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IN PRAISE OF PUBLIC LIFE by Joseph I. Lieberman


by Joseph I. Lieberman & Michael D’Orso

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-684-86774-5
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Countering rampant cynicism about politicians, US Senator Lieberman (D-Conn.; Child Support in America, 1986, etc.) and D—Orso offer a sober, even convincing plea that what —is right and good about this life . . . far outweighs the bad.— Although noting that this is not a memoir, Lieberman often illustrates points by reviewing stages in his own career: staffer to Sen. Abraham Ribicoff, state senator, state attorney general, and, finally, after unseating Lowell Weicker, US senator. The senator doesn—t hide the fact that the political arena is marked by nightmarish hours, glad-handing, fund-raising, and roughhousing over issues. And he is honest about the inevitably painful professional and personal setbacks—in Lieberman’s case, defeat in a 1980 congressional race and divorce from his first wife. What makes it all worthwhile, he maintains, are legislation and constituent service, whereby politicians make a real difference in people’s lives. (From his two Senate terms, Lieberman cites environmental and defense reform, and humanitarian appeals for individual citizens from his state.) But the senator points to grave dangers arising from attack commercials that wrench single votes out of context from thousands cast; term limits that deny —the value of experience—; and press intrusions into private affairs unrelated to incumbents— conduct in office. (Nevertheless, citing the Lewinsky imbroglio, Lieberman warns his colleagues that, as role models for young people, they are obligated to be above reproach.) One weakness in his discussion: Lieberman contends that public life offers —the passive majority— the opportunity to —re-enter [the] struggle to define and express our national values,— yet is vague about how government can balance liberty and license. While occasionally resorting to campaign boilerplate and neglecting specifics, Lieberman will seem to many readers, in his stress on citizens— reciprocal rights and responsibilities, a throwback, however subdued, to Robert Kennedy.