In 2018, COMMENTARY held its annual roast, and the year’s roastee was Joseph I. Lieberman, who died yesterday at the age of 82. Among the roastees was Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, who is now serving in Israel’s cabinet. These are excerpts from his roast of Joe Lieberman:

Thank you for inviting me to be part of this special evening for Senator Lieberman. I have to tell you, Senator, I’ve done a few of these in my day, but you are one tough man to roast.  There are just too many sharp edges to your personality to choose from, too many radical mood swings that everyone knows about but no one’s ever willing to talk about—that I just don’t know where to begin.

Perhaps I should start from your days at Yale. As everyone now knows, Yale is one of America’s great party schools. Tulane University?  Boring.  University of Miami? A snoozer.

If you want to party, Yale is the place to be. And when Senator Lieberman was a student there, things were especially wild at Yale.

Now, some of you may have heard that despite supporting Hillary in 2016, Senator Lieberman was actually considered a leading contender for the job of FBI director.  What you may not know is why he didn’t get the job. You guessed it. It was the FBI background check.

Turns out that while at Yale, Joe Lieberman actually had five cups – yes, five cups—of wine at a Passover Seder, and even dressed up like Esther one Purim.

His reputation for partying would dog Joe Lieberman throughout his career. But fortunately for him, it landed him on the 2000 Democratic ticket when Al Gore was looking for a running mate “just as exciting as I am.”

Predictably, the Gore-Lieberman ticket was downright electric.

Long before Make America Great Again was packing football stadiums across the country and Yes We Can was making oceans recede around the world, that legendary Gore-Leiberman campaign slogan, Leadership for a New Millennium was mesmerizing the masses.

Baseball caps sold like hotcakes.  Young people could barely contain their enthusiasm. In hindsight, Senator, I think you’ll agree that the 2000 campaign might have been a bit too exciting. After all, had you toned it down a notch, maybe those elderly Jews in Palm Beach wouldn’t have woken up the morning after the election to discover they had voted for an anti-Semite.

Fortunately, the hanging-chad hangover of those alter kockers didn’t last long.

Consider the dramatic things that would have happened had Senator Leiberman actually been elected Vice President in 2000.

President Gore would have become the most powerful Shabbas Goy in history.

Vice President Lieberman would have travelled the world on Air Force Jew.

A Chabad Rabbi would have joined the advance team to kasher kitchens from Nanatucket to Nepal.

A book would have been written about the exploits of Seal Team Six called Finding the Afikoman.

For the first time ever, there would have been a line item in the U.S. budget for Hadassah.

And some University somewhere would have surely given the VP an honorary doctorate so that finally, his Jewish mother could be proud of him.

Alas, it was not to be.

Remarkably, only eight years later, Senator McCain almost chose Senator Lieberman to be his Vice Presidential candidate on the Republican Party ticket.

Senator Lieberman, the ability to go from party to party is a powerful testament to your standing in America, as well as to why you would be perfect for the Israeli Knesset.

In all honesty, as a Senator, you combined wisdom with decency, principle with pragmatism, in a way that earned you the respect of both your colleagues in Washington and leaders around the world.

You translated that bipartisan and international respect into important legislation that sanctioned Iran, addressed the scourge of terrorism, bolstered the US-Israel alliance, and many other initiatives that made our world safer. This year, as Israel celebrated our 70th anniversary, the Israeli Embassy recognized Senator Leiberman as one of 70 Americans who made a unique contribution to the State of Israel.

But Senator Lieberman has also made a unique contribution to American Jewish life.

For Jews, the greatness of America can be summed up in less than a sentence, less than a word, less than a letter.

It’s a hyphen—the hyphen between Jewish and American—the hyphen that allows Jews in this country to be both fully American and fully Jewish.

For most of our history, Jews couldn’t be full members of the societies in which we lived. During the rare times we did have that opportunity, the price was almost always abandoning our faith and traditions.

In America, Jews do not have to make that choice.

Senator Lieberman, you benefitted from that hyphen.  But you also made that hyphen bolder for everyone else.

Since Sandy Koufax decided not to pitch on Yom Kippur, no Jewish-American has given more pride to more Jews than you did and still do.

So as a proud son of America and a proud Ambassador of Israel, thank you, Senator Lieberman, for all you have done for the Jewish people and the Jewish state.

+ A A -
You may also like
38 Shares
Share via
Copy link