Perhaps I am too much of a secular Jew. Being a self declared atheist does not help matters either :). But here is my take anyway…
America is wonderful country where everything and anything is possible… but please don’t assume that any particular walk of life (rich, poor, black, white, gay, straight) is unaffected by that worst of human characteristic… hatred and prejudice. Certainly I would not presume to think that the predominantly white, predominantly male, predominantly christian public service sector has, with any great success, managed to weed that particular characteristic out of it’s ranks. If anything,I believe it is more insidious because it is more cleverly disguised.
Also, the fact that Lieberman is a politician, should indicate to most of us the fact that he is by necessity somewhat of a chameleon. America, outside of extra-ordinary times (war, depression, etc…), tends to punish those leaders that seem to have a vision beyond the consituancy’s immediate wants/needs. In other words, in times of strife, strong willed leaders tend to offer people a hope around which to ralley. In times of prosperity (like now) leaders with real ideas scare the pants off everybody because they are seen as spoilers and meddlers. So, Lieberman, being a career politician wants to appear as benign as possible. Also, living in America as he does, he wants to be seen as a servant of the people - all the people - not just of the Jewish vote contingent. And rightly so. Whether you want to admit it or not, we live in a prediminantly Christian nation. The majority of the public thinks nothing of a politician expressing his Christian views/beliefs because they are very familiar with that mind set. That same population takes a very limited view of a Jewish candidate expressing his Jewish views/beliefs because they are foreign concepts to them. Now I wish that the average Joe Public were more cosmopolitan but he is not. The very real fact is, most orthodox Jews in America are far more assymilated into this Christian culture than they are willing to openly admit.
So Lieberman removes his yarmulka in service of his country (which by the way is America, not Israel), so what. In a way, he must in order to show good faith to all his supporters. Should that offend orthodox Jews? Well, on a personal level I can see how it might. On a political level, only his political ideals should be considered as material. His Jewishness should not be a player at all. Either the guy is suited for the job or not. His religious affiliation should not matter. You are not going to doven with him in office. You are going to expect him to carry out his responsibilities to the best of his ability regardless of whether he is Jewish or Christian or Martian.
Finally, the guy should be allowd to make a personal choice (and don’t presume that it’s anything less than that) between public office and private life and weigh each according to its importance to him and his family. So have no fear, no matter what he decides (or already decided) he will always be too Jewish for some and not Jewish enough for others… It is the great curse of our nationality