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Jewish World Review March 16, 2000 /9 Adar 2, 5760

Morton Kondracke

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Lieberman as veep would help Gore -- HAVING LOCKED UP the Democratic presidential nomination by appealing to liberal interest groups, Vice President Al Gore needs to move to the center to win the White House.

His most convincing move would be to name a New Democrat as his running mate, and the best of that breed is Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn.), current chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council.

Lieberman would bolster Gore in all the places where he's currently weak: with independents who supported either Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., or former Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J.; voters offended by the sex and money scandals of the Clinton-Gore era; and political moderates sick of Washington's partisan warfare.

Lieberman takes an independent stand on practically every issue, from health-care reform and education to affirmative action. He was the first Democrat to publicly criticize President Clinton's affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky as immoral. He's a defense and foreign policy hawk, and he habitually works in tandem with Republicans.

Moreover, he'd be America's first Jewish vice president. His devout orthodoxy would appeal to religious voters of other faiths and the slightest peep of prejudice would backfire on Republicans already suspected of intolerance.

Other Democratic moderates are being mentioned for the No. 2 spot with Gore, including Sens. Evan Bayh, Ind.; Dianne Feinstein, Calif.; Bob Graham, Fla.; and John Kerry, Mass.; as well as Rep. Ellen Tauscher, Calif.; and Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. But Bayh, like Gore, is the St. Albans-educated son of a senator, though he went to Indiana University, not Harvard. Lieberman went to Yale, but he was the first person in his family ever to go to college.

Kerry has the advantage of being a war hero like McCain, but unlike Lieberman and Gore, he voted against launching the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Feinstein is a Jewish woman who advocated censuring Clinton and is from California, but she is less identified as a centrist, except on crime.

Graham is not a particularly high-profile senator and comes from a state that's virtually out of play for the Democrats this year. Tauscher and Townsend are comers, but still too junior and obscure.

Lieberman has drawbacks. He doesn't campaign on Saturday, the Sabbath, and Connecticut is not a big state. On the other hand, he's one of the most widely respected of all senators.

Once upon a time, Gore might not have needed Lieberman's help. A centrist senator from Tennessee in 1985, Gore was a founding member of the DLC -- a group formed to pull the Democratic Party to the middle when voters were rejecting its presidential candidates for being socially permissive, soft on crime, anti-business and weak on foreign policy.

Liberals derided the group as "the Southern white boys caucus." Bradley tried unsuccessfully to use Gore's record from this era to question his liberal fidelity on issues such as abortion and affirmative action.

Even though Gore still professes himself to be a New Democrat and has been endorsed by the DLC, he's moved well to the left to win the Democratic nomination, winning the support of the AFL-CIO, the National Education Association, feminist and pro-abortion groups, the gay rights movement, and civil rights groups. He's even tried to win the backing of the Rev. Al Sharpton.

When Gore was a senator, his wife, Tipper, was a leader in the fight to pressure the entertainment industry to stop coarsening U.S. culture with sex and violence. When that offended Hollywood and young trendies, the Gores moved away to other causes.

Lieberman, by contrast, has teamed up with former Education Secretary Bill Bennett, a leading conservative, to dispense "Silver Sewer" awards for cultural pollution and persuade the entertainment industry to clean up its act. Bennett tends to act as the scold; Lieberman, the negotiator.

Hollywood presumably will not be charmed by the idea that Lieberman might be riding herd on its excesses as vice president, but it won't support Republicans. Meantime, Lieberman could attract parents concerned about the cultural roots of the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School.

Gore is vulnerable to attack not only for defending Clinton as one of America's greatest presidents at the time of his impeachment, but also for being his partner in the 1996 fund-raising scandals symbolized by his infamous Buddhist temple fund-raiser.

Lieberman, on the other hand, not only criticized Clinton but was virtually the only Democrat on the Governmental Affairs Committee who did not try to torpedo Sen. Fred Thompson's, R-Tenn., efforts to investigate the fund-raising scandals.

Even though he's independent and a moralist in such matters, Lieberman manages to inspire admiration among his colleagues for his seriousness and sincerity. Other renegades, such as McCain and former Sen. Lowell Weicker, R-Conn., whom Lieberman defeated in 1988, become pariahs.

That's partly because he constantly forges bipartisan alliances seeking middle-ground solutions on the federal budget and issues such as HMO reform and health insurance. Gore has become a harsh partisan.

Gore and Lieberman have differences. Lieberman has been willing to explore voucher experiments to offer children an escape from failing schools -- a stance for which Gore condemned Bradley. But that's just the point: Gore needs an independent thinker to counterbalance his own orthodoxy.

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


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03/09/00: Can GOP Forge Unity After Nasty McCain-Bush Race?
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03/02/00: 'Debate' Proved Gore Is This Year's Best Gut-Fighter
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02/10/00: How hard should Bush hit McCain?
02/08/00: Bush must retool his entire campaign
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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.
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11/19/99: White House race may be best in decades
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11/11/99: Will TV stop profiteering from politics?
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10/27/99: Bush to fight 'culture wars' -- positively
10/21/99: Porter, Mack: heroes on medical research
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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
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08/31/99: U.S. Capitol needs visitor's center -- soon
08/24/99: Will 2000 be the year of the foreign crisis?
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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
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08/02/99: One campaign reform should pass: disclosure
07/27/99: Gore leads Bush in policy proposals

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