HELPING TO DRIVE THAT SILVER STAKE... WHY I REFUSED TO RETRACT ANYTHING ABOUT JOE LIEBERMAN
I started working as a radio dj when I was in college and I did it for most of my life. As a dj you develop a pretty good sense of smell when it comes to hype and bullshit and if you can't tell the difference between a set-up call and a real call from a real listener in a month, you'll never learn. I learned. Today quite a few nearly identical "comments"-- all by "Anonymous" of course-- came to DWT about Joe Lieberman making the same point: how "NARAL has consistently given him 90% ratings" and how he "pushed" gay rights. I answered a couple and when I realized it was a set-up I just started deleting them. But then I got an e-mail from someone at the HUFFINGTON POST saying "a reader" had challenged my facts about Lieberman making "racism quasi-acceptable by framing it as being against unfair affirmative action" and being a homophobe for conspiring with Jesse Helms and far right extremists like Ralph Reed. He invited me to either substantiate my charges or retract them.
I was happy to have an opportunity to write another column at HUFF PO since the last one got such a big response and even inspired old friends who I hadn't seen or heard from in decades to contact me-- one I'm having dinner Tuesday I last saw when we were in school together in the late 60s! First I looked under the comments section on the offending post and found nothing of the kind. So I asked if I could read the accusatory letter I was responding to and know who made them, figuring it had in all likelihood come from the same source who was sending the fake comments to DWT. Suddenly "the reader" turned into "someone formerly affiliated with Lieberman" but "because the message was intended as private correspondence, I can't disclose its contents or its sender's name."
This is the post I wrote for HUFF PO in response to
I've only been blogging for a few months now and, like most small bloggers, I always appreciate an opportunity for a wider audience. So when I wrote a post recently about my experiences with Joe Lieberman in regard to his role as a music censor and reactionary culture warrior, I was really happy when my old pal Jane Hamsher encouraged me to submit it to the Huffington Post.
It got a big response and I heard from people I hadn't heard from in years... decades But then I got an e-mail from the Huffington Post saying "someone formerly affiliated with Lieberman" had challenged my assertions that Lieberman had made "racism quasi-acceptable by framing it as being against unfair affirmative action." The secret accuser also took
exception to my assertion that Lieberman was a homophobe for conspiring with Jesse Helms and other far right extremists. It's hard to believe any close associate of Lieberman's would take this action and make demands of the Huffington Post without his knowledge-- if not connivance-- so I assume it is on Lieberman's behalf that he insists I either retract my statements or back them up.
Backing them up is so easy that it's hard to understand why Lieberman or any of his associates would be so foolish as to ask for another beating. But... my pleasure, Senator.
Let me start with why I expressed the opinion that George Bush's best friend in the Democratic Party, Joe Lieberman, is a homophobe. Back in 2000, Paul Bass of THE NEW HAVEN ADVOCATE pointed out that Lieberman "sided with Jesse Helms on removing federal money from public schools that counsel suicidal homosexual teens that it's OK (or 'an acceptable lifestyle,' in Lieberman's and Helms' disapproving parlance) to be gay."
This whole "disapproving" thing is what came through so loud and clear for me.
Lieberman may have even thought he was being liberal and groovy when he told THE ADVOCATE that some of his best friends are gay. But gay people have a keen sense of when they're being condescended to and if Joe Lieberman is one thing, it is a condescending scold (or is that two things?) As he was putting together his horrendous and ultimately vetoed (saved by a Bush!) Media Marketing Accountability Act he treated homosexuality like a condition that society had to be protected from.
A 2003 piece in the L.A. WEEKLY titled "All in all, as a Democrat, Lieberman makes a great Republican," takes the bull by the horns when it comes to Lieberman's carefully-disguised dog-whistle brand of political bigotry: "On gays in the military, Lieberman has enunciated the now-discredited canard that 'homosexual conduct can harm unit cohesion and effectiveness.' (Tell that to the dozens of countries, from England to Israel, that permit openly gay troops in their armed forces.) In fact, Lieberman worked with Georgia's Sam Nunn to fashion the destructive 'don't ask, don't tell' policy, which resulted in escalating expulsions of gays from the military every year after it took effect. Its Catch-22 provisions have directly stimulated a rising wave of violent gay bashing and harassment in the military because victims can't complain without 'telling.'
"This is just part of the record," THE L.A. WEEKLY continues, "that has made Lieberman his party's most notorious theocrat. The Scripture-quoting Lieberman made God-bothering a staple of his 2000 vice-presidential campaign: That August, Holy Joe told a Detroit congregation never to imagine 'that morality can be maintained without religion.' This position was denounced as 'unsettling' by no less than the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai Brith (ADL), which released a letter to him arguing tartly that 'To even suggest that one cannot be a moral person without being a religious person is an affront to many highly ethical citizens.'
