- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 9, 2000

The selection of Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman by Vice President Al Gore has added "ethicus" to the Democratic ticket. You may recall that about four minutes after Richard B. Cheney was chosen by Gov. George W. Bush, Democratic politicians and a large pack of their running-dog lackeys in the media started backhanding Mr. Bush by pointing out that Mr. Cheney added gravitas to the ticket. Well, in that spirit, I offer up the equally Latin, equally pompous word "ethicus," which means ethical character. Mr. Lieberman adds ethicus to the Democratic ticket. And, as Henry Kissinger once said on a different matter: "It has the added advantage of being true."
The Democrats had great fun pointing out that gravitas was nontransferable. (Of course, after Mr. Bush's speech last week, I suspect that few of the 30 million viewers think W. needs any more gravitas) How much less transferable is ethicus to Mr. Gore? Are there really many voters out there who will think to themselves: "I don't trust that posturing, insincere chicken thief Al Gore, but I'll vote for him because his vice presidential choice is an honest man."
Nonetheless, the nomination does not surprise me. I predicted it on "The McLaughlin Group" last month before Mr. Lieberman was being talked about because I judged Mr. Gore to be apoplectic at being considered sleazy. Thus, I guessed that rather than giving up sleaze, Mr. Gore would pick the most unsleazy Democrat he could find; to wit, Mr. Lieberman, the only elected member of either party who obeys the Fourth Commandment (Thou shall keep the Sabbath day) over his political schedule. One further prediction: Mr. Lieberman will be the most unsullied and unsulliable candidate for vice president in the history of the country. In fact, he is vastly more useful to Republicans unsullied.
Republicans will drive Mr. Gore to the edge of madness with their constant tributes to Mr. Lieberman's towering ethical standards. If Mr. Gore is feeling a little short in that department right now, he will feel like a growth-stunted pygmy in a few weeks. He will grow to hate the very sound of the name Lieberman. As soon as he hears the first syllable Lieb his eyes will roll out of sight; he will sigh deeply; his entire upper torso will heave upward; a pained, tight-lipped, chastising expression will emerge on his face; his head will tilt slightly … but he will be able to say nothing except, for the 700th time and with growing exasperation, "Yes, well, that's why I picked him."
After a few weeks of Lieberman accolades, I wouldn't be surprised to see Gore strategists being quoted in The Washington Post on a not-for-attribution basis undercutting Mr. Lieberman's ethical reputation. After all, the Clinton-Gore method of building themselves up is to cut the other fellow down.
The jurist Learned Hand once was called the greatest judge who did not sit on the Supreme Court. I suspect that Mr. Lieberman will be the most admired politician not to be elected vice president. Mr. Bush should announce that, if Mr. Lieberman is not elected vice president he, Mr. Bush, would be honored if Mr. Lieberman would accept appointment as Mr. Bush's secretary of Health and Human Services and domestic policy adviser. After all, they agree on almost everything. This fact is already causing Mr. Gore trouble.
Monday night, Mr. Gore was beginning to sound testy when Tom Brokaw told him, "Joe Lieberman agrees with Governor Bush on the privatization of Social Security, about school choice and also about the defense missile issue."
Mr. Gore responded: "Well, he doesn't agree …"
Doubtless, Mr. Gore's wizard strategists even now are drafting carefully worded explanations that Mr. Lieberman can use to explain why his previous policy disagreements with Mr. Gore really aren't disagreements at all, and why it only seems that Mr. Lieberman and Mr. Bush agree on most things. That will be a dangerous moment for the Democratic ticket. If Mr. Lieberman succumbs to the advice to turn weasel, he loses his political appeal. If he fails to succumb, Mr. Gore looses his chance to demagogue the Social Security and education issues which is the central strategy of the Gore candidacy.
One curious aspect of the Lieberman nomination is that Sen. Tom Daschle and the Democratic Senate leadership must be secretly hoping for Gore-Lieberman to lose. Should Gore-Lieberman win, because there is a Republican governor of Connecticut, Mr. Lieberman would have to resign his Senate seat and be replaced by a Republican senator. And, should the Democrats pick up four Senate seats, a new Vice President Lieberman would return to the Senate as its president, to preside over a Republican majority of one, made a majority by Mr. Lieberman's Republican replacement.
Admirable as Mr. Lieberman is, this is a vice presidential selection that responds less to Mr. Gore's political needs than his psychological ones.

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