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A GUY NAMED JOE

I wanted to inform you of an error. You mistakenly slotted
Doug Ireland’s story about Senator Joe Lieberman [“Holy
Joe, Corporate Joe, G.I. Joe,” July 11–17]
in your news section. Language
such as “junk science for bigots,” “notorious homo-hater,” “notorious theocrat”
and “anti-intellectual hysteria” clearly has its place in your columns section,
where articles of opinion are published. (You probably want to publish this
letter in your columns section as well.) For further reference, I recommend
Associated Press Guide to Newswriting by Rene J. Cappon.

Keep up the good effort. You’ll get there eventually.

—Kalon Pilmanis
San Pedro

 

Doug Ireland’s recent article on Joe Lieberman — which asked “Will the real
Senator Lieberman please stand up?” — was so filled with inaccuracies, distortions
and smears that no one could recognize the progressive, pro–civil rights leader
that I and many others know Joe Lieberman to be. I worked closely with Joe during
my time in Congress, where I represented Los Angeles for 10 years and regularly
compiled ADA ratings in the mid-’90s. I have also worked closely with the progressive
community. So I am in a unique position to correct the most egregious errors
in your piece — and stand up for the real Joe Lieberman.

It’s just plain laughable — and an outright lie — to suggest as Ireland does
that Joe is or ever was a “fan” of the racist theories of The Bell Curve. Ireland
does a similar job on the truth in portraying Joe’s record on affirmative action.
The fact is that Joe Lieberman has always supported affirmative action as a
means of realizing equal opportunity — from his days as a state senator in the
early 1970s through to his strong defense of the University of Michigan admissions
program this year. It’s true that in the mid-1990s Joe raised questions about
some affirmative action programs that had become or were on the verge of becoming
quotas — much as Bill Clinton, John Kerry, Dick Gephardt and many other Democrats
did. But he never supported Prop. 209, as Ireland wrongly alleges: While he
said that the literal language — on its face — might have been hard to disagree
with, he has expressed his opposition to the initiative. More important, Joe
supported President Clinton’s “Mend It, Don’t End It” reforms to federal affirmative-action
programs, and he has voted against every Republican effort to dismantle them.
If you have any doubt about where Joe stands, go to his Web site (www.joe2004.com)
and read the unequivocal statements he has made lauding the Supreme Court’s
decision on the Michigan case and denouncing the anti-affirmative-action initiative
that Ward Connerly is trying to get on the ballot in Michigan. He has also strongly
condemned Connerly’s “racial privacy” initiative here in California.

Ireland also grossly distorts Joe’s record on religion. Joe is a strong believer
in the separation of church and state, and the fact that a Jewish-American leader
could openly profess his faith in God during a presidential campaign is not
a violation of that principle. Consistent with that belief, Joe opposes state-sponsored
or coerced school prayer and, like Bill Clinton, supports the First Amendment
rights of students to pray on their own. And, contrary to Ireland’s misreporting,
Joe helped defeat George W. Bush’s right-wing version of the faith-based initiative,
which would have eroded the church-state line and pre-empted state and local
civil rights laws. Then he helped pass a compromise in the Senate that focused
on helping all charities help more people in need, provided $1.3 billion in
new funding for the Social Services Block Grant program (which supports critical
local services like low-income day care and Meals on Wheels) — and won the support
of Barbara Boxer, Hillary Clinton and every other Democrat in the Senate.

Ireland seriously exaggerates and twists Joe’s limited work with some conservatives.
But his larger crime is engaging in guilt by association. In a Congress controlled
by Republicans, if Democrats want to pass legislation, it is not uncommon for
Democrats who strongly disagree with Republicans on most things to team up with
them on single issues to garner a majority. Ted Kennedy worked with President
Bush to craft the No Child Left Behind Act. Hillary Clinton teamed up with Tom
DeLay to improve the nation’s foster care system. And the late Paul Wellstone
collaborated with Pete Domenici on a mental health parity plan. But to suggest
that this means they agree with these Republicans on broader philosophical issues
is either naive or intentionally misleading.

Like many other things, Ireland conveniently overlooks these facts, just as
he overlooks Joe’s strong record on gay rights. In 1975 Joe called for a state
ban on discrimination in employment, accommodation and housing based on sexual
orientation, and was the deciding vote in passing the bill in 1979. He has been
a longtime, leading co-sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the
U.S. Senate. And this year he is cosponsoring legislation to provide domestic
partnership benefits to gay and lesbian federal employees. Hardly the work of
a political homophobe. As for gays in the military, Ireland got his story completely
wrong. Joe did not help Sam Nunn craft the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy —
in fact, he opposed legislation banning gay men and lesbians from serving ‰
in the military and voted against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” both in the Senate
Armed Services Committee and on the Senate floor. He believes this policy violates
fundamental American values of fairness, equality and equal opportunity, and
that it also denies us talent we greatly need.

The list of fictions goes on and on, and there is not enough space here to
debunk them all. Suffice it say that the real Joe Lieberman stands up for what
he thinks is right. That means sometimes disagreeing with some members of his
party, as he did in supporting the war in Iraq. But it also means fighting for
core Democratic values like opportunity, freedom, fairness and tolerance. And
it means fighting against Bush’s divisive right-wing agenda — the gutting of
critical environmental protections, the eroding of a woman’s right to choose,
allowing corporate crooks off the hook, etc. Joe Lieberman opposed John Ashcroft’s
nomination. He opposed the partial-birth-abortion bill. And he is leading the
fight to stop Bush’s assault on the environment. That’s the real Joe Lieberman
— principled, progressive and proud to be a Democrat.

—Mel Levine
Former U.S. congressman
Los Angeles

FIXERS

Re: Howard Blume’s
“The Fix Is Out” [June 20–26]
. The firing of Los Angeles Unified School
District General Council Hal Kwalwasser is just another example of the obscuring
of the real happenings there since the “reform board” brought in by Dick Riordan
took power a few years ago. Given a clear view, what has happened at the LAUSD
in the last few years, following the “Riordan Revolution,” is the greatest price
increase in bureaucrats the district has ever seen. (And, oddly enough, it occurred
with union acquiescence.) Kwalwasser, handpicked by Superintendent Roy Romer,
made $100,000 per year more than his well-liked and extremely capable and competent
predecessor, Richard Mason. Romer himself makes $80,000-plus more than my former
boss, Superintendent Ruben Zacarias. The person who replaced me in my position
as communications adviser to the superintendent makes $40,000 more than I did.

These salaries — and the many others not mentioned, with accompanying “parachutes”
— are obscene when you consider that many young teachers are struggling just
to get by on $30,000–$40,000 per year, with no bail-out clauses in their contracts.
All things considered, perhaps it’s time for a new “revolution” at the LAUSD.

—Brad Sales
Former spokesperson for LAUSD superintendents Ruben Zacarias and Sid Thompson
Los Angeles

ADDENDUM

The photograph of the band Rose for Bohdan, which ran
in the July 11–17 issue (in Scoring the Clubs), was taken by Wild Don Lewis.