Lieberman Urges Moral Awakening; Vice Presidential Nominee Vows to Purge Cultural 'Pollution"

by Spencer S. Hsu

SOUTH BEND, Ind., Oct. 24 – Democratic vice presidential nominee Joseph I. Lieberman pledged today to usher in a new moral awakening in America with Al Gore by using the presidential pulpit, not federal law, to infuse religion into public life and purge the “pollution of our culture.”p. In a speech at the University of Notre Dame , shown nationally on cable television, Lieberman sought to reaffirm religion’s role in government policy and restore the Democratic Party’s voice on values in a “toxic” entertainment and media environment. Quoting from the Koran, the Torah and the New Testament, Lieberman tackled a subject polls show to be near the top of voters’ minds, saying the nation has “lost its moral bearings” amid unprecedented prosperity.p. “Vice President Gore and I want to bring truth to power—the truth of faith and the power of values that flow from it,” Lieberman said. “We share a commitment to using our office and our influence to support and encourage this new burst of moral and cultural renewal.” But at the same time, Lieberman said, “Government ultimately can only go so far to solve our moral problems.”p. In his 45-minute address, Lieberman, the first Jew nominated by a major party to national office, returned without apology to a subject that he has made his own this fall, one that Democrats hope will separate their ticket from President Clinton’s personal conduct in office. He also sought, an aide said, to fuse the details of the Gore-Lieberman platform two weeks before Election Day into a big portrait, using the language of faith to reach undecided voters.p. “After all, balancing the budget embraces and embodies the values of responsibility and discipline,” Lieberman said, and Democratic health and education plans protect “our children, the most precious of God’s creations.”p. Lieberman repeated his sentiment expressed often on the campaign trail that strengthening Medicare and Social Security will “honor our fathers and mothers,” while protecting the environment “is a way to protect and guard God’s work.”p. “This is a conversation that we as a nation need to have,” he said. “We can draw this constitutional, political and spiritual line in a way that includes the best forces of faith in our public life without excluding those who do not share our beliefs.”p. Lieberman acknowledged criticism from the Anti-Defamation League and some members of his own party who said he has blurred that line, such as when in August he called on Americans to “renew the dedication of our nation and ourselves to God.”p. “There are many nonreligious people, nonobservant people who are good people and plenty of religious people who are not,” he said. He praised “an American civic religion—deistic, principled, purposeful, moral, public and not least of all inclusive.”p. There was one moment of discord. As the Connecticut senator spoke to about 570 students and faculty members, one student shouted, “What about abortion?” encapsulating complaints by conservative critics that Lieberman’s rhetoric has not been matched by Democrats’ platform this fall. He answered calmly that the student had made his point and asked for and received the same courtesy.p. At other times, Lieberman’s sentiments echoed those of Christian leaders on the right, such as when he lamented that critics who disagree that religion belongs in public discourse “seem to have forgotten that the Constitution promises freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.”p. Lieberman repeated his view that Washington and Adams linked the founding of the nation to religious principles, praising “Judeo-Christian values, and therefore, the best of American values.”p.

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