- The Washington Times - Friday, August 18, 2000

The Democratic National Convention this week has gone far towards exposing rifts among Democrats that somehow had been submerged during the Clinton era. Much as Mr. Clinton managed to divide the rest of the country, the Democrats, radicals and moderates alike, have had to stick together time and again to defend their erring leader. Dissension in the ranks, however, has been the defining characteristic of the Los Angeles convention.

Just as the Democratic Party leadership thought, Al Gore plus Joe Lieberman equals political TNT. There was just one miscalculation: the location of ground zero. Imagine the horror of Mr. Gore's strategists, as they behold the result wrought by Mr. Lieberman's nomination the political fragmentation of the Democratic Left.

In the effort to salvage base constituencies, Mr. Lieberman is doing his bit, scuttling as much of his suddenly unwieldy political record as possible. Known to oppose racial quotas, for example, Mr. Lieberman has assured the Democratic National Convention Black Caucus, "I was for affirmative action, am for affirmative action, and will be for affirmative action." This is, to say the least, an awkward effort. Mr. Lieberman, taken onto the ticket for several key moderate positions, is doing his darnedest to downplay, distort or disavow them. Some may be convinced, but for the rest of the shell-shocked left, there is no such peace of mind.

A perusal of the Nation magazine this week, for example, begins to reveal the extent of the damage. No matter what Mr. Lieberman, selected to appeal to moderates, says to placate liberals, the liberals continue to see him as an arch-conservative. (No telling about the moderates.) "If Gore the Southern Baptist … was ever to nominate a Jew, you can bet it would be William F. Buckley's candidate against the liberal Lowell Weicker, a man who favors Star Wars, a man who supports 'a moment of silence' in schools and a man who consults Bronze Age texts to declare homosexuality a sin," writes Christopher Hitchens in a postscript to a lacerating rumination on Mr. Gore's lost manhood, sacrificed to his degrading support of Bill Clinton.

It gets worse. David Corn portrays the Lieberman nomination as a kind of final straw, a concession of sorts by Mr. Gore not to "fight back with issues" against the Republican cause to restore honor and decency to the White House. "Instead," Mr. Corn writes, Mr. Gore "handcuffed himself to a probity stand-in, a socially conservative Orthodox Jew who prominently scolded Bill Clinton for his pseudo-sex scandal." Mr. Corn cites Mr. Lieberman's sometime? erstwhile? (pick one) support for school vouchers and privatizing Social Security, Bush issues Mr. Gore has dubbed "risky schemes." As Mr. Corn writes, "With Lieberman at his side, Gore can no longer slam Bush on those crucial fronts. He's traded ammunition for cover."

But the Democratic ticket doesn't know trouble until a leftist sorry, progressive like Barbara Ehrenreich makes the case for Ralph Nader's candidacy by arguing that there is no good reason to vote for that "inveterate bribe-seeker" Mr. Gore, not even the future of the Supreme Court. This is big stuff, striking down the ultimate argument for party faithful of both parties the presidential selection of Supreme Court judges.

Acknowledging her profound distaste for George W. Bush's anti-abortion agenda in her eyes, the key court issue Ms. Ehrenreich argues that the Supreme Court actually has little impact on abortion, particularly compared to pressures brought to bear by "anti-choice groups." Besides, she writes, "pro-choice [Sandra Day] O'Connor was a Reagan appointee," and "Clinton's Stephen Breyer is one of the most economically conservative justices around." So, as her article is called, "Vote for Nader." "I doubt Gore could ever become Nader-like enough to steal my vote from the original," Ms. Ehrenreich writes, "certainly not after his choice of DLC leader Lieberman as veep." Only in America.

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