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From sadanand@mail.ccsu.edu Sat Aug 26 15:42:48 2000
From: "Sadanand, Nanjundiah (Physics)" <sadanand@mail.ccsu.edu>
To: tcraine@hotmail.com
Subject: FW: Joe Lieberman and "Morality"
Date: Sat, 26 Aug 2000 15:17:49 -0400
X-UIDL: 'EW"!$-\"!k,1!!o6%"!

Does Joe Lieberman Really Hold the Moral High Ground?

By David Morse, in the San Francisco Chronicle,
Wednesday 23 August 2000

DURING THE RECENT Democratic National Convention, much attention was focused on the mantle of "morality" worn by Sen. Joe Lieberman.

To be sure, Vice President Al Gore showed spectacular savvy when he chose a man who not only shares his centrist position on most issues, but who is Jewish in the bargain, as well as a scrappy campaigner -- and who had broken ranks with the Democrats to chastise Clinton for the Monica Lewinsky affair.

If Lieberman's admonishment of President Clinton two years ago was perhaps calculated to win a bipartisan base, it also seemed to arise from genuine moral outrage. He said his own anger and disappointment had widened to concern for the damage to Clinton's presidency, and for the impact of Clinton's actions on "our democracy and its moral foundations."

He likened Clinton's failure as a moral authority for children to the role of the entertainment industry in undermining "the stability and integrity of the family," observing that children are quick to perceive a "double standard." The word moral appears half a dozen times in the address.

Politically, it is hard to argue with either man's choice -- Lieberman's choosing to distance himself from Clinton, and Gore's subsequent choice of Lieberman. But whether this places Gore and Lieberman on the moral high ground is highly questionable. We may share Lieberman's condemnation of Clinton's moral lapses, his concern for violence and smut in the media and for the breakdown of the family in our society. But let us not confuse the media's insatiable hunger for scandal with morality. Let us not reduce morality to sex. And if we are going to condemn a president's follies, let us judge the actions of all politicians -- including our own Sen. Lieberman's -- to see whether they promote or undermine the stability and integrity of the family and the moral foundations of our nation.

Is it "moral" that today's wages, adjusted for inflation, are lower than in 1960, even as the salaries of CEOs have risen to obscene heights during the eight years of the Clinton administration? Is it "moral" that working parents often have little time for their children because they have to hold down several jobs to make ends meet? Is it "moral" that the combined assets of Bill Gates and his two lieutenants at Microsoft is $140 billion, while 1 out of 5 American children grows up in poverty? Is it "moral" that criminal acts by corporations go unpunished, while poor people are jailed for stealing food or for victimless "crimes," such as possession of marijuana?

Not all these inequities can be blamed on Clinton. But what steps has Joe Lieberman taken as senator to rectify this painful disparity in a nation predicated on opportunity for all? Certainly it does not help that he has back-pedaled on affirmative action, helped to dismantle the welfare system without providing supportive training programs, and joined with the religious right in promoting school vouchers to the detriment of public schools in districts that can least afford it.

He has also opposed medical insurance reform, except in watered-down industry- friendly versions, and argued against permitting patients to sue HMOs for punitive damages. One of Lieberman's biggest campaign contributors is the insurance industry, from which he has collected $197,000 during this campaign. It is no wonder that Lieberman has been extolled by Republicans for his "morality." His voting record is more Republican than Democrat.

To anyone from Connecticut who was listening closely to Al Gore's acceptance speech, it was clear that Gore was distinguishing his positions not only from those of the Republicans, but from those of his running mate. Lieberman will have to accept these positions, just as he will have to accept Hollywood money. Expediency will rule over ethics, as in his decision to run simultaneously for the Senate -- which could allow Republican Gov. John Rowland to appoint a replacement.

Is it "moral" that the U.S. arms industry's share of arms sales worldwide jumped from 16 percent to 63 percent in the 10 years following 1988? Is it "moral" that we currently sell $10 billion in weapons to nondemocratic governments every year? It's one thing to adjust George Washington's opposition to a peacetime army to the demands of the Cold War. It's quite another to extend the Cold War indefinitely, in the cold pursuit of profits.

That is precisely the intended effect of the destabilizing "Star Wars" missile defense system first promoted by Ronald Reagan, and now, in its latest version, supported by both Clinton and Gore -- even as billions go unspent on social needs on both sides of a world sorely in need of peace.

Don't expect Joe Lieberman's concern for children and the moral foundations of our democracy to put any brakes on this tragic, avoidable slide into another arms race. Connecticut's own economy remains in thrall to the arms industry; Lieberman as senator has been as hawkish as he has been pro-business, and has received fat donations from the state's armsmakers.

These are the roots of violence and social breakdown, as surely as any sleaze from Clinton or Hollywood. These hypocrisies, along with the postponement of campaign finance reform, are the true obscenities, the deep challenges to our democracy.

David Morse is a Connecticut-based journalist who is also the author of a novel, "The Iron Bridge" (Harcourt Brace)

Copyright 2000 San Francisco Chronicle

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