2001 Pulitzer nominee News, Spin

Just the FAQs — Frequently Asked Questions about Lieberman

Loose Leaves, 1st run Sunday 13 August 2000 in The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas

By Ben S. Pollock
Copyright 2000 Donrey Media Group

As a public service — or not — here are frequently asked questions about the presidential campaign, now that it’s gotten interesting.

“FAQs” like these — and those on the Internet and toaster-oven manuals — are invented, not collected, but you knew that, right?

Question: Does experience in Washington matter for a president?

Answer: Jimmy Carter didn’t have any and neither did Ronald Reagan. Dwight Eisenhower did not practice D.C. politics until winning the presidency — twice. Reagan served eight years, too. Bill Clinton was only a governor, like Carter and Reagan, and he’s about to complete eight years. If you are inferring that George W. Bush does not have “it,” then you can’t tell by these guys.

Q. Republican vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney is from Wyoming. Does that make him a cowboy?

A. No.

Q. Republican presidential candidate Bush is governor of Texas. Is he a cowboy?

A. Gosh, no. Reagan is the only elected cowboy in recent decades.

Q. Did you hear that Senator Joseph Lieberman is … is … a Yankee?

A. Some of my friends have been from Connecticut. He might as well be from Iowa or even Arkansas.

Q. Why have essentially all the newspapers and the TV people said in their first sentences on his selection that he’s Jewish?

A. They couldn’t think of anything bad to say about him.

Q. Should I say “Jewish person” or “Jew”?

A. The way some people say Jew — with as hard a soft-g as can be mustered and the rest almost a sneeze — they make it sound like an epithet. If you don’t intend a slur, do the ish. Instead of saying “that Jew Democrat,” try instead, “that sincere Jewish vice presidential candidate.”

Q. I take my Sabbath off, and Saturday, too. What’s the difference with the Hebrew Sabbath?

A. You can count on Sen. Lieberman working Sundays while Al and Tipper Gore go to church. Lieberman and his wife do no work from sundown Fridays through sundown Saturdays.

Basing their practice on what many call the Old Testament and they call the Hebrew Scriptures, they won’t cause animals to work, either. Because machines have replaced horses and oxen, the Liebermans will not ride in cars or planes on Saturdays. Their light bulbs are on timers, because in olden times they would not set fires on Shabbat.

The Liebermans on Saturdays attend synagogue and otherwise focus on spirituality — no games — contemplation not recreation.

Q. What if something big comes up?

A. Here’s Lieberman’s answer: “I’ve always felt that — and the rabbis have encouraged me in this and Jewish tradition does — when you have a responsibility to people that can protect or advance their well-being or their lives, then you’ve got to do it (work on the Sabbath).”

On Saturdays when the Senate met, Lieberman was known to walk to work.

Q. Will Lieberman as a vice president, if elected, wear his religion on his sleeve?

A. Observant Jews wear their religion on their heads, with a skullcap called a “kipah” or more commonly, “yarmulke.” In the South, this is pronounced YAH-muh-kuh.

Q. Speaking of that, why are Jewish commentators looking squeamish on TV?

A. They’re more uncomfortable with a Jew in such a prominent role than those Goyim who have to work to be open-minded.

Jews more traditional than Lieberman say he is too worldly by serving in government. More liberal Jews worry that Lieberman will embarrass them by his piety or just being in any limelight.

Most American Jews are liberal to the point of being non-religious. They think they can “pass” as Gentiles. But Gentiles always know.

There’s a saying whenever you have two Jews you get three opinions. So Gore being Christian makes them a good team, no?

Q. Did you hear the one about how one night a priest, a preacher and a rabbi take a table in a club? Nearby, an Irishman, an Iraqi and an Israeli sit side-by-side at the bar. And a farmer, the farmer’s daughter and a traveling Jewish peddler sit in a booth. The bartender yells, “What’ll you all have?”

A. All these characters … is this a very long joke?

Q. I’m asking the questions here. Hey, how come you don’t have an answer?

A. This is a joke, right?

Q. The clerics point to one another and tell the barkeep, “As God as our witness, we’ll share a large gin martini with a cocktail onion, straight-up.” The immigrants laugh, slap one another on the back and say, “We all ‘I’s.’ Up means no ice. We too drunk one onion-up martini.” The rural rubes point to one another and say, “We don’t know city ways. We’ll have what thems is havin’, a martooni up with a sweet-onion. With three straws to chaw on.”

A. That’s clever but not funny. You should keep asking questions.

Q. I had one setting and three jokes. Maybe I couldn’t decide.

A. That’s the punch line. “Whenever you have to choose, you have three up-onions.”


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