August 10, 2000
HOLY SMOKE AND MIRRORS: THE RISE OF CENTRIST THEOCRATS
By Norman Solomon
It's always dangerous when politicians claim to be
doing God's will. So, as the novelty fades from Al Gore's
selection of Joseph Lieberman, journalists should ask some
probing questions about the ticket's conspicuous piety.
Over the years, Republican policymakers have been
fond of saying that they rely on divine guidance. Cementing
his alliance with fundamentalist Christian groups, President
Reagan loved to perform at high-profile prayer breakfasts
and the like. All too often, political leaders -- especially
conservative ones -- have tried to blur the separation
between church and state.
Now, the Gore-Lieberman campaign has launched itself
with a very public display of devout posturing. For them,
the Old Testament has become fine grist for the centrist
mill. The New Democrats are morphing into New Theocrats.
At Tuesday's formal announcement of his selection
for the V.P. slot, Lieberman declared that Gore "has never,
never wavered in his responsibilities as a father, as a
husband and, yes, as a servant of God Almighty." The vice
president stood a few feet away, beaming.
Evidently, in the current political milieu, private
beliefs and personal prayer aren't sufficient. To really do
the trick, faith must be flaunted. What good is religiosity
if you don't wear it on your sleeve and get a lot of good
Colleagues laud Lieberman as someone of impeccable
morality, a judgment echoed by countless reporters and
pundits. Yet a strong argument could be made that he
promotes extremely immoral policies -- if we look beyond
such matters as sexual behavior and public profanity.
By all accounts, Lieberman is personally nice. But
he is politically cruel. For instance, his scrupulous morals
do not extend to Iraq, where several hundred thousand
children have died in recent years due to the U.S.-led
sanctions that he enthusiastically supports.
Connecticut's junior senator urges quick deployment
of the perilous "missile defense" boondoggle. And this
Bible-quoting moralist has continued to push a wide range of
new multibillion-dollar weapons systems, which just happen
to mean huge revenues for the arms manufacturers that have
fattened his campaign coffers. For military contractors,
Lieberman is a visionary prophet for profits.
Whether Al Gore is truly "a servant of God Almighty"
can only be a subjective matter. But the guy he chose for
his running mate is certainly a devoted servant of Dollar
Almighty. Few Democratic members of Congress are more eager
to undermine the public sector. Lieberman wants taxpayers to
subsidize vouchers for private schools. He has been
outspoken in support of partially privatizing Social
In contrast to his media reputation as a consumer
advocate, Lieberman joined with only three other Senate
Democrats in 1995 to put a cap on punitive damage awards in
product liability cases. He's on record in favor of slashing
capital gains taxes. Like Gore, George W. Bush and Dick
Cheney, he is a fervent backer of NAFTA, the World Trade
Organization and other devices for globalization on
The world's poor people rank quite low in Joe
Lieberman's universe of values. As for Palestinians, his
brow does not even furrow for them. A down-the-line
supporter of Israel, he has proved to be comfortable with
the systematic violations of human rights in occupied
territories, underwritten by billions of dollars from the
"Lieberman may be a committed Orthodox Jew in his
personal practice, but in his role as a public spokesperson
he has gone far away from the best aspects of the Jewish
tradition," Rabbi Michael Lerner points out. "He has none of
that prophetic voice that leads Jews to criticize our own
Jewish community and Israel in the name of Torah values. He
has none of that Jewish sensitivity to the oppressed that
would place their needs above the needs of the wealthy."
Like most other senators, Lieberman has built his
career by serving the interests of the rich. Now that he
looms very large on the national political stage, Lieberman
is well-positioned to further corporatize the Democratic
Party. Lerner is on target when he comments: "Lieberman is
likely to accelerate the process in which the two major
parties seem to be merging into one pro-business,
pro-wealthy, elitist and morally tone-deaf governing force."
The men on the 2000 Democratic ticket represent a
new theocratic style. Eager to evoke Judeo-Christian unity,
they make a show of rejoicing in shared monotheism. But
judging from policy priorities, the one god that they most
revere is Money.
Corporate media outlets keep praising Joe Lieberman
as a paragon of moral virtue. But actions speak much louder
than pious words. He is a disaster.
Norman Solomon is a syndicated columnist. His latest book is
"The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media."