LOS ANGELES (JTA) – Radio host Michael Medved, a hardcore Republican, and political scientist David Luchins, former adviser to the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.), disagree on just about everything related to the presidential race.
Except the idea of John McCain.
In a campaign that they say is filled with adulterers, fundamentalists, crooks, bigots and wildcards, the GOP senator from Arizona is the only candidate both men say they could endorse – especially if his running mate were Senator Joe Lieberman, the Sabbath-observant Democrat-turned-Independent who crossed party lines last week to endorse the Republican war hero.
On Sunday, at the Orthodox Union’s West Coast Torah Convention in Beverly Hills, during a session titled “Should Torah Jews Vote Democratic or Republican?”, Medved and Luchins examined the campaign lineup. With about 100 people in attendance, they ruminated on which candidates deserve the support of Orthodox voters, the majority of whom bucked the overall Jewish trend and voted for President Bush in 2004.
The two men trashed one candidate after another, until a woman in the back of the room offered the final question of the day: What about a McCain-Lieberman ticket?
Heads swiveled back to enjoy what would surely be another of Medved’s sharp witticisms, as he skewered the woman’s political naiveté.
But no. Medved paused. He’d had lunch several times with McCain, he confessed. And maybe … no, he couldn’t tell about it. It was off the record information.
“Turn off the tape!” one man shouted at the video technician recording the session.
Smiling slightly, Medved relented: “I don’t think it’s an unthinkable possibility, and it would be a very strong ticket.” Although he’s not ready to give up on the Republicans, and although Luchins is still holding out hope for a strong Democratic ticket, the two agreed that McCain-Lieberman 2008 wasn’t a bad idea at all.
The two men are close friends, Medved noted, “and people would love a unity ticket that would put America’s interests first.”
Lieberman, a four-term Connecticut senator, was an unabashed Democrat in 2000, when he was tapped by Al Gore to be his running mate. Since then, however, Lieberman’s vocal support for the Iraq war has put him at odds with many Democratic lawmakers and the party’s liberal base. Last year, in Connecticut’s Democratic senatorial primary, he lost to an anti-war challenger, businessman Ned Lamont, before winning as a third-party candidate in the general election. These days, he describes himself as an “Independent Democrat,” and caucuses with the Democrats, securing their control of the Senate.
The hope in the McCain campaign is that Lieberman’s endorsement will help give McCain a further boost among independents in New Hampshire, where they have a choice of voting in either party’s primary. Recent polls show McCain making a comeback in the Granite State, where Lieberman joined him last week to announce his endorsement.
In addition to defending the U.S. mission in Iraq, both McCain and Lieberman have taken a tough line on confronting Islamic fundamentalism, especially the mullahs in Tehran.
For Medved, Iran is the only Jewish issue in this election.
“Do you believe we’re facing an existential threat to the state of Israel and the United States from Islamo-Nazi terror?” he asked with rhetorical flourish at one point during the session at the O.U. event. “Or do you believe, as the Democrats do, that President Bush is more of a threat to world peace than the Iranian mullahs?”
Across the board, Medved insisted, the Republican candidates are more solidly pro-Israel and ready to take on Iran than any of the Democrats. “Luchins will say, Jews vote Democrat, they just do,” Medved quipped. “Like salmon swimming upstream.”
In fact, Luchins, a vice-president of the Orthodox Union, was quite equivocal in his support for his party. Like Medved, he’s switched party affiliation more than once in the past few decades, and this year he’s less happy with the current crop of Democratic candidates than Medved is with the GOP offerings. Saying that he’s “very uncomfortable” with Obama and Edwards, both of whom he considers “too partisan,” Luchins held out hope for “the centrists – Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, and, yes, Hillary Clinton.”
Luchins shot down every one of Medved’s glowing reviews of the Republican hopefuls. “Both parties are a problem,” Luchins stated. “Both are filled with people who are not our friends.”
Earlier in the day, Los Angeles resident Mark Abraham echoed the feelings of many attendees, saying “I’m more disheartened by this election than any. I don’t see in any one candidate a real leader.”
One woman, a registered Republican, had said she might vote Democrat “as long as it’s not Hillary.” Another man, a registered Democrat, said he would support Clinton in the primaries and then vote Republican in November.
In the end, it was the McCain-Lieberman scenario that buoyed many people’s spirits and got the room buzzing.
If only, sighed Dr. Allan Levine, a self-described “disappointed Democrat” from Los Angeles. “But,” he continued, bringing up the huge war chests already amassed by the leading candidates in both parties, “where would they get the money?”
Just find a way to make room for Michael Bloomberg.