Going after Joe (and Hadassah too)–UPDATE


At the Forward, Nathan Guttman has an excellent take on constituent Jewish reaction to the threat by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) to filibuster health care reform if it has anything resembling a public option. It’s not friendly:

Rabbi Ron Fish from Congregation Beth El, a Conservative synagogue in Norwalk, decided to write an open letter to the senator. “For him to say that the public option is weighing on his conscience is a misuse of the term ‘conscience,’” Fish said.

Seventy clergy from different faiths have signed Fish’s letter, which states that “anyone who argues that faith and religious tradition should direct our actions, such a person must stand for universal healthcare in America.” Fish and other co-signers joined some 500 other Connecticut residents for a November 15 prayer vigil outside Lieberman’s apartment building in Stamford. “Because he invokes his Jewish identity and Jewish values so frequently, we, as a community, should speak to what he is saying,” Fish said.

Others in the community tried a quieter approach. Several local rabbis have been collecting signatures on a private letter to Lieberman stating their appreciation of the senator’s concerns but urging him to reconsider his all-or-nothing position. “Maybe he is looking for a way out of the corner,” said one local rabbi, who asked not to be named for fear of jeopardizing the outreach attempt. Organizers of the initiative are hoping to get 25 of the 50 pulpit rabbis in Connecticut to sign the letter.

Even less friendly is cancer survivor (and blogger and movie producer) Jane Hamsher’s bid to get Hadassah Lieberman, Joe’s wife, sacked as a spokeswoman for Race for the Cure.

Hamsher cites Hadassah’s past lobbying for big pharma, but makes it clear that Joe’s obstructionism on health care is also an issue:

For decades, Hadassah Lieberman has worked for the insurance-pharmaceutical-lobbying complex. Like Newt Gingrich, Dick Gephard (sic) and Tom Daschle she never registered as a lobbyist to avoid the official taint, but nonetheless worked at the powerhouse lobbying shops Hill and Knowlton and APCO. She also did stints at Pfizer and Hoffman-La Roche.

When she was hired at Hill and Knowlton as a senior counselor in the health and pharmaceutical practice in 2005, the company issued a press release which said "she hopes to draw on her political experience in concentrating on health care policy and public health initiatives." It is unquestionable that she has used her association with her husband the Senator, who was instrumental in killing the Clinton health care reform effort in 1994, in order to secure these lucrative positions and advance the interests of her clients.


And what is Joe Lieberman using his influence for these days? After running hapless Harry Reid around in circles with his endless demands, Lieberman is holding the health care bill hostage and says he will join a Republican filibuster to once again torpedo reform.

The death of health care reform will no doubt please the clients of Hadassah Lieberman’s lobbying firms, but it would appear to be out of step with the goals of the Susan B. Komen Foundation. In 2008, Komen for the Cure listed $266,314,501 in assets, and Komen for the Cure Affiliates listed $138,428,012. They are by far the biggest breast cancer organization, with close ties to the Republican Party. Executive Director Nancy Brinker was appointed by George Bush as Ambassador to Hungary in 2001, shortly after the Komen Foundation helped defeat a meaningful Patients Bill of Rights and promoted the watered down version Bush advocated.

Brinker is also notably a prominent Republican, with past involvement in the Republican Jewish Coalition, so it’s less than surprising that the Komen foundation (named for Brinker’s late sister) has rebuffed Hamsher in her bid to get Hadassah sacked, as Greg Sargent reports:

It’s not happening, says Foundation spokesperson Pamela Stevens. “We value her work as global ambassador and have every intention of keeping her in this capacity,” Stevens told me, repeatedly refusing to address the substance of the case against her.

Over at The New Republic, Jon Chait thinks it boils down to Joe being, well, kinda thick — and that he gets away with it because of the perception that Jews are smart:

I suspect that Lieberman is the beneficiary, or possibly the victim, of a cultural stereotype that Jews are smart and good with numbers. Trust me, it’s not true. If Senator Smith from Idaho was angering Democrats by spewing uninformed platitudes, most liberals would deride him as an idiot. With Lieberman, we all suspect it’s part of a plan. I think he just has no idea what he’s talking about and doesn’t care to learn.

I’d love to know what faces were scrolling past Chait’s inner eye when he typed, "Trust me, it’s not true."

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