Jewish World Review Sept. 14, 2000/ 13 Elul, 5760
find his 'tolerance level'
No offense intended here to Buddy, because fleas might be the least of your worries when you've been sleeping at this White House.
Nobody has a right to doubt that Joe Lieberman is a sincerely observant Orthodox Jew, for example, even other Orthodox Jews who can't understand how he can disregard Orthodox teaching on abortion. Mr. Lieberman insists that he's free to interpret the Torah for himself, and Talmudic theology is something a Christian must leave alone.
Nevertheless, it's clear now that Al Gore, originally a foot-washin' hard-shell Baptist from Tennessee (you could look it up), knows how to exploit an opening when an opening opens up. Nobody could have drawn a more vivid contrast with the squalid Clinton-Gore years than Joe Lieberman, who is clearly a man with convictions even if, as we are now seeing, he does not always have the courage of those convictions. He was just the man Al needed, to acquire a little innocence by association, and Al knew Joe would be compliant enough to go along with the installation of the new convictions supplied by the Gore campaign. Changing Joe's convictions turned out to be as easy as changing the oil in an old Buick.
This was meant to reassure the evangelical Christians the Democrats need to win the White House. The evangelicals were the key to Jimmy Carter's election in 1976, and they were the key to the election of Bill Clinton in 1992. The president who can sing all four verses of any hymn in the Broadman Hymnal with his BVDs around his ankles even got a few evangelical votes in '96.
It may work again. The evangelicals, though sneered at by most Democrats (and even Joe Lieberman rations the kind words he has to say about them) are nevertheless holding true to their most heartfelt convictions, defending Mr. Lieberman's celebration of his faith as legitimate campaign talk even as prominent Jewish liberals throw rocks.
Al tried to manufacture another ethnic break for himself last week. Rep. Cynthia McKinney of Georgia, a black woman, accused Al of engaging in "Jim Crow practices" in limiting the number of black agents assigned to his Secret Service detail. She said the vice president has something called a low "Negro tolerance level." Said Miss McKinney of the agents' claims, on her Official Internet Web Page:
"Gore's Negro tolerance level has never been too high. I've never known him to have more than one black person around him at any given time. I'm not shocked, but I am certainly saddened by this revelation."
Al quickly denied it all, of course. His spokesmen cited his "25-year record of fighting for African Americans" (presumably even including Gloria Steinem's new husband, a South Africa-born entrepreneur), and later that day, at a rally in New Orleans, Al noted proudly that some of his best friends are black. His campaign manager, Donna Brazile, is black, he reminded the Orleanians, and not only that, a native of Kenner, a New Orleans suburb. "I wanted to acknowledge her." He called three blacks, including a community-college student named Amen Dodd, to the stage to be photographed with him. Mr. Dodd was allowed to introduce him.
"Didn't Amen do a great job?" Al asked the crowd. "I am very impressed. Amen is a great success story that Delgado Community College can be very proud of." A campaign aide was standing by with the hook lest Al felt tempted to call young Mr. Dodd "a credit to his race."
This was all very nice, but it did not address Rep. McKinney's assertion that Al has a "low Negro tolerance level." Miss McKinney has the fine-grain race filter that every Southerner, black and white, is born with, and if she senses that Al, who grew up tolerating room-service waiters at the Fairfax Hotel and was educated at St. Albans, where the water fountains dispense Perrier, has a low Negro tolerance level we have to assume that she knows what she's talking about. When she caved to the inevitable pressure and disavowed herself over the weekend, insisting that the remark she put on the Internet was not for public consumption and that her remark "does not represent my thinking" — if her thinking doesn't represent her thinking it's not clear whose thinking it could represent — Al no doubt figures he has it both ways again.
The incident would reassure unreconstructed racists that (wink, wink) he's really one of them, while reassuring blacks that since some of his best friends are black (nudge, nudge) he's really one of them. After all, the man once took a course at Vanderbilt in Colored Studies.
Al may not be hip, but this dude sure can
09/12/00: When it's time for a thumb in the eye