- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 8, 2000

NASHVILLE, Tenn. Vice President Al Gore yesterday chose as his running mate Connecticut Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, who excoriated President Clinton for his "disgraceful," "immoral" and "sordid" behavior in the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
Mr. Gore, who is trailing Texas Gov. George W. Bush by 17 points in the polls, hopes his choice of Mr. Lieberman as the first Jewish vice-presidential candidate will be viewed as a bold move that invigorates his underdog campaign.
"It is a special honor to be asked to run for vice president with a man I deeply believe in, Al Gore, and who I think is ready to be a great president," said Mr. Lieberman, 58.
But Republicans immediately seized on Mr. Leiberman's voting record as being closer to Mr. Bush than Mr. Gore on issues ranging from school vouchers to missile defense to parental notification for minors seeking abortions.
"Al Gore has chosen a man whose positions are more similar to Governor Bush's than to his own," said Ari Fleischer, Mr. Bush's spokesman. "The fact that Al Gore is willing to select a running mate whose positions he has attacked throughout this campaign will cause many to question Al Gore's commitment to the positions he takes."
By choosing the first prominent Democrat to publicly denounce Mr. Clinton for his affair with a woman his daughter's age and his bid to cover up the liaison, Mr. Gore hopes to neutralize Mr. Bush's vow to restore honor and dignity to the White House.
To help Mr. Gore drive home his point, Mr. Clinton is mulling absolving him of any blame in the scandal when the president symbolically passes the torch to his vice president next week.
Republicans are quick to point out that when Mr. Clinton was impeached Dec. 19, 1998, Mr. Gore pronounced him "a man the history books will come to regard as one of our greatest presidents." They plan to juxtapose that ringing endorsement with Mr. Lieberman's evisceration of the president in an impassioned speech from the Senate floor in September 1998.
"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 thundered. "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," he added.
In an interview last night on NBC, Mr. Gore said he agreed with Mr. Lieberman's harsh assessment of the president's conduct.
Republicans emphasized that while Mr. Lieberman talked tough during the impeachment scandal, he ended up voting to acquit Mr. Clinton. Even fellow Democrats have privately expressed irritation over the years at what they call Mr. Lieberman's frequent moralistic lectures, which he regularly ends up contradicting when voting.
Mr. Gore made the offer to Mr. Lieberman in a midday phone call that ended weeks of speculation over who would be his running mate. Mr. Lieberman, who was on his way to his Hartford home when he received the offer on his cell phone, immediately accepted.
"We said a short prayer together," said Mr. Lieberman, his voice quavering with emotion. "Miracles happen."
The junior senator promptly began packing for his journey to Nashville, where he will join Mr. Gore for today's formal announcement. The two will then begin a week of cross-country campaigning to end with their arrival at next week's Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.
Both Democrats and Republicans praised Mr. Lieberman as a smart and savvy addition to the Democratic ticket. Mr. Bush's campaign took pains to remain on the high road, in part to contrast itself with the Gore campaign's attacks against former Defense Secretary Richard B. Cheney, the GOP vice presidential candidate.
"The governor and Secretary Cheney both think very, very highly of Senator Lieberman," Mr. Fleischer said. "They think he's a man of great integrity, great intellect. He's a good man."
Republicans believe they can hurt the Gore-Lieberman ticket more by emphasizing his differences with Mr. Gore and similarities with Mr. Bush than by demonizing the Connecticut senator.
For example, on affirmative action, Mr. Lieberman said in 1995 that "group preferences" are "patently unfair." By contrast, Mr. Gore insisted in a February debate that "we still need affirmative action in this country."
Mr. Lieberman also has joined the Texas governor in support of school vouchers, tort reform, a missile defense system and parental notification by minors seeking abortions.
"It does raise the question about how deeply Al Gore adheres to the statements that he has made," Mr. Fleischer said. "Does he really believe those things he said? Or did he just say them and hope that they stick politically?"
Potentially even more troublesome for Mr. Gore is the fact that Mr. Lieberman has been an outspoken critic of the 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign's fund raising. Mr. Gore's participation in an illegal fund-raiser at a Buddhist temple, which is still under federal investigation, is widely viewed as one of his top political vulnerabilities.
Although Mr. Lieberman owes his national prominence largely to his stinging denunciation of Mr. Clinton, the president yesterday called him "one of the most outstanding people in public life."
Mr. Clinton has known Mr. Lieberman since 1970, when the former was a student at Yale who volunteered to work on the latter's campaign for a state Senate seat.
In addition to voting to acquit Mr. Clinton on charges of grand jury perjury and obstruction of justice, Mr. Lieberman has supported the president on nine of every 10 votes since Mr. Clinton took office, according to studies by the Congressional Quarterly.
By selecting an older man who has alternately nurtured and lectured his boss over the last three decades, Mr. Gore did the same thing he accused Mr. Bush of doing when the Texas governor chose Mr. Cheney, the Defense Secretary for President Bush. Namely, he has reached back and raided the team of his senior political partner.
Democrats have derided Mr. Bush for choosing his "father's Oldsmobile" in order to compensate for his own "gravitas deficiency." But Republicans now say Mr. Gore has tapped the president's old mentor to shore up his own "character deficiency."
At 58, Mr. Lieberman is only a year younger than Mr. Cheney. He is also six years older than Mr. Gore, while Mr. Cheney is only five years older than Mr. Bush.
In fact, Mr. Lieberman was the second-oldest candidate on Mr. Gore's short list of possible running mates. The vice president passed over four younger candidates: Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, 44; Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, 47; Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, 56; and New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, 53. Only House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, 59, is older than Mr. Lieberman.

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