Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Say it 'aint so, Joe!

Joe Lieberman is so fiercely independent that he has now separated himself from his most entrenched group of supporters: Connecticut's Jews and religious leaders. The faith & values folk had been his bread and butter and the Jewish community his hallah and schmaltz - until he began to use the "f" word: filibuster - on health care.

Just this week I've received three impassioned pleas from completely unrelated sources, Jewish and religious leaders, looking to garner support for petitions and, yes, even a protest near Lieberman's Stamford home (scheduled for this Sunday at 6), sponsored by a Hartford-based group called The Interfaith Fellowship for Universal Health Care.

Apparently, the guy, who didn't completely alienate his core supporters when he said that Sarah Palin was "ready" to be President, has gone a step too far this time.

It's not that the question of a public option is so cut-and-dry. I've done quite a bit of wading through this issue and am not convinced by either side that anyone has a firm grip on the costs and benefits. It's the filibuster part that has left me and others gasping out the words, "say it 'aint so, Joe."

The evolution of Lieberman's filibuster threat can be found in this Slate timeline. The public response to his threat has been virulent and at times beyond the bounds of the law and civility. While it's clear that he is maximizing his leverage, it's hard to fathom why the grand moralist is going to the wall on the wrong moral side of this issue. As one who has commented often on the need to offer health care for the uninsured, why would he stand in the way of allowing a vote, even if the bill may not be completely to his liking? One would think that in these times of crisis, with limited political capital to spend, Lieberman would opt for other grand gestures, like, say a sit-in on the Capitol steps until Congress approves drastic sanctions on Iran.

Whatever he is trying to accomplish, it looks like he is grandstanding on the backs of the poor. For that alone he has succeeded in alienating himself from those who spend their time volunteering at shelters and soup kitchens, the moderate religious establishment.

Whatever he is trying to accomplish, it is taking attention away from the mortal dangers of the imminent Iranian threat. For that alone, he is succeeding in alienating himself from his core constituency of supporters: the Jews of Connecticut.

Say it 'aint so, Joe!


Joshua Gutoff said...

Good piece, Rabbi. But Joe's relationship to Jewish moral teachings has been iffy for a while. Back in 2003, Gov. Ryan, having realized that the system of capital convictions in Illinois was profoundly flawed, commuted all the death sentences in the state. A slam-dunk by Jewish standards, but Joe (even though it wasn't a federal issue) weighed in against it, calling the decision "shockingly wrong." (

barbara jacobs said...

Lieberman is not against health care reform. He is against this bill and I agree with him. There are many ways to cut costs or raise revenues which are not in the bill. It is full of exceptions for the benefit of those are powerful politically - paid for by the rest of us! Let's get a better bill and then he and I would support it!

Unknown said...

I am very glad that Senator Lieberman is taking this position. This health care bill is dangerous to our economy. I'd be curious as to how many TBE congregants are also opposed to the health care bill. It's probably a lot more than the "three impassioned pleas" you've received.


I have a lot of respect for Joe. He is bright and does what a good elected official should do. I am sure that he has studied this bill carefully, and knows what he is talking about. These are my comments on this bill.
Did you know that:
1. There will be a $400 billion cut in medicare.
2. With the addition of 35 million new patients where are the doctors going to come from.
3. There will be an enormous tax increase as well as an insurance premium increase
4. There will be fines and jail if you can not prove coverage.
5. The gov't will dictate coverage and who will be treated. Certainly not the elderly.
How can you not take a position?

Joshua Hammerman said...

Here's the link to the Stamford Advocate story about the interfaith vigil held at Lieberman's home on Sunday, November 15.

Anonymous said...

I would like to make several points to the discussion on Senator Lieberman and the healthcare bill.
1. I want to add some procedural details that explain Senator Lieberman intentions. The healthcare bill is supposed to go through three voting procedures. The first one is to allow the debates in Senate. It requires 60 votes to pass. That happened yesterday. The second voting is to close the debates. It requires 60 votes also. The third one requires 51 votes to pass the bill. (In reality 50 votes is enough since Vice President will be able to add his vote.) Senator Lieberman was planning to filibuster the second voting, after the debates, if “public” option (government-run insurance option) will be in the bill. As he planned, senator Lieberman voted “YEA” yesterday to open the debates. Filibuster is not an unusual procedure that allows minority to influence passing the bills and was used over the years by both sides.
2. I would like to hear more from Rabbi Hammerman on how the current political events are related to the Jewish law, traditions and culture. For example, I heard from Dennis Prager that Talmud advises against acceptance of free medical services and I heard also that according to Talmud a doctor cannot refuse to provide medical services to the person who cannot pay.
3. I do not think that it is a true manifestation of democracy for 500 people to hold a vigil at night to protest political views of senator Lieberman. It feels more like a way of intimidating. I would consider as a better option to ask Senator Lieberman to speak in front of our congregation and gave him an opportunity to answer congregants’ questions.

Eugene Rosenberg