Go to HHH home page.
Smart Politics
 


Joe Lieberman, Religion, and Iraq

Bookmark and Share

Lost in the headlines of the Democratic Senate's failed attempt last weekend to bust a GOP filibuster to force a floor debate and resolution vote on President George W. Bush's surge in American forces in Iraq is that one member of the Democratic caucus allied himself with the Republican majority: Joe Lieberman.

Lieberman's alliance with the GOP on this issue is not surprising; the 3-term Connecticut Senator has been a staunch support of the war on terror, President Bush's foreign policy in general, and the Iraq War in particular ever since September 11, 2001. But there has been little substantive examination by the mainstream media as to precisely why Lieberman is so steadfast in his support of the war.

Most media accounts of Lieberman's position on Iraq frame it as part of his general 'hawkish' foreign policy mindset.

"Joe Lieberman, the centrist hawk." (Houston Chronicle, 10/25/06)
"Hawk Joe Takes Hit at Debate" (New York Post, 10/19/06)
"In Connecticut race, insurgent left aims at Democratic hawk" (Christian Science Monitor, 08/02/06)
"Sen. Joe Lieberman, one of the last ''liberal hawks'' in the Democratic Party" (Chicago Sun Times, 07/28/06)

But simply labeling Lieberman a 'hawk' does not explain his policy positions or his vote last weekend—there are other conservative, foreign policy hawks on the Democratic side of the aisle who voted with their party (e.g. Ben Nelson of Nebraska).

So the question becomes why is Lieberman a foreign policy hawk, especially with regards to the Iraq War? In particular, what role do Lieberman's religious views have on his voting record?

The fact that Saddam Hussein sent scud missiles into Israel in the first Gulf War, and that Iran has made several threats against Israel during the past few years cannot be discounted in their potential impact on an observing Jewish American political leader like Lieberman who has long been a strong supporter of Israel. Could not such a leader seek to enact U.S. policy that helps to insure there is a strong U.S. military presence in the Middle East to help rid the region of (or at least contain) some of the more antagonistic anti-Israeli regimes, provided there is some U.S. interest to do so?

But the fact that Lieberman is Jewish per se does not explain anything—there are 13 Jewish members in the U.S. Senate, and only 1, Lieberman, voted with the Republicans. In fact, both Republican Jews in the Senate, Norm Coleman (MN) and Arlen Specter (PA), sided with the Democratic majority on the Iraq resolution procedural matters this past weekend.

The difference in Lieberman's case might be that he is a practicing Orthodox Jew, a much stricter sect of Judaism. And yet, Lieberman's strong religious faith—and his strong support of Israel—is scarcely mentioned in media accounts with regards to his foreign policy positions and his voting record. A Lexis/Nexis search of more than 30 major U.S. newspapers over the past year found more than 200 articles mentioning Lieberman's support of the Iraq War. However, only 2 of these articles made a single mention to Lieberman's Jewish faith.

One of these articles was a commentary by conservative Jonah Goldberg in the Los Angeles Times shortly after Lieberman lost the 2006 Democratic Senate primary in Connecticut to Ned Lamont. But even Goldberg stopped far short of making a direct link—focusing instead on Lieberman's faith in the context of morality, not foreign policy:

"As many have noted, the only reason he could get away with his Bill Bennett-esque sermonizing is that he's an Orthodox Jew. For many liberals, when white Christian politicians talk about God, it's scary. When Jews do it, it's quaint. No Christian national Democrat has talked so openly and sincerely about God and traditional values in decades."

It seems Goldberg's hypothesis is true to this extent: the U.S. media—which seems perfectly willing to caution against the potential impact Christianity may play on public policy—seems unwilling to even raise this same questions about a Jewish politician, let alone as one as prominent as the man who was one Florida County butterfly ballot away from being Vice President of the United States.

To his credit, Lieberman is one of the more honest politicians Washington, D.C. has seen in recent years. If only one member of the press would have the nerve to ask of him what Smart Politics asks today we might be further informed as to the rationale behind his policy positions: "Senator Lieberman, to what extent do your religious beliefs and your backing of the state of Israel impact you as a United States Senator when deciding to support the deployment of U.S. troops in Muslim nations which have engaged in hostilities with Israel in the past or are threatening to do so in the future?"

Previous post: Upper Midwest House Delegation Votes 16-6 in Support of Iraq War Resolution
Next post: IA, MN, and WI Share Identical View of Bush's Job Performance

1 Comment


  • What a steaming pile of racism and demonization.

  • Leave a comment


    Remains of the Data

    Kevin McCarthy Becomes Least Tenured Floor Leader in US House History

    At less than four terms, McCarthy has served 423 fewer days in the chamber than any floor leader in U.S. House history and almost 10 years less than the average leader.

    Political Crumbs

    The Second Time Around

    Former Republican Congressman Bob Beauprez became the seventh major party or second place gubernatorial candidate in Colorado to get a second chance at the office when he narrowly won his party's nomination last month. Two of the previous six candidates were successful. Democrat Alva Adams lost his first gubernatorial bid to Benjamin Eaton in 1884, but was victorious two years later against William Meyer. Democrat Charles Johnson placed third in 1894 behind Republican Albert McIntyre and Populist incumbent Governor David Waite but returned as the Fusion (Democrat/Populist) nominee in 1898 and defeated GOPer Henry Wolcott. Gubernatorial candidates who received a second chance but lost both general elections include Democrat Thomas Patterson (1888, 1914), Progressive Edward Costigan (1912, 1914), Republican Donald Brotzman (1954, 1956), and Republican David Strickland (1978, 1986).


    How Are the Plurality Winners Doing?

    Nearly 40 percent of plurality winners of U.S. Senate elections lose their seat in the next election cycle. Will that happen to any of the three such incumbents on the ballot in 2014? Recent polling suggests Democrats Al Franken of Minnesota, Mark Begich of Alaska, and Jeff Merkley of Oregon all currently have an advantage over their nominated/frontrunning GOP opponents, but each is flirting with plurality support once again. Franken led endorsed GOPer Mike McFadden 48 to 42 percent in a new SurveyUSA poll while the polling group showed Merkley with a 50 to 32 percent advantage over Monica Wehby. Begich led each of the three major GOP candidates in last month's PPP survey: 42 to 37 percent over Daniel Sullivan, 41 to 33 percent over Mead Treadwell, and 43 to 27 percent over Joe Miller.


    more POLITICAL CRUMBS

    Humphrey School Sites
    CSPG
    Humphrey New Media Hub

    Issues />

<div id=
    Abortion
    Afghanistan
    Budget and taxes
    Campaign finances
    Crime and punishment
    Economy and jobs
    Education
    Energy
    Environment
    Foreign affairs
    Gender
    Health
    Housing
    Ideology
    Immigration
    Iraq
    Media
    Military
    Partisanship
    Race and ethnicity
    Reapportionment
    Redistricting
    Religion
    Sexuality
    Sports
    Terrorism
    Third parties
    Transportation
    Voting