"Prayer in the schools? Holy Joe lined up with the GOP's religious zealots to push it repeatedly in the Senate. Subsidizing parochial schools at the expense of public education? Holy Joe has sponsored
legislation to give parents vouchers to send their kids to parochial schools, draining money from the public schools to which most Americans send their kids. And Lieberman just last year joined with rabid gay basher Rick Santorum-- the Pennsylvania Republican who compared same-sex love to bestiality and incest-- to co-sponsor George Bush's faith-based initiatives, praising Bush's 'leadership' in tearing down the constitutional barrier between church and state."
Right after Gore made the colossal error of naming Lieberman to the Democratic ticket in 2000, Dr. Manning Marable's column in the DETROIT FREE PRESS dealt with the question of what Lieberman's nomination means to African-Americans (and I'll get to that below). "Throughout his twelve years in the U.S. Senate," wrote Professor Marable, Director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University, "Lieberman positioned himself on the extreme conservative wing of the Democratic Party. He chairs the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), the 'centrist' group of elected officials (including Clinton and Gore) who have aggressively pushed their party toward more conservative public policy positions. On a wide variety of issues, Lieberman is clearly to the right of both Clinton and Gore. On gay rights, for example, in 1994 Lieberman supported an amendment offered by reactionary Republican Senator Jesse Helms, which cut off federal funds to any school district that used educational materials that in any way 'supported homosexuality.'”
Lieberman, in a tough primary battle against a progressive Democrat who comes off as anything but the Inside-the-Beltway professional pol that Lieberman has become, probably did take offense to my charge that he's a homophobe; anyone who would still use that "some of my best friend are..." line undoubtedly doesn't think they are homophobic. But I really don't know any gay people who could look at his record as outlined above and conclude anything else.
It's somewhat harder to believe that a US Senator, an ostensibly Democratic one, no less, does not know that he's providing an acceptable frame for racism when he says affirmative action is "un-American."
As promised, let me go back to the very learned and distinguised Dr. Marable for a moment: "Lieberman has a long record of hostility toward affirmative action that even his liberal apologists in the Democratic Party cannot hide. Back in 1995, when Lieberman took over the DLC, he declared, 'You can't defend policies that are based on group preferences as opposed to individual opportunities, which is what America has always been about.' Lieberman embraced California's Proposition 209 in 1996, which outlawed affirmative action programs in that state. When President Clinton, after months of hesitation, finally put forward the formulation that affirmative action programs ought to be 'mended, not ended,' Lieberman led the opposition within the Democratic Party. The DLC's
Progressive Policy Institute issued a report criticizing Clinton's position, and called for abolishing it for government hiring and contracting, and making it voluntary in private business.
"On issues of higher education, Lieberman has again played a conservative role. He was the only Democrat to vote against liberal historian Sheldon Hackney, the President of the University of Pennsylvania, to become head of the National Endowment for the Humanities. He claimed that Hackney was too liberal on campus issues of 'political correctness.' Lieberman then became co-founder of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a five-year-old group that rejects 'racial preferences,' opposes 'political correctness,' and defends 'Western civilization.'" Lieberman and his co-founder, Lynn Cheney, were on a mission! But could he really not realize that these actions
played directly into the hands of the bigots of the GOP, giving them cover for their racist agendas? If so, he's the only one.
It didn't fool the NAACP, who gave him a "D" on his voting record, and it didn't fool Jesse Jackson.
"We submit to the senator of this state,” Jackson roared in 1995 three years before Lieberman's NAACP "D" grade, “that we have marched too long, and have died too young. We have been to too many funerals to turn back now! No, Mr. Lieberman, we are moving forward!”
Anyone one who needs further evidence of what could only charitably be referred to as "racial insensitivity" can read the infamous transcript that made many civil rights partisans denounce Lieberman as a racist here (where Lieberman calls affirmative action "un-American.") Former Congressman and NAACP President Kwesi Mfume branded Lieberman as a candidate with "no legitimacy" in the African American community and compared his political capital there to "confederate dollars" after he snubbed an NAACP convention so he could schmooze with Bill O'Reilly on Fox TV.
And Maryland Congressman Albert Wynn, commenting on a subsequent meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus where Lieberman acted the buffoon as he tried to mend fences, said "basically, people were laughing at him."
But the fact that those affiliated with a United States Senator (sorry-- formerly affiliated) became enraged and demanded a retraction about what one lone blogger like myself had to say about them speaks volumes-- Lieberman must indeed be terrified of Ned Lamont. I can well imagine why. Lieberman is still a rabid supporter of an unpopular and disastrous war; his vote helped put a man on the Supreme Court who is now writing love notes to James Dobson, and the man he's running against-- Ned Lamont-- is someone people really believe in, someone I believe in, someone that people are working their butts off for.
So if you would like to help replace a reactionary Bush-lover with a real progressive Democrat, please visit my Act Blue page and be part of the grass roots movement that will add up five, ten and twenty dollars at a time to fight the big money Lieberman will get from all the defense contractors his warmongering has done so much to enrich.