The Buzzwords of Joe Lieberman
How he spins the issues.
Slate is running several series of short features explaining who the 2004 presidential candidates are, what they're saying, and where they propose to take the country. The first series summarized their personal and professional backgrounds. This series analyzes their pet phrases, candidate by candidate. Today's subject is Joe Lieberman.
Example: "One nation, under God. … You can go as far as your God-given talents will take you. … Every day along the way I will feel blessed by God. … I will remember what President Kennedy said, that here on earth, God's work must truly be our own. … I'll not hesitate to talk about faith when it's relevant or to invoke God's name" (candidacy announcement and question-and-answer session, Jan. 13, 2003).
What it means: The universal deity.
What it hides: Everybody supports God's will, but nobody can agree on what it is.
Subtext to conservatives: Although I'm Jewish, I'm religious.
Subtext to liberals: Although I'm religious, I'm Jewish.
Example: "My approach is to keep our military and our homeland security strong, to protect our security, to return to some of the fiscally balanced, pro-growth, pro-middle class fiscal policies of the Clinton-Gore years. … We've gone from creating 22 million jobs during the Clinton-Gore years to losing almost 3 million in the last two years-plus under Bush and Cheney. … There's a lot to learn from the Clinton-Gore years that I'd be happy to apply. … I'm happy to compare the Clinton-Gore record on the economy and world peace and people's sense of security to what they feel today. … I'd start with where Al Gore and I left off in the 2000 campaign" (NPR's Morning Edition, May 27, 2003).
What it means: Elect Democrats, and you'll get peace and prosperity.
What it hides: Voters didn't buy the Gore part.
Subtext: Don't forget whose name comes after Gore.
Example: "I come to this cause of fighting poverty as someone who has lived the American dream. You see, my father worked his way from the back of a bakery truck to the counter of his own store. He and my mother provided for me and my sisters and sent us all to college. Their hard work put our family into the great American middle class" (speech to New Democrat Network, June 17, 2003).
What it means: I'm just like you.
What it hides: I'm a hawkish, socially liberal Orthodox Jew from Connecticut.
Subtext: Let him who is without immigrant ancestors cast the first stone.
Example: "I'm the only one on the stage who has taken on Hollywood, the entertainment industry, for peddling sex and violence to our kids" (South Carolina debate, May 3, 2003).
What it means: I'm protecting children …
What it hides: … from art.
Subtext to conservatives: I'm taking on filthy entertainment.
Subtext to liberals: I'm taking on greedy industry.
Next: Al Sharpton.
Will Saletan covers science, technology, and politics for Slate and says a lot of things that get him in trouble.
Photograph of Joe Lieberman by Jim Bourg/Reuters.