What do Senator Joseph Lieberman, Attorney General Michael Mukasey and attorney Jay Lefkowitz, President Bush’s special envoy for human rights in North Korea have in common? For one, they have each come under severe verbal abuse and public rebuke for the principled policy positions they have taken.
And, interestingly, each is also an observant Jew.
Although it’s not the sort of proposition one can prove conclusively, it’s fair to speculate that their personal lives are not unrelated to their demonstrated willingness to stake out unpopular positions that they regard as morally correct and stand by them at significant personal cost.
The saga of Senator Lieberman’s transformation from Democratic vice-presidential nominee in 2000 to his current status as pariah of his party is well-known. What is given less recognition is just how strikingly unusual it is for a career politician to have risked and endured what he has – humiliating electoral near-defeat and ostracism – and yet remain steadfast, indeed, defiant, in support of the national security policy of a deeply unpopular president with whom Lieberman disagrees on almost everything else. If an updated edition of John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage were to be issued, Joe Lieberman would surely merit inclusion.
Commenting on the steady liberal refrain that Lieberman is a “hack,” incoming Commentary editor John Podhoretz writes:
To hold views so discordant with your long-time comrades and colleagues is the sort of thing that can cause even the strongest of men to lose faith in his own views. And most politicians, who must balance conviction with prudence, would go with prudence in Lieberman’s situation and work to stifle his difference with his party’s orthodoxy. . . .
By remaining steadfast on the war in Iraq when others in his party fled their vote and then blamed their inconstancy on the supposed “lies” of the administration, and by refusing to join the jackal-like feast on George W. Bush’s reputation, Lieberman earned the hatred of many fellow Democrats. That hatred caused a hugely rich man in his state to spend millions of his own money to oust Lieberman from his own party’s nomination after serving three full terms as senator.
And yet there he remained, and remains, unbending. This is the opposite of hackery. It is the antithesis of hackery. It is the quality everyone says he yearns for in Washington — principled consistency. . . .
A long –time, highly regarded federal judge, Michael Mukasey answered the call of public service to become the nation’s chief law enforcement officer and, with it, a lightning rod for attacks on a president who has been demonized to an extent that few of his predecessors have been. Despite impeccable professional credentials and a sterling reputation for fairness, moderation and independence, Mukasey was confirmed by the narrowest Senate vote margin of any attorney general in more than 50 years.
Mukasey’s testimony in January before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the interrogation technique known as waterboarding was a study in contrasts: the dignified, thoughtful Mukasey refusing to be baited by self-righteous, intellectually sloppy Democratic senators so patently angling for camera time and to out-do each other as water-carriers for their Angry Left base.