Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review Feb. 12, 2001 / 19 Shevat 5761

Morton Kondracke

JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Is Joe Lieberman tilting left toward 2004? -- SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN, D-Conn., swears he hasn't caught the presidential bug and didn't lose his centrist soul serving as Vice President Al Gore's running mate last year.

So why did Lieberman vote against both of President Bush's controversial Cabinet nominees, John Ashcroft for attorney general and Gale Norton for Interior secretary?

On the basis of Lieberman's independent record and his past dedication to bipartisanship, one might have expected him to support one or both of Bush's nominees -- at least on the grounds that presidents deserve to have the Cabinet officers of their choice.

This year the award for senatorial independence goes to Russ Feingold, D-Wis., whose liberal supporters must be livid at his votes in favor of both nominees.

Another prize goes to Lieberman's Connecticut colleague, Sen. Chris Dodd -- the only Democratic senator mentioned as a potential 2004 presidential candidate -- who supported both nominees, despite intense pressure from groups representing the party base.

One Dodd friend told me that, as a result of what he regards as the unfair censure of his father, former Sen. Tom Dodd, D-Conn., he is "conscious of giving everyone a fair shake and will let the consequences be what they are."

Dodd even voted for the only presidential nominee to be denied confirmation since 1959, former Sen. John Tower, R-Texas, who was rejected on account of alleged alcohol abuse.

Besides Dodd, the only Democratic potential presidential contender to break ranks on either nomination this year was Minority Leader Thomas Daschle, S.D., who voted for Norton, saying he intended to "monitor closely" her performance on environmental issues. Daschle, however, voted against Ashcroft.

Five other Senate Democrats voted in favor of both nominations: Zell Miller, Ga., who's also co-sponsoring Bush's tax plan; Kent Conrad, N.D., whose home state Bush carried handily; conservative Ben Nelson, Neb.; and Senate institutionalist Robert Byrd, W.Va.; and John Breaux, La., a long leader (with Lieberman) of Centrist Democrats.

Except for Dodd and Daschle, all the other Democratic 2004 "mentionees" voted in lockstep against both nominees: Sens. Joseph Biden, Del.; Evan Bayh, Ind.; John Kerry, Mass.; John Edwards, N.C.; Hillary Rodham Clinton, N.Y.; and Lieberman.

This can't be an accident, but the result of massive reluctance to alienate the liberal Democratic base --African-Americans, feminists, labor, environmentalists, the gay rights movement and secularists. In an interview, though, Lieberman said he hasn't decided whether to run in 2004 and defended his votes on other grounds.

"If Al Gore decides to run in 2004, I don't see how I could run against him," Lieberman said. "We're friends, and last year he gave me the chance of a political lifetime, without which nobody would even be thinking about this possibility. So, as a matter of honor, I wouldn't do it."

Lieberman said neither he nor Gore has decided what he will do. Lieberman obviously enjoyed the experience of running a national campaign, but said, "I haven't turned the corner in my own mind at all, and I have a couple of years before I have to."

Lieberman asserted that his votes on Bush's nominees were not linked to any 2004 ambitions. A longstanding environmentalist, he said in his floor statement that Norton's record "reflects a philosophy that is contrary to the mission of the Department of Interior."

His vote against Ashcroft was influenced, he said, by numerous conversations he's had with ordinary African-American citizens, who expressed doubts about whether Ashcroft would protect their rights. Lieberman said he felt he had developed a "new bond" with black voters during the 2000 campaign. He described his vote on Ashcroft as "more retrospective than prospective" -- based on his 2000 experience, not hope for support in 2004.

Lieberman is hardly the only moderate Democrat to oppose Ashcroft. Officially, the Democratic Leadership Council did so, declaring him a "divider, not a uniter."

Still, when combined with positions Lieberman took during the 2000 campaign, he seems to be tilting leftward -- though not on education reform, religious expression by political candidates and faith-based initiatives, about which he agrees with Bush.

Lieberman stoutly denied to me that he shifted ground when he became Gore's running mate, claiming he'd turned against Social Security privatization earlier, was satisfied with a "mend it, don't end it" approach to affirmative action and still supports small school voucher experiments.

On cultural issues, he said he should have been tougher on Hollywood than he seemed in the campaign and plans to introduce legislation soon that would empower the Federal Trade Commission to act against entertainment producers who market adult material to children.

On the other hand, Lieberman is toeing the Democratic Party line in opposing Bush's tax cuts, and it remains to be seen whether he'll support Bush on Medicare reform.

The bottom line is that the Democratic Party needs an independent, centrist leader. That used to be Joe Lieberman. I hope he's back.

JWR contributor Morton Kondracke is executive editor of Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill. Send your comments by clicking here.


