- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 15, 2000

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman yesterday denied he has "dramatic differences" with Al Gore on key issues, insisting he changed some of his divergent views long before his name arose as a possible vice-presidential candidate.
"If I'm fortunate enough to be honored to be elected vice president, after the internal debates that Al and I have, his position will be my position. That's constitutionally necessary," Mr. Lieberman said yesterday.
In appearances on all major Sunday political talk shows, Mr. Lieberman also repeatedly defended President Clinton's behavior which he called "immoral" in an impassioned speech from the Senate floor. Now, he says, Mr. Clinton will be remembered for his "extraordinary record."
"President Clinton has done some great things for America while he's been president," the senator said on ABC.
He credited Mr. Clinton with bringing the Democratic Party "to a whole new ground … really reconnecting with the values of the American people upward mobility, opportunity, responsibility, community" in an NBC interview.
Since his selection as Mr. Gore's running mate, the Connecticut Democrat has made a swift move away from his most prominent conservative positions. Mr. Lieberman had been an ardent supporter of school vouchers to help inner-city students escape from failing public schools. Mr. Gore opposes vouchers.
Mr. Lieberman has clarified his position at least twice. Yesterday, he said he only wanted a test period for vouchers, which would be a "temporary lifeline for poor kids." He still supports a test, but said in the future, he will discuss the issue privately with Mr. Gore, not in public.
Mr. Lieberman also has been an enthusiastic backer of letting workers divert some of their Social Security payroll taxes into their own private investment accounts, which Mr. Gore also opposes. Yesterday, Mr. Lieberman said he decided against the idea before his selection.
In May 1996, Mr. Lieberman was among a group of "New Democrats" in the Senate who voted to take 2 percent of the payroll tax and put it into private Social Security accounts and to raise the retirement age and thus the age of eligibility for both Medicare and Social Security to 70 by the year 2030. Mr. Gore opposed those changes.
In April 1998, Mr. Lieberman was giving newspaper interviews in which he predicted privatizing Social Security accounts would happen, calling the move a good idea.
But in June, Mr. Lieberman wrote a newspaper opinion piece which was never published in which he panned the idea. On at least two talk shows yesterday NBC's "Meet the Press" and ABC's "This Week" he was asked if Mr. Gore had asked him to write that article. He said no.
Mr. Lieberman said he studied the idea of privatizing Social Security for several years and, by last year, "had decided it wouldn't work." He said he concluded that this change, "which I thought at first was a good idea ultimately would make the basic floor for retirement in our country, which is Social Security, insecure."
He added that in 1999, he declined an offer from Sen. Bob Kerrey, Nebraska Democrat, and Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, New York Democrat, to co-sponsor a bill calling for such an adjustment.
"Vice President Gore has a great proposal to use tax incentives to allow middle-class Americans to save some more money for their retirement. I think that is the way to try to put the stock market at the call of more senior citizens in our country," Mr. Lieberman said on CNN's "Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer."
On raising the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 70, Mr. Lieberman told CNN that at one time Medicare's financial situation was dire, but the picture is better today so it's not necessary to take that action.
As for affirmative action which Mr. Gore supports Mr. Lieberman acknowledged he, at one time, had doubts about it, because he worried it involved quotas. On NBC, he said he was uncertain quotas were an "acceptable way to achieve equal opportunity." Since then, Mr. Lieberman said, the "Supreme Court made quotas illegal."
"I think we are just about where we should be now," he said.
On "Fox News Sunday," Mr. Lieberman denied he has been "dramatically different" from Mr. Gore "on some issues, as the Republicans claim."
On cultural issues, Mr. Lieberman said he won't back down from his criticism of the entertainment industry and the sex and violence it promotes.
However, he said that if he and Mr. Gore are elected, he would not continue giving out annual "Silver Sewer" awards to those he and conservative Republican William J. Bennett deem "cultural polluters."
"There are certain things that a vice president doesn't do that a senator can do," Mr. Lieberman told NBC's "Meet the Press."
Mr. Lieberman said he believes he and Mr. Gore share a belief that Hollywood should reduce sex and violence. He seemed surprised when "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert read from an article in the Los Angeles Times that said Mr. Gore at a "private meeting of potential donors … distanced himself from the federal inquiry into Hollywood's marketing of violent movies launched by President Clinton."
According to the article, Mr. Gore said the government study, labeled a "witch hunt" by some in Hollywood, "was initiated without his input."
Mr. Lieberman also said he was glad Rep. Loretta Sanchez, California Democrat, decided to move a Democratic National Convention fund-raiser tomorrow from the Playboy Mansion to Universal Studios. Mr. Lieberman said he does not believe the Gore campaign needs to return $16,000 donated by Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner and his company.
That amount is "minuscule," he said on NBC. "It's up to the vice president [whether to return it], but I don't think he has to, and I wouldn't recommend that he should."

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