- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 15, 2000

Joseph I. Lieberman, a critic of the "Jenny Jones" talk show, last night planned to party with the show's producer and other Hollywood donors, despite his pledge a day earlier to stand "with the people against the powerful" entertainment industry.
It was the latest step in the Connecticut senator's dramatic retreat from the moral high ground since Vice President Al Gore introduced him as his running mate a week ago.
Initially hailed as the moral counterweight to the administration's legacy of scandal, Mr. Lieberman has swiftly softened and even abandoned long-held positions of righteousness, which Democrats had hoped would put some distance between Mr. Gore and President Clinton.
"The positions that Al Gore is taking in this campaign are now my positions," Mr. Lieberman acknowledged during a round of talk-show appearances Sunday. "When he and I disagree, he wins."
But those disagreements with Mr. Gore are precisely what made Mr. Lieberman such an attractive candidate to Democrats who had sought to balance the vice president's liberal positions with the Connecticut senator's centrist approach. By pre-emptively subsuming his own views on school vouchers, affirmative action, Social Security privatization and parental notification for abortion, Mr. Lieberman has moved leftward and risks losing the very swing voters he was meant to attract.
Last night, Mr. Lieberman went a step further by rubbing elbows with big corporate donors at a Hollywood party thrown in his honor. Attendees paid between $5,000 and $25,000 to hobnob with the Democratic vice-presidential candidate at the Beverly Hills home of producer David Salzman.
Mr. Salzman has produced the "Jenny Jones" show, a daytime talkfest that regularly features overtly sexual themes. The show once surprised a guest by trotting out a homosexual man who harbored a secret crush on him. The guest later killed the homosexual man, prompting legal action against Miss Jones.
Mr. Lieberman said Sunday that he will continue "standing with the people against the powerful" in Hollywood. But he added that if he is elected, he will cease distributing "Silver Sewer" awards that he and conservative William Bennett have long bestowed on entertainment firms that peddle gratuitous sex and violence.
"Not that this is a backing down," Mr. Lieberman said on NBC's "Meet the Press," "but I think there are certain things that a vice president doesn't do that a senator can do."
Mr. Bennett said last night there was nothing wrong with Mr. Lieberman partying with Hollywood elites as long as he does not adopt their views.
Mr. Bennett also said that while his friend has "wiggled on a few things" since being tapped by Mr. Gore, he has refused to jettison his core convictions.
"Anybody who's vice president has to do this Jack Kemp had to do it," Mr. Bennett told The Washington Times. "I'm trying to have sympathy for a guy who has to try to lean his position in the direction of the person who's at the top of the ticket."
Mr. Bennett added that he was "very impressed" that Mr. Lieberman is "sticking to his positions on school choice, tort reform, Hollywood and racial spoils." Although Mr. Lieberman said Sunday he still supports school vouchers, in the future he will discuss the issue privately with his boss, not in public.
"It's self-muzzling, but it's also self-refuting," Mr. Bennett said with a chuckle. "I mean, the guy's standing up there on national television, saying, 'This is my view, but I will only make it privately.' Well, it's on national TV and everybody now knows it."
He added, "To take his position on school choice is pretty close to having a pro-choice candidate on the Republican ticket saying I'm still pro-choice."
However, Mr. Lieberman said he cannot envision any issue on which he would not support his boss. Even Mr. Bennett acknowledged that his friend has begun to backpedal on his criticism of Clinton-Gore fund-raising abuses.
For example, Mr. Lieberman once wrote: "In 1996, the White House was used more systemically and broadly than ever before to raise millions of dollars in large soft money contributions, with seemingly little consideration given to the troubling signal this would send to the broader public or the consequences it would have for our own government. This was particularly true of White House coffees."
Yet as recently as last month, Mr. Gore continued to insist the coffees "were not fund-raisers." He made the assertion numerous times to Tim Russert on "Meet the Press."
"I was troubled by that," Mr. Lieberman said Sunday. "He made it clear that though they were not fund-raisers in the sense that money was given at those coffees, clearly as he said in that interview the people who attended were going to be solicited later on. And they were."
Asked if he would tell Mr. Gore they were fund-raisers, Mr. Lieberman balked.
"Well, the but again I don't want to mince words here or splice them too carefully," he said. "They were not literally fund-raisers in which money was exchanged at those events. But money was clearly raised from them."
Mr. Lieberman appeared to be adopting Mr. Gore's legalistic parsing of words on the subject, which the Connecticut senator denounced in 1997.
"We've got to be very careful about words here," Mr. Lieberman said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "Every time somebody [says] these coffees were not fund-raisers, I think it's very important to say that what he is saying, as I understand it, is a technical, legal matter, that checks did not exchange hands."
He added: "Most people would understand they were fund-raisers. That doesn't mean they were illegal, but I think credibility is lost when we continue to insist on technical, legal points."
Four months ago, Mr. Gore continued to use such technical language when asked by federal investigators about questionable fund-raising activities.
"With respect to raising the $108 million, did you have discussions with anybody concerning the role coffees would play in raising that type of money?" a federal agent asked Mr. Gore.
"Well, let me define the term 'raising,' if I could," the vice president replied. "Because if you mean by it, would they be events at which money was raised, the answer is no."

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