02/07/01: The controversy starts: Bush orders HHS study of fetal, stem cell issues
02/05/01: Dems move toward bush on taxes, but ...
02/01/01: Bush should be open with press
01/30/01: Bush Should go for broke early on education
01/23/01: Clinton ain't going away, folks
01/19/01: Bush should try for legacy as 'Great Reconciler'
01/16/01: Left-Center Rift Re-emerges For Democratic Leaders
01/12/01: Clinton doing Bush no favors in Mideast
01/09/01: Bush and Democrats can deal
12/14/00: Will Daschle make it his business to get along with President Bush?
12/08/00: GOP is in danger of ruining record on medical research
11/27/00: Some fascinating stories about how and why people voted
11/22/00: GOP Survived health bullets, but one is left
11/20/00: Can next president and Hill deal?
11/15/00: With nation split, leaders must reach across party divide
11/07/00: The Envelope, Please:Bush Beats Gore, GOP Holds Hill
11/03/00: Parties appeal to two 'gospels'
11/01/00: Lurking in the shadows
10/26/00: What's Gore's Social Security plan?
10/18/00: While Bush, Gore debate surplus, Congress spends it
10/16/00: Two debates leave lots of questions
10/03/00: What questions should be debated?
09/28/00: Gore and Bush should prepare to lead
09/19/00: Bush let values issue slip away
08/25/00: Gore hands center to Bush
08/22/00: AlGore, look to future, not to Bubba
08/08/00: 2000 race could leave high road for low
08/03/00: Convention must point Bush to center
08/01/00: GOP Readies 'Debt Lockbox' As 2000 Strategy
07/27/00: Cheney adds heft to GOP ticket
07/25/00: Foreign, Defense Policy Deserves Full 2000 Debate
07/20/00: Truman Show: Gore Replays 1948, But Bush Isn't Dewey
07/18/00: Bush Must Fight Gore's Drug Plan As 'Bad Medicine'
07/13/00: Mexico's Election Supports U.S. Action On NAFTA, Bailout
07/10/00: Abortion is good for something --- just ask AlGore
07/06/00: Meet Steve Ricchetti, Bubba's secret weapon
06/30/00: AlGore is down, but is he out?
06/27/00: Social programs caught in election-year game of one-up
06/22/00: Congress Is Near Flunking a Test On School Reform
06/16/00: Doting on the grandparents
06/13/00: On Stem Cells, Bush Has Wrong Pro-Life Stance
06/08/00: Has Gore Caught Bush?
05/26/00: PNTR Vote Could Tell Which Party Fits 'New Economy'
05/23/00: The secret to winning the election: Economic programs
05/18/00: Gore should regroup
05/16/00: McCain's Support Is Tepid, But Lets Bush Focus on Gore
05/11/00: Voters need wonk training
05/09/00: Bush Could Score With Charge That Gore's Too Partisan
04/28/00: Reno's force aids Clinton, not Elian
04/25/00: Should Clinton be indicted?
04/24/00: Can Gore win on Bush tax cuts?
04/18/00: Levin's 'bridge' key to China trade?
04/11/00: Congress, U.S. Voters Still Aren't Ready For Campaign Reform
04/06/00: Bush, Gore Silent As Popular Culture Gets Ever Coarser
03/30/00: Is 2000 Like 1948, 1976 or 1960? Or Is This Unparalleled?
03/28/00: Will Bush, Gore Go for a Better Way To Pick Nominees?
03/23/00: Medicare cutbacks bleed hospitals
03/20/00: Chances Improve That China Trade Will Pass Congress
03/16/00: Lieberman as veep would help Gore
03/14/00: Can Bush, McCain Unite to Beat Gore?
03/09/00: Can GOP Forge Unity After Nasty McCain-Bush Race?
03/07/00: What accounts for McCain's excesses?
03/02/00: 'Debate' Proved Gore Is This Year's Best Gut-Fighter
02/29/00: Surprises! The 2000 GOP race is full of it
02/25/00: Voters want centrist in White House
02/23/00: Gore would hit McCain's record
02/15/00: Will negativity hurt McCain in S.C.?
02/10/00: How hard should Bush hit McCain?
02/08/00: Bush must retool his entire campaign
01/27/00: Could Gore beat Bush as Truman beat Dewey?
01/20/00: Big New Surplus Estimates Could Alter 2000 Politics
12/21/99: Bush improves, everyone panders
12/16/99: Prospects improve for campaign reform
12/14/99: Riots raise free trade as 2000 issue
12/10/99: Gore won GOP 'debate' in N.H.
12/07/99: Election pits Bush cuts vs. Medicare boost
12/03/99: Can race be a constructive issue in 2000?
11/19/99: White House race may be best in decades
11/16/99: Where is Bush on health care fight?
11/11/99: Will TV stop profiteering from politics?
11/09/99: Is GOP isolationist, or just partisan?
11/04/99: Gore, Bradley Run Opposite Races On Style, Substance
11/01/99: GOP, Clinton could reach deal swiftly
10/27/99: Bush to fight 'culture wars' -- positively
10/21/99: Porter, Mack: heroes on medical research
10/19/99: Gore scores among party big shots, but polls go South
10/14/99: Bush critiques could help GOP Congress
10/12/99: Congress can save health care from ruin
10/07/99: Will gun-control cause the GOP to shoot itself in the foot?
10/05/99: Gore moves: Desperate but necessary
10/01/99: Fox, Armstrong make case for NIH
09/28/99: Dems' race brightens Bush's chances
09/23/99: East Timor deflates `Clinton Doctrine'
09/21/99: Buchanan v. Bush? Yeah right
09/17/99: Candidates turn attention to poverty
09/15/99: Bush's education problem
09/09/99: Budget makes 2000 an `issues' election
09/07/99:Airport rage increases, with good reason
09/02/99: U.S. future up for grabs in 2000
08/31/99: U.S. Capitol needs visitor's center -- soon
08/24/99: Will 2000 be the year of the foreign crisis?
08/19/99: Neither party has upper hand for '99
08/17/99: Ford gets freedom medal one month early
08/12/99: There's time to catch Bush, say Gore aides
08/10/99: Rudy, Hillary try much-needed makeovers
08/09/99: GOP must launch new probe of Chinagate
08/02/99: Pols blow fiscal smoke on budget surplus
08/02/99: One campaign reform should pass: disclosure
07/27/99: Gore leads Bush in policy proposals

©1999, NEA