- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 10, 2000

CARTHAGE, Tenn. Al Gore yesterday continued to play up the religion of his Jewish running mate, Joseph I. Lieberman, who insisted Democrats would have no qualms if the Republican ticket played up the so-called religious right.
During a pre-convention tour that began here in the vice president's hometown, both he and Mr. Lieberman unabashedly invoked God and the Bible with a frequency and fervor not seen before in the Gore campaign.
"What's the line from Scripture? 'Whatsoever thy hand taketh, do it with all thy might,' " said Mr. Lieberman, the first Jewish candidate for vice president. "Al Gore has lived by that rule."
Mr. Gore, who quoted the same Bible verse just moments earlier, beamed as a woman in the audience at Carthage Elementary School thanked him for choosing "this godly man" as his running mate. Mr. Gore said he and Mr. Lieberman were "soul mates."
As the pair began their tour of tolerance, Mr. Gore said solemnly: "I will not say a single unkind word about Governor [George W.] Bush or Dick Cheney. I will not have a single negative personal attack on them. We want to elevate this campaign."
But the Gore campaign was on a different page of the hymnal.
"Following his address at the Republican convention, Bush said he would change his tune by changing the tone, but now it appears he's only interested in changing the truth," Ron Klain, Gore 2000 senior adviser, said in a news release. "But Governor Bush can't travel fast enough to escape his record in Texas or the fact that his agenda is for the few and the well-connected, not America's working families."
On Richard B. Cheney, Mr. Bush's running mate, the Gore campaign ripped his visit to a homeless shelter in a blighted area of downtown St. Louis.
"Dick Cheney may be trying to change his tune by changing the tone, but no number of photo ops can change the truth," Mr. Klain said. "His extreme record shows that time and time again, Cheney voted against helping the homeless and voted for helping the few and the well-connected."
Earlier in the day, Mr. Gore and Mr. Lieberman were expansive on the subject of religious devotion. Mr. Gore recalled that when he telephoned Mr. Lieberman on Monday to offer him a place on the ticket, the Connecticut senator began to pray.
"I finished the prayer," Mr. Gore told ABC News. "There is a tradition of thanking God for great blessings and it came naturally to him. And as a Southern Baptist, I knew the verse that he had referred to and finished out the second verse."
Mr. Lieberman, for his part, enthused about the role of private religion in public policy.
"Faith has always informed American life it was in the hearts and minds of those who founded our country 220-plus years ago," he said. "Faith is a moving force in the lives of the overwhelming majority of people to help us make a better country."
He hastened to add: "But a centerpiece of America, of course, is the separation of church and state."
Mr. Lieberman promised that his Judaism would never be the sole force behind his public-policy decisions.
"I read the Bible and there have been a lot of rabbinical interpretations over the years, but they inform my decisions," he said. "When I put my hand on that Bible and swear to uphold the Constitution, that is not only a legal obligation I'm accepting, but I'm really swearing to God. And to take the Lord's name in vain has consequences beyond the law.
"So there's no conflict," he said. "My religion decides what's right. And what's right for me as vice president will be what's right for America."
It was the second day in a row that Mr. Lieberman spoke extensively about his faith. On Tuesday, during his first joint appearance with Mr. Gore since being selected, Mr. Lieberman opened his speech with a public prayer and proceeded to make a major issue of being the first Jewish candidate for vice president.
"You mentioned your God a number of times, you mentioned your faith a number of times," ABC's Jack Ford said yesterday. "But do you think that if the Republicans had chosen a Christian conservative as a vice president and that Christian conservative had given a speech where they also mentioned repeatedly God, don't you think that members of the Democratic Party would be expressing some concern and perhaps even alarm over possible mingling of religion with politics?"
"I don't think so," Mr. Lieberman said. "I certainly wouldn't have. I must tell you that the words of prayer that I spoke at the beginning honestly just came out of me. They were unscripted.
"The spirit moved me because I was just so overwhelmed by a feeling of gratitude to God for bringing me to that moment and to Al Gore for making it possible. But, you know, that's freedom of religion."
He added: "I have a right, as every American does, to speak words of faith when the spirit moves me." Mr. Gore said he did the same thing as Mr. Lieberman when he was selected as Bill Clinton's running mate in 1992 and the Clinton-Gore ticket made their first public appearance with their wives in Carthage.
"I said, 'Hey, look, I don't know if anybody thinks this is inappropriate or not, but I'm going to start with prayer.' And I did," Mr. Gore recalled. "I think 99 percent of the American people have a pretty easy time understanding that you turn to your faith in times of great importance."
During yesterday's town-hall meeting in Carthage, Mr. Gore and Mr. Lieberman encountered their first public misgivings about their numerous differences of opinion. A union teacher from the National Education Association who is also a delegate at next week's Democratic National Convention asked Mr. Lieberman to "put to rest our worries" about his support of school vouchers.
"There are some things we disagree over this is one," Mr. Lieberman said. "If you want to get me off of this idea, the best thing to do is elect the Gore-Lieberman ticket."
To make sure there was no doubt about his unwavering deference to his new boss, he said: "When President Gore decides, Vice President Lieberman will support him entirely."
Still, Mr. Gore felt compelled to publicly assert his authority as the decision-making half of the ticket.
"Our administration will be opposed to private-school vouchers," Mr. Gore said as he put his arm around Mr. Lieberman. "I'm against them."
Although Mr. Gore once ridiculed former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley for supporting even experimental voucher programs, yesterday he took a more open-minded stance.
"If I was the parent of a child who went to an inner-city school that was failing and I felt that there was absolutely no chance that there was going to be the kind of reform that would dramatically improve that school, I might be for vouchers also," said Mr. Gore, whose three children all attended private schools. "Now, I'm not for vouchers."
"I'm not afraid to have a vice president who disagrees with me on some issues," Mr. Gore said. "Let's try out some new things. Some of 'em work and some of 'em don't."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide