- The Washington Times - Monday, August 14, 2000

As the Democratic Party opens its national convention today, it seems appropriate to ask a simple question: Where have Mr. Gore, the imminent presidential nominee, and his vice presidential running mate, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, stood on the important issues of this presidential campaign? Well, as it happens, the Democratic standard-bearers have hardly pursued a united front on any of these matters. Yesterday, Mr. Lieberman apeared on all five Sunday morning talk shows to deal with numerous questions regarding areas of disagreement. Ironically, the man who was chosen because of his reputation for personal integrity was seen trying to explain away numerous and serious differences with Mr. Gore. There is little ambiguity, however, in Mr. Lieberman's record:

Consider education. No U.S. senator from either party has been a more forceful proponent of school-choice vouchers than Mr. Lieberman. On the other hand, given Mr. Gore's bludgeoning of his Democratic primary opponent, Bill Bradley, for having at one time merely considered vouchers as a policy option, no politician has opposed vouchers with the determination and gusto that Mr. Gore showed in his unrelenting attacks upon Mr. Bradley.

In 1992, Mr. Lieberman was one of three Democrats to support a $30 million program to finance six demonstration projects that would give low-income parents money to enroll their children at the public or private school of their choice. Then-Sen. Gore opposed the experiment. Five years later, Mr. Lieberman sponsored legislation that would give $3,200 each to 2,000 poor children in Washington, D.C. home of arguably the most dysfunctional public school system in America to attend suburban public schools, private schools or parochial schools. Testifying before a Senate committee, Mr. Lieberman implored his Democratic colleagues to support his bill, arguing, "There are some" and here he clearly had Mr. Gore in mind "who dismiss suggestions of school-choice programs … out of hand, direly predicting that these approaches will 'ruin' the public schools. The undeniable reality here is that this system is already in ruins, and to blindly reject new models and refuse to try new ideas is simply foolish. We can and must do better for these children, and to cling stubbornly to the failures of the past will just not get us there." With only four Democrats voting to end Edward Kennedy's filibuster, which was enthusiastically endorsed by the Clinton-Gore administration, the Senate fell two votes shy of the 60 needed to allow Mr. Lieberman's voucher experiment for low-income D.C. families to come up for a vote.

In 1998, Mr. Lieberman was one of eight Democratic senators to vote for education savings accounts, which would permit individuals to invest up to $2,000 per year in after-tax funds in tax-sheltered accounts that could be used to finance education expenses. Mr. Gore opposed the measure, and President Clinton vetoed it.

As Donald Lambro of The Washington Times reported last week, Mr. Lieberman was one of the first Democrats to support the partial privatization of Social Security. He endorsed a proposal that would permit workers to invest a portion of their payroll taxes in private investment accounts. "I think in the end that individual control of part of these retirement Social Security funds," Mr. Lieberman said in an April 1998 interview, "has got to happen." This is precisely Mr. Bush's position, which Mr. Gore has repeatedly characterized as "a risky scheme." (That might explain why Mr. Lieberman's staff has been recently circulating a mysterious, unpublished op-ed article in which the senator recants his privatization position.)

Mr. Lieberman is also one of the few Democrats to support tort reform by advocating changes in product-liability laws, which trial lawyers mine for preposterous punitive-damages awards and fees, a good portion of which are conveniently recycled into the Democratic Party's coffers. In 1995, Mr. Lieberman was one of only two Democrats to vote to end a Democratic-led filibuster against a bill that would have limited punitive damages in product-liability and medical-malpractice cases at twice the level of compensatory damages. Messrs. Lieberman and Bush support tort reform, which Mr. Gore opposes.

According to the New York Times, at a recent Manhattan fund-raiser where Mr. Lieberman introduced Mr. Gore, several of the donors, aware of Mr. Lieberman's position on health-care regulation, snickered loudly in response to Mr. Gore's knee-jerk attack on the insurance industry. Consider the fight over the so-called "patients' bill of rights" legislation. Mr. Lieberman has sponsored a bipartisan, compromise approach in an effort to break the deadlock between the Clinton-Gore administration and congressional Republicans. But the Clinton-Gore administration has vigorously opposed Mr. Lieberman's bipartisan compromise. And while Mr. Gore regularly condemns the pharmaceutical industry, it's worth noting that Mr. Lieberman was among the few Democrats to vote on behalf of the drug companies on several 1997 amendments relating to legislation reauthorizing the Food and Drug Administration.

Indeed, while Mr. Gore spends many of his waking hours condemning the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, Mr. Lieberman spends much of his time raking in their campaign contributions. According to a recent analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), a nonpartisan organization that compiles campaign-finance data, no other senator of either party has received more contributions this year ($197,419) from the "Big Insurance Companies" than Mr. Lieberman, who ranks second in the Senate for contributions ($91,150) from the "Big Drug Companies." Larry Makinson, director of the CRP, told the Los Angeles Times that Mr. Lieberman has "more in common with Bush than he does with Gore."

Mr. Gore is among his party's most stalwart supporters of affirmative action. Mr. Lieberman vigorously opposes such a policy. "Affirmative action is dividing us in ways its creators could never have intended," Mr. Lieberman declared in a 1995 Senate speech. "For after all, if you discriminate in favor of one group on the basis of race," Mr. Lieberman cogently reasoned, "you thereby discriminate against another group on the basis of race."

Mr. Gore refined his class warfare gambit while he and Mr. Lieberman were Senate colleagues during the first year of President George Bush's administration. Mr. Lieberman was one of only six Democrats in 1989 to vote to end then-Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell's filibuster against President Bush's capital-gains tax cut. Arguing "you can't be pro-jobs and anti-business," Mr. Lieberman failed to convince his Democratic colleagues, including then-Sen. Al Gore, who voted to continue the filibuster, which eventually killed the legislation.

What about national missile defense and the defense budget? Unlike most of his Democratic colleagues in Congress, Mr. Lieberman has regularly voted to increase defense spending. Meanwhile, under the Clinton-Gore administration, the defense budget measured as a percentage of total economic output has plunged to its lowest level since the year before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Before the Clinton-Gore administration in 1999 had to be dragged kicking and screaming into supporting the deployment of a technologically feasible anti-ballistic-missile (ABM) system, Mr. Lieberman, a member of the Armed Services Committee, had been one of the first Democrats to vote for deploying an ABM system.

Finally, Mr. Lieberman and Mr. Gore have remarkably different perspectives of the 1995-96 fund-raising tactics of both the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton-Gore re-election committee. Mr. Gore insists the notorious White House coffees were not fund-raising events, while Mr. Lieberman described them as "highly improper." Moreover, unlike most of the Democrats on the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee investigating the campaign-finance scandal, Mr. Lieberman did not play an obstructionist role. After committee chairman Fred Thompson charged in his July 8, 1997, opening statement that there was "a plan hatched during the last election cycle by the Chinese government designed to pour illegal money into American political campaigns," the committee's ranking Democrat, John Glenn, accused Mr. Thompson of McCarthyism, darkly intoning, "During the 1950s, we can all remember what happened." However, after a three-hour briefing by the FBI and CIA, Mr. Lieberman announced that the evidence did in fact support Mr. Thompson's charge that the Chinese government sought to launder funds into U.S. elections.

Before Mr. Gore debates Mr. Bush and before Mr. Lieberman debates GOP vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney, perhaps Messrs. Gore and Lieberman ought to debate each other over the rather significant policy differences that exist between themselves. This week's Democratic National Convention provides them with the perfect opportunity.

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