When Lieberman Taught Palin About Rav Soloveitchik
Much of the juiciest material contained in “Game Change”, the new dishy chronicle of the 2008 election by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, has already made it’s way into the media. Elizabeth Edwards was prone to angry outbursts, Sarah Palin was an ignoramus, and Bill Clinton was … well, Bill Clinton, the lovable loudmouthed and inappropriate Bubba. For all the revelations though — perhaps with the exception of the surprisingly dysfunctional Edwards family — there was very little in the portraits that didn’t just confirm what most people already suspected about these characters.
As I was reading — I couldn’t help it! — I came across one more of these moments where the public persona is exactly what you would imagine behind the scenes. This scene did not get much publicity, but is worth transcribing in full. It involves Palin’s breakdown of sorts, in the days leading up to the vice presidential debate, and Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew. John McCain’s campaign manager, Steve Schmidt, had asked Lieberman to visit Palin and buck her up at a moment when her debate prep was going disastrously (For one thing, she kept calling her opponent, “Senator O’Biden” for some inexplicable reason):
The situation was wildly unconventional already: a Democratic senator being imported into a top-secret lockdown to assist a Republican vice-presidential candidate whose mental stability was in question, now Schmidt asked Lieberman to perform another unorthodox intervention. “You’re both very religious,” Schmidt said. “Go in there and pray with her.”
As it happened, Palin had already been prayed for that day. A group of Republican congresswomen had offered their blessings via conference call with her. But Lieberman went back and took a less direct tack, providing Palin with Talmudic wisdom. Invoking the influential Orthodox rabbi Joseph Soleveitchik, he spoke about the covenant of faith, which is the relationship between God and man, and the covenant of destiny, which is what men make of themselves. “Look,” Lieberman said kindly, “you gotta be saying to yourself, ‘What am I doing here? How did this happen?’ This is your moment to really make it count for something.” Palin seemed touched. “Joe,” she said. “I can’t figure any other reason I’m here except that I was meant to be here.”