Sen. Joe Lieberman found out in recent years the downside of “independence”: Distrusted by new friends, reviled by old ones, the Independent charts a sometimes lonely road in an increasingly partisan world.
But this month, some of the Connecticut pol’s old friends were offering the kinds of praise he hasn’t heard in years, after he took a lead role in guiding the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” bill through the Senate. Thanks in large part to his leadership, gay people will soon be able to serve openly in the armed forces. As JTA reported, “A number of gay activists noted in blogs that Lieberman, who is Orthodox, thought the measure important enough to devote the Sabbath to shepherding it through.”
A number of major Jewish groups — including the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Anti-Defamation League, Reform Judaism, and the National Council of Jewish Women — lobbied for the repeal of “DADT” and celebrated its passage in the Senate. They noted that the policy was not only discriminatory but forced members of the military to choose between their loyalty to their country and their integrity as individuals. They stood up for a classic American-Jewish position of favoring merit and performance over “personal characteristics,” as the ADL put it. They cited the example of the Israeli army, which has long accepted openly gay members and remains one of the world’s most effective and cohesive fighting forces.
And they recognized, in the wake of a series of horrific bias attacks on gays, that the policy reinforced the notion of homosexuals as “fair game” for bullies.
But perhaps Lieberman put it best, explaining his championing of the sane new policy in unmistakably Jewish terms.
“I’m a Jewish-American,” the Independent told Howard Kurtz, “a member of a minority group raised from the earliest part of my life to be deeply grateful for all the rights and opportunities and freedom afforded Americans.”