Daily Kickoff: The Jewish day school grads covering the World Series + On the ground in Florida’s 20th district – Jewish Insider

Posted By on November 3, 2021

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

For more than two decades, former Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) was among the most moderate of U.S. senators. This centrist streak brought him to the brink of the White House as the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2000, but he angered the party by running as an Independent in 2006 and later endorsing Sen. John McCains presidential campaign in 2008. Still, Lieberman stands by his centrist political decisions. Now, he wants to encourage more politicians to do the same. His latest book,The Centrist Solution: How We Made Government Work and Can Make It Work Again, serves as a call to action for politicians to seek a more collegial middle path towards governance. I always try to distinguish between centrism as not the same as moderation, Lieberman explained in aninterview withJewish Insiders Sam Zieve Cohen. Centrism is a strategy, moderation is an ideology.

Jewish Insider:You credit your Judaism and your study of the Talmud as guiding your political beliefs. You write, the Talmudic ethic is an ideal precondition for centrism and problem solving politics. How important is religion in developing a centrist worldview?

Joe Lieberman:As I look back at my own personal history, about the various forces and ideas that were at work on me over my life, it did seem to me that my Jewish upbringing, and particularly the Talmud, was really an important part of how I became a centrist. I dont think I felt that as I was getting into politics. I always say that my religious upbringing, the whole ethic oftikkun olam, orkiddush hashem, was part of what moved me into public service. But when I looked back at the whole development of Jewish law, of the Talmud, [it] resulted from spirited, respectful discussion and argument. And then, more often than not, agreement on a course to go forward, and rarely ended up in the kind of personal animosity.

JI:In your book, you argue that the majority of Americans still remain moderate in their tastes and in their political interests. Yet, clearly, theres been a rise in the election of partisan politicians over the last decade. Why is that? If the voters want centrist problem-solvers, why are these partisan politicians winning instead?

JL:The reason is that the centrists, the independents, the moderates, are not as intensely involved in the selection of nominees for Democratic and Republican parties for Congress and other offices. And that allows the further left and further right of the two major parties to have disproportionate influence on whos chosen.

JI:You write that in 2008, neither then-Senators Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama asked for your endorsement, whereas Sen. McCain, who you endorsed, obviously did. Had they asked, would you have considered giving your support?

JL:Yeah, I definitely would have. There was such a prevailing consensus in the Democratic Party, particularly among voters who voted in primaries, that the war was a terrible mistake. The fact that I had been unwilling to give up on it until I felt we had stabilized the country which, in fact, by 2008 we had made mepersona non grataamong a lot of Democratic primary voters. I assume thats why Hillary and Barack didnt ask for my support. But it would have been natural. It would have been a hard decision between them because, as I said, I had close relations with both of them. But it would have been more natural for me to support Clinton or Obama than for me to support McCain. But by the time John asked me, around November of 2007, it was clear to me that Obama and Clinton were not going to ask for my support. And also, I loved John, I believed in John, I trusted John. And I knew he was ready to be president of the United States on day one. So I also felt that I was making a statement about bipartisanship.

JI:Regarding President Biden, you write in the book, the only way we will solve some of our serious national problems and seize some of our great national opportunities will require Republican members of Congress to break away from Trump, and it will require Biden and Democratic members of Congress to declare their independence from far-left Democrats who wont compromise. Centrist Democrats have reportedly grown annoyed by President Bidens refusal to take a hardline stance in negotiating with progressives on the infrastructure bill. How do you assess President Bidens strategy?

JL:I mean, there has to be room and there is room in the Democratic Party for what I would call center-left Democrats like Joe Biden. That center-left group is probably the majority in the Democratic Party. I would never say to exclude the further-left Democrats who dont want to compromise, but they cant be allowed to think that they can control the party, or the president of the party. They dont have the numbers to justify that. There have been times, I will say, in the months since President Biden was elected that I felt that the Squad, the so-called Progressive Caucus in the House, has had more influence in the party and in the Biden administration than theyre entitled to. Again, I would never exclude them, but they have to come to the center also and begin to negotiate.

Read the full interview here.

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Daily Kickoff: The Jewish day school grads covering the World Series + On the ground in Florida's 20th district - Jewish Insider

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