- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 8, 2000


Al Gore needed this. Facing a 17-point deficit in the USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll conducted after the Republican National Convention, the vice president desperately needed to stop the political hemorrhaging from his campaign. Pre-empting his own timetable by more than 24 hours, Mr. Gore's campaign leaked the news yesterday morning that two-term Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a bona-fide moderate who has served as the chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, would be the Democratic vice presidential candidate this fall.
Given that Mr. Gore has had big problems consolidating support from the Democratic base, the conventional wisdom suggested that he would be forced to select someone from the liberal wing of his party. That's why Mr. Gore released all those trial balloons identifying House Democratic Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell as potential vice presidential candidates. However, with Mr. Bush's lead continuing to widen, Mr. Gore has apparently made the calculated decision that even if his base does return to the fold, he will still lose the election unless he increases his appeal to independent and moderate voters, many of whom have been suffering from "Clinton fatigue."
Whatever reasons are behind the selection of Mr. Lieberman, he will be the first Jewish vice presidential candidate in American history, and Mr. Gore deserves credit for selecting an extremely qualified candidate to be a heartbeat away from the presidency. As was asked in this space when Mr. Bush selected former defense secretary Dick Cheney to be his running mate, who can rationally argue that Mr. Lieberman is not qualified to be president? In 1984, the last time a Democratic presidential candidate sought a running mate out of desperation, Walter Mondale picked Geraldine Ferraro, an utterly unqualified three-term representative. Mr. Gore thankfully did not repeat that gambit.
If anybody can inoculate Mr. Gore from the "Clinton fatigue" that has infected his presidential candidacy, it is Mr. Lieberman, who became the first senior Democratic lawmaker to condemn President Clinton for the moral recklessness he pursued by having a sexual affair with an intern. On Sept. 3, 1998, two and a half weeks after Mr. Clinton finally admitted having an "inappropriate relationship" with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, Mr. Lieberman took to the Senate floor.
The president "apparently had extramarital relations with an employee half his age and did so in the workplace, in the vicinity of the Oval Office," Mr. Lieberman declared. "Such behavior is not just 'inappropriate' it is immoral. And it is harmful, for it sends a message of what is acceptable behavior to the larger American family, particularly to our children." Accusing the president of making an "intentional and premeditated decision" to deceive the American public for more than six months, Mr. Lieberman argued that Mr. Clinton's conduct "contradicted the values he has publicly embraced over the last six years" and "compromised his moral authority."
When it came time to vote to convict the president on the two articles of impeachment passed by the House, however, Mr. Lieberman, having acknowledged on the Senate floor before casting his vote that the president had "so lowered himself and his office" by engaging in "this sordid saga," nonetheless joined every Democratic senator in voting to acquit Mr. Clinton. Thus, it is a question whether Mr. Lieberman will offer any "Clinton fatigue" cover for Mr. Gore, who disgraced himself on the day the House impeached Mr. Clinton by delivering a hearty defense of the president on the White House lawn, stating that the disgraced Mr. Clinton would "go down in history as one of our greatest presidents."
In the end, no matter how well received either vice presidential candidate is, voters will do what they always do: They will cast their vote based on their views of the presidential candidates. For Mr. Gore, based on voters' current perceptions, the journey to the White House is still a steep one fraught with problems that Mr. Lieberman, however attractive a candidate he proves to be, cannot solve.

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