblical heroes, unlike the demigods of Greek mythology, “are humans — great humans, but with human failings.” Lieberman said that Moses had his shortcomings, too.
“Dear friends, I can only imagine what the bloggers of today would have had to say about Moses and Miriam.”
In his speech, Hagee called the attention on him “a vicious media firestorm” perpetrated by a media he said worked under “dark motives.” And he said, “We have weathered the storm. We’re here to stay, and we’re not going to leave.”
Though Hagee’s group began gathering in Washington on Sunday and will stay through Thursday, the Tuesday event, “A Night to Honor Israel,” was the segment open to the media. The night’s three big speakers were Lieberman, Hagee and Ambassador Daniel Gillerman, the outgoing Israeli ambassador to the United Nations. In a giant Washington Convention Center hall with hundreds of tables, the audience watched the speakers and pro-Israel videos, listened to music — including both nations’ anthems — and waved U.S. and Israeli flags at every opportunity.
A Common Interest Lieberman’s friendship with Hagee’s group has angered some. This week he was given a petition with more than 42,000 signatures — organized by Democracy for America and pro-Israel group J Street — asking Lieberman not to speak at the event, calling it their “Don’t Go Joe” effort.
In response to what he termed the “pretty aggressive campaign,” Lieberman said in his speech, “The bond I feel with Pastor John Hagee and each and every one of you is much stronger than that and so I am proud to stand with you here tonight.”
The connection between Hagee and Lieberman seems to stretch back for years. When Lieberman was running as vice president for the Democrats in 2000, conservative Texan Hagee said of him: “Lieberman is a much finer candidate than Al Gore. The Jewish people have distinguished themselves as good leaders for many centuries.”
Some in the Jewish community have expressed distrust of Christians United for Israel, believing its members were only supporting Israel in their belief that an establishment of Zion is required before Jesus Christ can return. Jews wouldn’t have a part in that belief of salvation.
Hagee answered that concern: “We stand with Israel because we have a Bible mandate to stand with Israel.” It’s not that his group wants to speed up Armageddon, he said. Hagee said he believes that God has decided when the world will end, and people are powerless to change the timetable.
On Tuesday, Lieberman told the group’s members they were agents of destiny, and the cause was seeing successes. In Iraq, he said, Saddam Hussein has been replaced by “a growing, sometimes cantankerous Iraqi democracy that is overcoming the terrorists and the surrounding countries that wish to destabilize it, slowly taking its place among the family of responsible and democratic nations.”
The senator also fell upon his frequent theme — the threat of Iran. “A nuclear Iran is a mortal danger to all our allies in the Middle East, Israel and Arabs, and it is a threat to us. A nuclear Iran would transform the balance of power in the region in the worst possible way. As Iran continues to expand the reach of its missiles, it will soon not just be the Middle East that is threatened, but Europe as well, and the United States.”
Hagee had something to say about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, too. “He is the new Hitler of the Middle East. Please take him seriously.”
Today, Hagee plans to lead his group on Capitol Hill, where they will lobby members of Congress. One assignment Lieberman helped issue is related to his fellow senator from Connecticut, Democrat Christopher Dodd. Dodd’s Senate banking committee produced a bill of financial sanctions against Iran.
“I ask you to urge members of the Senate and House who you visit to support it,” Lieberman said. He said the sanctions in this bill will help economically isolate the Iranian regime. He advised: “Take nothing for granted as you speak to members of Congress this week, and know that there is value to your presence here in Washington.”
Lieberman left the hall to a standing ovation.
Copyright (c) 2008, The Hartford Courant, Conn.

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