Dallas,TX – If Al Gore loses the election this fall, would his running mate, Joe Lieberman, be a likely prospect for president in 2004? Certainly Senator Lieberman was the star of the Democratic convention. It was his speech, said one observer, that ushered out the Clinton era and turned the party toward this year's nominees. Could he point the way also toward a Democratic restoration four, or eight, years from now?
It's possible. Lieberman, like the current president, has enough personal warmth to project a centrist position into a kind of politics that can encompass all Democrats. In 1998 the "National Journal" gave him a 55 percent liberal rating on economic issues, 74 percent on social matters and 51 percent on foreign policy. That put him pretty close to the middle on concerns of the hard core. And on questions of culture he tempers his stands favoring abortion and gay rights with stern ideas about media pollution and a religious discipline that tends to attract the admiration of all believers.
Indeed, in his book, "In Praise of Public Life", he writes that his greatest relaxation comes from the Sabbath which he observes strictly but also joyfully, without a watch or a schedule unless governing (never politics) requires them. Joe Lieberman's faith and that of his wife Hadassah permeates their lives in notable ways. In her remarks at the convention in Los Angeles, she spoke of "respectful living," and the importance of neighborhood, community and "congregation" -- a marvelous and unexpected choice.
Lieberman's religious life is compelling not only because of his faithfulness to it, but also because of the respect it leads him to accord the spiritual perspective of others. He is a genuinely devout man who does not threaten those around him. In striving to be both a man of thought and a man of action, a man of the spirit and a man of the world, he has created in himself poetic insight as well as moral grounding.
Before he left for Washington 12 years ago, Lieberman went to see three religious leaders who meant a lot to him, a rabbi in New York, an evangelical minister in Milfort, Connecticut and Archbishop John Whalen of the Catholic Diocese of Hartford. It was Archbishop Whalen who advised this: "Leave time for solitude, Joe. Make space for thinking and reading." This made an impression on the new senator from Connecticut.
Joe Lieberman is a career politician who never wanted anything else. He worked his way from state senator to attorney general to the U.S. Senate. He opposes term limits and believes in seasoned public servants. He has become one himself. Early on he identified his issues as economic growth, the environment and national security. Early on also he was drawn to the Democratic Leadership Council, the centrist bastion of New Democrats which he now chairs. This was the incubator of the Clinton-Gore ascendancy and it holds the hope for future Democratic administrations as well.
Joe Lieberman has the moral heft, the political presence and the independence of mind to make the Democratic Party a continuing arena for effective government, if not in 2004, then in 2008.