August 8, 2000
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Okay, so Senator Lieberman is Jewish. And an Orthodox Jew, at that. We think the press is overreacting to that. Consider the front page of this morning's New York Times. Under a big, black headline reading "First Jew on a Major U.S. Ticket," the Times runs three separate front-page stories that each remind us that Mr. Lieberman is, yep, a Jew.
The lead news story makes it virtually the first fact readers learn about the Lieberman pick, writing that Gore is "putting a Jew on a national ticket of a major party for the first time." This Jew factor is unloaded before we hear about Lieberman's views of the Monica Lewinsky scandal and way before we hear about his views on campaign finance reform, school vouchers or taxes.
A "news analysis" also on the front page reports that "In picking the first Jewish running mate -- and one who is Orthodox at that -- Mr. Gore hopes to underscore his willingness to break the political rules and display a dash of daring that has largely been absent from his campaign. But while the choice could energize Jewish voters (though they are overwhelmingly Democratic anyway) it could alienate others who might not be comfortable with a Jew in the White House."
A "man in the news" profile, also on the front page, describes Mr. Lieberman as "the first Orthodox Jew to serve in the Senate." The profile reports that the selection of Mr. Lieberman "also carries a risk, for he would be the first Jew named to a major national ticket. The weeks to come may show whether Mr. Lieberman's faith will raise questions in the same way that John F. Kennedy's Catholicism became a focus in the 1960 presidential election: whether religion might affect his performance as vice president, for example, or the policies of a Gore -- or Lieberman -- administration toward the Middle East."
So we are told four separate times on the front page -- three articles and a headline -- that Mr. Lieberman is the first Jew on a major party ticket. But that's not all. There's also a sidebar inside the paper on Jewish community reaction to the choice, and there's an op-ed piece on what Mr. Lieberman means for American Jews. And, descending into self-parody, a fourth front-page story in today's Times, reporting on the fact that Howard Safir will resign as New York's police commissioner, says: "Spokesmen for Mr. Safir, the 39th man to hold the post of commissioner and the first Jewish one, refused to discuss his plans."
Our own view is that Mr. Lieberman's and Mr. Safir's policy views and public records are far more newsworthy than their faith. One note of sanity in the coverage was injected by a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, Clifford May, who, asked about Mr. Lieberman's Judaism, replied, "I think it's irrelevant."
Mr. May's views, not those of the Times editors, are the ones that the founders put in this nation's governing document, the Constitution. Right there in Article 6 -- not even in the Bill of Rights, but in the original text -- is the phrase: "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." No, ever, any.
Friedman's Old World: Thomas Friedman's column today tries to tell George W. Bush that the world has changed, but all it really shows is that Mr. Friedman is stuck in the past. Mr. Friedman writes: "If Governor Bush really did try to abrogate the ABM treaty unilaterally, and cram it down the throats of the Russians and Europeans, I believe it could trigger a Seattle-like, Internet-driven, mass-based, anti-nuclear protest against the U.S. -- identical to the popular movement in Europe today against America's genetically modified foods." Mr. Friedman had little sympathy -- in fact, he pretty much had contempt -- for the anti-globalization protesters in Seattle. So why should Mr. Bush take anti-missile-defense protesters seriously?
Mr. Friedman also writes: "America was a deficit country when President Bush left office, and now it is a surplus country. That means that the Republican ethos of steadily cutting back government, and the foreign affairs budget, is not only unnecessary, it's reckless, and it will be perceived by the world as increasingly selfish." This buys into the false idea that the surplus belongs to the government to spend rather than to the individuals who earned it and paid the money in taxes. But it also ignores the fact that back in the deficit days, it was the Democrats who had an ethos of steadily cutting back defense spending. Democrats who refuse to fund the CIA or an aircraft carrier have just as bad an effect, probably worse, on American influence abroad as Republicans who want to close American consulates overseas and cut spending on foreign aid.
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