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HOLY SMOKE AND MIRRORS: THE RISE OF CENTRIST THEOCRATS

by Norman Solomon Friday, Aug. 18, 2000 at 1:21 PM

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.

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

press?

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

Security.

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

corporate terms.

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

U.S. government.

"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."

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