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July 6, 2015 / 19 Tammuz, 5775
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Lieberman Scaled Political Heights, But Wants Shabbat To Be His Legacy


Palin ate it up, he said.

How Lieberman concludes this tale, however, again suggests his frustration with history. The Republican candidate, his close friend Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), reportedly wanted to take Lieberman as a running mate, but the Republican establishment convinced McCain otherwise. 

Lieberman recalls urging Palin to “use all the ability you have to take advantage of the moment and realize your destiny,” and then concludes, “And she did.”

Lieberman laughed when asked if what he meant was that losing was her destiny.

“I meant that she worked hard and did pretty well in the debate,” he said. 

The book’s fond recollections of Democrats throughout – particularly Donna Brazile, Gore’s campaign manager – obscure his painful break with the party in 2006, when he lost his state’s primary election and ran for senator as an Independent. Oddly, that episode is not mentioned.

The decor in Lieberman’s Senate office is a testimony to the path he chose right through the center of America’s deeply partisan divide. Dominating the entry wall is an invitation to an 2006 event he once hosted marking the 1787 Connecticut Compromise that set up America’s bicameral parliament, and “compromise” defines the photos below it: One of Lieberman with George H.W. Bush, one with Bill Clinton, two each with George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

The magazine basket is topped with the conservative Weekly Standard; nosing out beneath it is the liberal American Prospect.

Occasionally a regret seeps through: Describing the village-like atmosphere of his Washington synagogue, Lieberman notes in the book that he and a journalist he once regarded as a friend now barely exchange hellos, and that another friend still chides him for voting to go to war with Iraq in 2002 – a war most American Jews eventually came to oppose.

That’s not the only hint of the Joe Lieberman that has driven crazy many liberal American Jews who otherwise felt great pride in his rise. Lieberman praises John Hagee, the evangelical pastor who founded Christians United for Israel and whose excoriations of President Obama and other Democrats have turned off much of the Jewish establishment. 

And there’s material to drive Jewish conservatives crazy. Explaining his Sabbath compromises, he says that voting for social welfare programs on Shabbat amounted to “pikuach nefesh,” saving of lives, which mandates violating Sabbath prohibitions.

Lieberman says he does not regret striking his own path down the middle.

“It’s certainly made me more productive as a senator,” he says.

Perhaps, but it was his closeness to Bush and his Iraq War advocacy that drove him out of contention for the presidential nomination in 2004. The legacy he now longs for, exemplified by this book, has supplanted the legacy that his independence cost him: first Jewish president.

“I feel that this book may be one of the most important things I do in my lifetime,” Lieberman said. “It’s from really inside me. I hope it affects people’s lives.”

(JTA)

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