Gary Epstein
And now for something completely different . . .

Where Have You Gone, Joe ————?

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Rabbi Meir Soloveichik wrote a gracious, elegant, and warm appreciation of Senator Joseph Lieberman, of blessed memory, in The Wall Street Journal.  In it, he recounted some of the anecdotes that appeared in the Senator’s book, “The Gift of Rest: Recovering the Beauty of the Sabbath,” about Lieberman’s Shabbat observance while he was serving as a government official.  In a few short paragraphs, he captured the essence of this dignified, honorable man, for whom maintaining Sabbath observance was both an obligation and a privilege, as well as a delight.

I had a passing slight acquaintance with Senator Lieberman.  When our paths crossed, at some function or another, I would remind him that my daughter-in-law’s family was from Stamford and attended the same shul that he did, that my son served as his intern in Washington for a summer, and that he once replaced me at the bima to lead the shachris services in Washington when we were each saying kaddish for our respective mothers, a”h.  He remembered me when I introduced myself, or (the consummate politician) pretended to remember me, and we would exchange a few words,usually about the then current situation in Israel (there seems always to be a situation in Israel).  Not an earth-shattering relationship.

Then we have the possibly apocryphal personal anecdote about the time our son, Benjy (or, as his mother refers to him, Rabbi Dr. Benjy) was interning at the Senator’s office, stuffing envelopes and sitting quietly while attending Committee Hearings.  It seems that Benjy once found himself alone in the office with the Great Man.  The Senator kindly asked where Benjy was from, and upon learning that he attended Yeshiva University, pulled an ArtScroll volume of the Talmud from the shelf behind his desk and asked if Benjy wanted to review the daily daf.

No one will actually vouch for the veracity of that story, but even the kind of stories people make up about other people reveals their character and their reputation.

In my memory, the anecdote, and Rabbi Soloveichik’s essay, and in so many other eulogies, what emerges is the picture of a decent man, a man with principles, a politician who respected himself, his community, and his ideals.  A good and honorable man.  A public servant. A man who could be trusted.

When the Democrat Party moved left during the Iraq War,  Lieberman was one of the few politicians who continued to support the war effort, because he believed it was the correct policy.  When his party punished him by rejecting his candidacy, he didn’t change who he was or what he believed.  He ran, and won, as an Independent.  And then, revealingly, he caucused with the Democrats who had turned their backs on him, because, by and large, he supported their social policies.

He was that rare politician who did not always have his finger to the wind, ready to trim his sails in accordance with the latest poll.

A man who could be trusted.

I guess you can see where I’m going with this, because just talking about a man like that makes us realize how bereft we are made by his departure, how deficient the current crop of politicians is.

Does anyone believe that, despite his claim to that effect, the Bible is the favorite book of Donald J. Trump?  What does it say about us that we are willing to elect a leader who lies to us for financial gain?

Does anyone believe that Joseph R. Biden, as he proclaims himself all the time, is a devout Catholic?  Does anyone doubt that he would deny the most basic tenets of the faith if he saw a political advantage in doing so?  We’ve seen it on abortion, and if the Holy Spirit ever runs afoul of the transgender community, that’s probably it for Biden’s support for the Trinity.

And if you doubt it, trace his statements on the Hyde Amendment and abortion and same sex marriage over the years.

What does it say about us that we were willing to accept at face value the about faces of the Clintons and Obama on gay marriage and the dissociation of Obama from Farrakhan and Jeremiah Wright when it became politically advantageous to do so?  Doesn’t integrity matter to us at all?

I am making no comment on the validity of the positions they settled on. Reasonable people differ on issues.  That is why there are elections.  And surely walking away from Jeremiah Wright was the appropriate thing for any American to do.  But to adopt a moral position, or change a moral position, just to buy some votes, is nothing less than repulsive and disgusting.

And now you can understand why people miss Joe Lieberman, regardless of his politics.  Having a decent man that you can trust in public office seems like such a small thing to ask.

Joe Biden was, in turn, tough on crime and against mass incarceration.  He was for the Iraq war and then against it, but balancing that, he was against same-sex marriage until he was for it.  He promised us moderation and a welcoming hand extended across the aisle.  And then he realized that he needed Bernie Sanders’ voters and became the most extreme partisan the White House has ever seen.

This moral cipher, this pusillanimous, chicken-hearted humbug, this unabashed dissembler, who has lied and plagiarized his entire political life, now threatens Israel, simply because he lacks a backbone and the courage of his convictions.  And because he sees personal advantage.

On October 18, he said “Hamas committed atrocities that recall the worst ravages of ISIS, unleashing pure unadulterated evil upon the world.  There is no rationalizing it, no excusing it.  Period.”  Accordingly, he promised unwavering, irrevocable support for Israel’s existential fight against Hamas.

And then his handlers told him that the media and the international community had begun to hold Israel to impossible standards applied to no other country in the world, and found it lacking by those standards.  And, finger to the wind (and maybe holding his nose against the stench of his own debasement), he called for an immediate ceasefire that would allow Hamas to survive as an ongoing threat to Israel, and a two-state solution, as though October 7 had not rendered that concept, with Hamas as a neighbor, inconceivable, even ludicrous.

If we are not able to persuade Joe Biden that his current stance is not to his political advantage (forget about trying to persuade him to do the right thing), then we must grit our teeth, hold our noses,and do what we can within the political system to make sure the Republicans win in the Fall.  Because Joe Biden has sold us, and himself, out.

“Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio, Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you,” sang Simon and Garfunkel, mourning the loss of those days when we could still believe in heroes.

Where have you gone, Joe Lieberman?  Are you truly gone, Joe Biden?

About the Author
Gary Epstein is a retired teacher and lawyer residing in Modi'in, Israel. He was formerly the Head of the Global Corporate and Securities Department of Greenberg Traurig, a global law firm with an office in Tel Aviv, which he founded and of which he was the first Managing Partner. He and his wife Ahuva are blessed with18 grandchildren, ka"h, all of whom he believes are well above average. He currently does nothing. He believes he does it well.