web analytics
December 18, 2014 / 26 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
8000 meals Celebrate Eight Days of Chanukah – With 8,000 Free Meals Daily to Israel’s Poor

Join Meir Panim’s campaign to “light up” Chanukah for families in need.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Feb. 28, 1997: The Day Joe Lieberman Lost The Presidency?


Our natural inclinations would have us believe that individual actions, whether errors in judgment or extravagant demonstrations of bravery, generally do not affect the course of human history.

After all, we cannot point to one individual’s act of heroism that accounts for the outcome of World War II. And even without Sergeant York, whom history regards as an incredibly brave soldier, the Allies still would have won World War I.

One cannot imagine what a single individual could have done to prevent the Holy Roman Empire from collapsing when it did; and despite the bravery of many Confederate soldiers they could not change the outcome of the U.S. Civil War: the South had to lose.

Superficially, at least, it would seem as though history marches on impervious to the private choices individuals make or fail to make.

But yet, when we really think about it, there are those occasions where one person’s actions have indeed mapped the course of human history.

The more obvious cases are extreme, criminal or evil. Consider the assassination of President McKinley by Leon Czologosz in 1901. From the (theoretically) simple act of an on-target shot the next three presidencies were all but determined. Theodore Roosevelt became president and pursued policies completely unlike those McKinley would have, which led to the election of President Taft and then to the election, in a political backlash, of the very intellectual President Wilson who led this nation into its first world war.

It is easy to see the domino effect here and it is reasonable to conclude that the history of the United States was changed for decades by one bullet.

That actions as extreme as assassinations and terrorist attacks can impact the fate of a nation is not particularly surprising. Indeed, it is often the case that those who commit such atrocities do so precisely because they want to bring about a substantial change – Yigal Amir’s assassination of Prime Minister Rabin is but one of many examples of this.

So individual acts of evil sometimes do change the course of the world.

But personal choices, even when no larger effect is intended, can also change the course of a nation’s history.

Case in point: Twelve years ago, on February 28, 1997, President Clinton had one of his intermittent encounters with Monica Lewinsky, though this was one that would prove fateful and that he admitted to regretting almost immediately: “I was sick after it was over and I was pleased at that time that it had been nearly a year since any inappropriate contact had occurred with Ms. Lewinsky,” he later said. “I promised myself it wasn’t going to happen again.”

One might ask what difference Clinton’s reprehensible though private conduct made on our national destiny. Certainly his wife and family suffered from his behavior, but people routinely succumb to temptations that adversely affect their families and we do not brand their indiscretions a matter of national import. But sometimes such actions have substantial repercussions. This was one of those times, and it has shaped America’s destiny since.

It was that February 28 encounter that would make Lewinsky’s navy blue dress a household word, leading to Clinton’s impeachment, which in turn forced the Democratic presidential hopeful in 2000, then-Vice President Gore, to distance himself from Clinton, a decision that ultimately deprived Gore’s campaign of Clinton’s active campaigning in areas of the country where his popularity remained undiminished.

Gore lost every Southern state in the 2000 election, including his own state of Tennessee and Clinton’s home state of Arkansas, and President Bush became president in an election so close it was essentially decided by Supreme Court fiat.

The Bush presidency, and the backlash against it, led to the election of our current president, Barack Obama, who stands in near total contrast to Bush in both style and substance. We see that all of this is a just ripple surrounding one fateful indiscretion by Clinton on February 28, 1997.

History could just as easily have come out differently. Had Clinton turned away from his encounter with Lewinsky (as he said he struggled to do), few doubt that Gore would have become president in 2000. These past eight years would have been completely different (maybe better, maybe worse; who really knows?) and the uniqueness of the president elected in 2008 might well have been that he was a Jew, Joe Lieberman – who would have been Gore’s vice president for two terms and the obvious Democratic presidential nominee in 2008.

The choices our nation has made, and the leadership it presently has in the year 2009, can all be traced back, with quite reasonable clarity, to a single person’s decision to succumb to his personal vice twelve years ago almost to the day.

This ought to be a lesson to us all about the moral choices we make. We must never assume that the effects of our actions are limited to ourselves and our private affairs. The choices we make in our personal lives may not impact nations, but rest assured we are not the only ones who pay for the mistakes incubated in our personal frailties.

About the Author: Rabbi Michael J. Broyde is a law professor at Emory University and a Senior Fellow in its Center for the Study of Law and Religion.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Feb. 28, 1997: The Day Joe Lieberman Lost The Presidency?”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
This masked "soldier" carrying a machine-gun is not part of a terrorist organization, according to the European Court of Justice.
Hamas Holds Live-Fire Training Hours after EU Takes It off Terror List
Latest Indepth Stories

No one would deny that the program subjected detainees to less than pleasant treatment, but the salient point is, for what purpose?

For the past six years President Obama has consistently deplored all Palestinian efforts to end-run negotiations in search of a UN-imposed agreement on Israel.

Joseph Berger 
(Photo: James Estrin)

It’s not an admiration. It is simply a kind of journalist fascination. It stands out, it’s different from more traditional Orthodoxy.

For Am Yisrael, the sun’s movements are subservient to the purpose of our existence.

Israelis now know Arab terrorism isn’t caused by Israeli occupation but by ending Israeli occupation

Anti-Semitism is a social toxin that destroys the things that people most cherish and enjoy.

Amb. Cooper highlighted the impact of the Chanukah/Maccabee spirit on America’s Founding Fathers

Zealousness has its place and time in Judaism; Thank G-d for heroic actions of the Maccabees!

Israel and the strengthening of the Jewish people in faith and numbers has brought a growing light

“Can you hear what the dead are whispering? Leave Galut, escape to Eretz Israel-Lech lecha!”

3 main messages emerged from this conference: Communications, Community, and Collaboration.

In his short time with the shul, he has managed to activate a Hebrew school with now over 50 children and five teachers.

Recent headlines show escalation of the same attitudes and actions as existed during the Holocaust

The Mid-East conflict is a unidirectional campaign of Arabs murdering Jews, not the inverse.

More Articles from Rabbi Michael J. Broyde
Circumcision

The higher the standard of review, the less likely it is the law will be constitutional.

Israel – the land and the nation – lost a giant earlier this month with the passing of Justice Menachem Elon, a monumental talmid chacham who served on the Israeli Supreme Court from 1977-1993, and as its deputy president from 1988-93, bringing a deep Torah viewpoint to the highest tiers of the Israeli judiciary.

We know that genuine halachically viable solutions to the agunah problem are hard to come by and might not even be within our grasp. But we also know the agunah problem can be functionally solved in practice, even if not in theory, and the solution is clear and obvious.

This short essay will develop five critical points for responding to the voices within the broader community that seek to accept and legitimize homosexual conduct, an activity that directly contradicts the dictates of halacha.

You may applaud the idea of ordaining women rabbis, or you may recoil in horror at the prospect, but the simple fact remains that women already serve the Orthodox world in clergy-like positions.

Our natural inclinations would have us believe that individual actions, whether errors in judgment or extravagant demonstrations of bravery, generally do not affect the course of human history.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/feb-28-1997-the-day-joe-lieberman-lost-the-presidency/2009/02/25/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: