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Lieberman: Pop culture critic with abortion rights record

WASHINGTON (BP)–Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Vice President Al Gore’s choice as a running mate, is known as a man who faithfully practices his Orthodox Jewish religion and who cries out against the evils of a coarse popular culture. He also, however, is one of the United States Senate’s leading supporters of abortion rights.

Gore introduced the senator from Connecticut as his vice presidential candidate on the Democratic ticket Aug. 8 in Nashville, Tenn. They will be officially nominated at the Democratic National Convention Aug. 14-17 in Los Angeles to campaign against the Republican ticket of Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

As an Orthodox Jew, Lieberman observes the Sabbath, refusing to campaign and sometimes to vote from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. During his two terms in the Senate, he has teamed with conservative Republicans such as former Department of Education Secretary William Bennett and Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas to criticize the violence, sex and profanity in entertainment and to call for the industry to be more responsible. In 1998, Lieberman was the first Democrat to take to the Senate floor to denounce President Clinton for his sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, although he later voted not to convict the president at his impeachment trial.

On abortion, he is neither conservative nor moderate. In 71 votes during his nearly 12 years in the Senate, Lieberman voted for the abortion rights position all but twice, according to Pro-life Infonet, an online news service. He has voted against a ban on partial-birth abortion, even though 14 other Democrats supported it in a vote last year.

Among his other votes on the issue, according to the National Right to Life Committee, Lieberman has supported federal funding of abortion and the Freedom of Choice Act, which would have established a wide-ranging right to abortion in federal law. He also has voted against requiring parental notification for girls under 18 to obtain abortions and a conscience clause for medical programs opposed to providing training in abortion techniques, NRLC reported.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, called Lieberman “a man of serious faith who brings his faith commitment to every area of his life, including public policy issues, which is as it should be. Sen. Lieberman is a bold choice by the vice president, and I suspect this would be a more difficult ticket for Bush-Cheney to run against if it were a Lieberman-Gore ticket, since Sen. Lieberman is more conservative on many of the issues that matter a great deal to the family values vote. … He has worked with Catholics and evangelical Christians on a whole host of legislative issues.

“Additionally, the fact that he was the first prominent Democrat to publicly rebuke President Clinton for his reprehensible behavior in the Lewinsky scandal does provide an effective counterpoint to Vice President Gore’s elaborate praise of the president on the very day he was impeached.”

Land added, “However, the potential effectiveness of the Lieberman choice is essentially negated by the fact that Sen. Lieberman is radically pro-abortion in his voting record. The only way in which Sen. Lieberman’s record is better than Vice President Gore’s is at least he has been consistent, unlike the vice president, who flip-flopped and was reincarnated as a pro-abortion candidate.”

Lieberman’s votes against parental notification and the ban on partial-birth abortion “put him among a significant minority of the American population,” Land said.

The results of a survey of 2,500 adults published in the September issue of Family Circle magazine found that only 12 percent of the American people believe it is OK for a girl under 18 to have an abortion without parental consent.

“I have no doubt that the overwhelming majority of Southern Baptists — if confronted with a choice between a Jewish pro-life candidate for office, like Dr. Laura [Schlessinger, the radio talk-show host], and a Southern Baptist pro-abortion candidate from Alabama — would vote for the Jewish pro-life candidate,” Land said.

“There is also an additional factor in the Leiberman choice that may come back to haunt the Gore campaign. Having chosen an observant Jew who does not campaign on the Sabbath as his running mate, it will be very difficult for Vice President Gore or his surrogates to attack Roman Catholics and evangelicals who seek to bring their faith convictions to bear on the vexing public policy issues facing the nation. If it is permissible and even desirable for Mr. Lieberman to bring his Judaism to bear on those issues, then it certainly should be kosher for Catholics and evangelicals to do so as well.”

Lieberman has advocated homosexual rights in recent years. He is a lead cosponsor of the Employment Non-discrimination Act and a cosponsor of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Both bills would add “sexual orientation,” which includes homosexuality, to categories such as race, age and gender that receive protection under the law.

“Senator Lieberman is a solid choice to serve as Al Gore’s running mate,” said Winnie Stachelberg, HRC’s political director, in a written release. “His record is far superior to that of Secretary Cheney and Gov. Bush and [complements] Al Gore’s vision of inclusion both in word and policy.”

HRC is the country’s largest homosexual political organization.

Lieberman has cast some pro-family and conservative votes during his time in the Senate. He voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, which opposed same-sex marriage, and for amendments that restricted public schools from promoting homosexuality, according to HRC. He also supported the V-chip, which allows parents to block television programs with certain ratings, and an experiment in school choice.

In 1999, though, he received a zero rating from the American Conservative Union based on 25 votes, making him one of only seven senators to achieve that score. “Joe Lieberman is a good man who certainly has the personality and temperament of a statesman; however, that is not the definition of an ideological ‘centrist’ or a ‘moderate,'” said ACU Chairman David Keene in a written statement.

In September 1998, Lieberman chastised Clinton, calling his behavior with Lewinsky “immoral” and deserving of a “public rebuke.” He said the president’s action was “harmful, for it sends a message of what is acceptable behavior to the larger American family — particularly to our children — which is as influential as the negative messages communicated by the entertainment culture.” Clinton’s behavior had “compromised his moral authority,” Lieberman said. The senator stopped short of calling for a resolution of censure, however.

Lieberman and his wife, Hadassah, have four children. They have a daughter from their marriage, a son and daughter from his previous marriage, and a son from her earlier marriage, according to The Washington Post.