The only orthodox Jew in the U.S. Senate, Sen. Joe Lieberman, Ind.-Conn., began the process of תשובה ("t’shuvah") or repentance, today, as his fellow Democrats voted to strip him of his seat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, where he held a subcommittee chairmanship.
Lieberman’s strong advocacy for Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign, which often led him to disparage President-elect Obama with whom Lieberman has not spoken since Election Day.
Lieberman spoke to reporters after the vote, noting that his colleagues’ action "expresses strong disapproval and rejection of statements that I made about Senator Obama during the campaign."
What did he say to his colleagues?
"I said very clear, some of the statements — some of the things that people have said I said about Senator Obama are simply not true," Lieberman said, per ABC News’ Z. Byron Wolf. "There are other statements that I made that I wish I had made more clearly, and there are some that I made that I wish I had not made at all. And, obviously, in the heat of campaigns, that happens to all of us, but I regret that. And now it’s time to move on."
Lieberman will retain his chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Government Reform Committee.
So, what comments does Lieberman wish he had not made at all?
"We are not getting into that," a Lieberman aide says. "We are not looking backward — just moving forward."
Would it be when Lieberman said, "The fact that the spokesperson for Hamas would say they would welcome the election of Senator Obama really does raise the question, ‘Why?’ And it suggests the difference between these two candidates."
Was it when he said the election was "between one candidate, John McCain, who has always put the country first, worked across party lines to get things done, and one candidate who has not"?
Was it when he said Obama "was prepared to accept retreat and defeat" in Iraq?
Or was it what rankled so many Senate Democrats, his speech to the Republican National Convention, in which he said, "When others wanted to retreat in defeat from the field of battle, when Barack Obama was voting to cut off funding for our troops on the ground, John McCain had the courage to stand against the tide of public opinion and support the surge, and because of that, today, our troops are at last beginning to come home, not in failure, but in honor!"
Was it when he said Obama "is a gifted young man, but he is not ready to be president on June (sic) 20th, 2009."
Or when he lambasted Obama’s position on Iraq, saying, "I wish he would acknowledge the surge is working, rather than changing his position on how and when we should exit Iraq, without acknowledging that these are changes of positions that are understandably based on conditions on the ground. A president’s credibility is based on the courage of his or her convictions, his or her acceptance of reality, and consistency of views are critical elements of national leadership. A president who squanders those does so at our nation’s peril.
"Sen. Obama said this morning that he wants a foreign policy that is tough, smart and principled. This afternoon, I want to ask my colleague, who I respect and like, a couple of direct questions: Was it tough when Sen. Obama voted to order U.S. troops to retreat from Iraq on a fixed timeline, regardless of the recommendations of our military commanders or conditions on the ground? Was it smart when Sen. Obama opposed the surge and predicted that it would fail to improve our security? … Was it tough and principled when Sen. Obama said he would be open to changing his plan on Iraq after going there and talking to General Petraeus, which I think was the right position, only to change that position hours later after being heatedly criticized by organizations like MoveOn.org? I say, respectfully, the answer to all those questions is, no."
Unclear, because Lieberman won’t say.
As of early afternoon Tuesday, Lieberman had not spoken to the President-elect. But under Jewish law, he has until next Yom Kippur to seek Obama’s forgiveness.
If he does so three times and Obama does not accept the apology (unlikely) the sin will then become Obama’s.
But I’m pretty sure Obama would accept his apology; after all, he sent the signal to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that he wanted Lieberman to remain in the Democratic caucus.
Sen. Lieberman, do not worry. As the Lord said in Hosea, "Loving kindness I desire, not sacrifice," and it’s likely that President-elect Obama will take the same attitude.